Chris’ two cents:
One of the more contentious issues of 2007 has been the conversion of Dubfire, the man who has spent most of his musical life dj’ing and producing as part of the (stinky/proggy) house group Deep Dish. Then finally in 2007 he saw the light and converted to the mnml cause, with a couple of big releases, of which ‘Ribcage’ being the most played and talked about.
For my mind it certainly isn’t a case of Dubfire ‘selling out’, he did that years ago when Deep Dish stopped making half decent music and they started mixing proggy house mix cds for Global Underground. So, if anything, it may be that he is now ‘buying in’, becoming part of the ever-expanding and bloated scene/genre that is mnml. And I really can’t see how this can be a matter of just piggy-backing on the popularity of mnml for purely self-interested reasons. I don’t think Deep Dish have exactly been struggling for bookings of late. They are still one of the most marketable and recognizable names about. So perhaps he really did wake up one day and say, ‘I’m sick of playing this dishwater house. Time for me to fight the good fight and go play mnml. Those m-nus guys look like they are having fun.’
But the question of why Dubfire has converted isn’t really so interesting because at the end of the day, this is the sound he is pushing now and plenty have signed up to it. What I find more interesting is people’s reactions to Dubfire’s crossover. Ultimately, Dubfire is a threat. And why is that? Because he represents the complete breakdown of mnml as a genre. It is one thing for Digweed to play a couple of Kompakt records now and again, but when Dubfire starts producing dodgy mnml prog like ‘Ribcage’ the game is up. Whatever mnml was it is no more. Minimal is mnml, prog house is mnml, trance is mnml, maximal is mnml. It is all one distinctly unminimal mess. And yes, this breakdown of genre boundaries is hardly a new phenomenon – people have been complaining about the meaningless of the ‘mnml’ tag for years. So what makes Dubfire different? I think it is the fact he was immediately accepted by the erstwhile arbiters of mnml, Richie and the M-nus crew. Not only was Dubfire featured on the latest m-nus comp, he was allowed to touch the untouchable and remix ‘spastik’. Yet none of these blessings have actually prevented his music from being dressed up boring proggy minimal…
What does all this mean? I am not sure, perhaps not too much. As I said, people will keep going and seeing Dubfire and up’ing his records. But the trend he represents might actually end up result in a push the opposite way, with a much greater attempt by artists to redefine and re-establish boundaries – this is techno, this is minimal, this is house and so on. Is that a good thing? Again I am not too sure. The most interesting music is made on the boundaries, this is why tech-house in theory, and sometimes in reality, can be such a good thing, to take an obvious example. But if the mnml monster swallows everything, where are the borders? I guess we are going to find out if we are/aren’t careful. In the meantime, I still don’t see the point of listening to Dubfire. Even if Richie reckons he’s alright.
Pete’s two Cents:
The crux of the ‘issue’ with Dubfire for me is this: it is a calculated move. It’s cold. Why should this matter? Perhaps it doesn’t. If you’re one of those people for whom all that matters is what comes out of the speakers, then the only perspective from which to judge the success of Dubfire is precisely ‘the music’. The whole thing smacks of proggy-backing, true, but that’s not the thing. To me, it’s that the music sounds like it’s calculated to be exactly as it is. It’s music that’s ‘designed’ to be a certain way, to elicit a certain reaction, and to me that’s a cold move.
Who am I to say how people ‘should make music’? Well, my two cents: people make the music they choose ‘cos they don’t have any choice, because it’s what they feel. It’s something that comes from deep, deep within them.
I’m reminded of DJ Bone's moving lyrics for Deetron’s ‘Life Soundtrack:
“This sound comes from dirt, pain, boredom, cold streets… nothing from nothing to everything, from frustration to innovation. This sound makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you hate, makes you stomp, makes you clap. This music, deep down, special place, special time, special sound, lives forever - life soundtrack.”
Is there anything like this in a Dubfire record? I’m not saying that Ali should move to Johannesberg, New Orleans or Sao Paolo and do it tough just to give his music some shit and grit, but hell, can anyone say that there is anything like this kinda feeling in Ribcage? Can U feel it? Really? Please comment and describe your emotional response. To me, ‘Ribcage’ is utterly heartless, and its success encapsulates everything that’s shit about mnml in ’07.
Dave's View: [NEW]
Alright i agree with Pete and Chris and a majority of the comments thus far but i think there's another way to look at this. While i dislike Ribcage i think the emergence of Dubfire is on the whole good for mnml...
When i listen to Dubfire's music i'm disturbed by how accurate its impression of mnml music is. As you listen you can feel Dubfire follow the "synth preset + sidechain + automated delay = mnml" formula and what's more he does it REALLY effectively.
Should mnml have such a formula? And should it be so easily followed and exploited? Dubfire raises these questions and this alone makes Dubfire good for mnml. Hopefully it will push producers to avoid following this formula in future to avoid being tagged as Post Prog. Sometimes in hindsight the most controversial songs are the most important ones regardless of their quality and i think we could have a classic example of this right here.
If there's not enough incentive to progress and explore new sounds then mnml will get stale. This would be fatal as techno thrives on its continuous progression in order to remain relevant. And what better way to inspire progression than having progsters gatecrashing the mnml scene?