Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dubfire's surefire (vs. the dudfire proggyback attack)

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?


  1. Just seperate things into 'Minimal' & 'Post-Prog'... easy!

    Dubfire is miles overrated but i've danced to his tunes this year in the mainrooms and enjoyed them

    Basically, we should at least be happy that other genres are stagnating and dying to the point where they have to piggyback off MNMLs ideas while MNML still has enough of its own machismo to not loose its identity

  2. i quite like 'post-prog' as a genre. that definitely works...

    and i am not sure if it is a good thing if everyone starts piggybacking on minimal. the danger is it will fall over!

  3. Nice blog, good to see someone sink the boot into some sacred cows now and again...

    Personally I think the issue isn't so much with people like Dubfire, it's more that mnml for a lot of people has been reduced to a series of production techniques and studio cliches.

    Once a genre becomes simply a matter of synth preset + sidechain + automated delay = mnml it's only a matter of time before people jump on the bandwagon and the whole beauty is diminished. It will only make those who are in it for the right reasons work harder hopefully!

  4. "synth preset + sidechain + automated delay = mnml"

    This would make a really good t-shirt.

    Incidentally, it reminds me of Stewart Walker's 'anti laptop boredom t-shirts' from the early 00s. Guess which colour sold out first....

    black on black.

  5. "To me, ‘Ribcage’ is utterly heartless, and its success encapsulates everything that’s shit about mnml in ’07"

    wise words, good blog.

    geetings fromé

  6. mnml is and has been progressive house for a minute now. why is it only offending people in 2007?

    deep dish still make more good records than 99% of the mnml hypesters out there, even if it was 13 or more years ago. check their rmx of naomi daniel that just got rereleased on planet e a couple years back, blinding.

  7. thanks for the comments. agree with the observation about production techniques (reminds me of the awesome 'everything mnml' controller pheek came up with - check his blog or sherburne's).

    as for pipecock's comments, yeah, deep dish did some really good house stuff quite a while ago, but have they done anything decent this millennium? perhaps they have, but i havent come across it.

    anyway, thanks again for the comments and keep an eye on the blog. lots more to come.

  8. Honestly, this "controversy" is bullshit; it mostly amounts to nothing more than player hating and musical elitism.

    Obsessing over boundaries and labels is destructive; musical styles have to evolve and cross pollinate, if not they become inbred. Minimal already suffers from too many sound alike tracks, and rejecting anything that pushes minimal in new directions (even if you don't like that direction) will only make things worse.

    And these accusations of being heartless or calculated? People have been saying that about techno and minimal for years, and it's just a way of passing off one's opinion as some sort of fact. You don't like the record? Fine, just say so, and be honest about it. But don't make judgments about the person's heart or lack thereof; it only reflects poorly on yourself.

    Really, the only thing Dubfire is threatening is the minimal scene's self importance, and to me, it's this overblown reaction to RibCage that encapsulates everything that’s shit about mnml in ’07.

  9. Here’s a bogus analysis of Mateo’s comments, paraphrased then rendered for their subtext:

    You just don’t like him ‘cos he’s popular.(Read: I like him because he’s popular, but in order to do so I have to attack others who defend him.)

    If we don’t embrace Dubfire, mnml will get worse! (Read: get with the program and embrace Dubfire’s prog ram for mnml or be condemned to endless border skirmishes in minor territories, you nobodies.)

    That you think Dubfire is heartless reflects on YOU! (Read: Shame on you for disliking something I like. What nasty elitists.)

    People don’t like Dubfire because he is threatening mnml/elitist groovers like YOU, and this ‘controversy’ – which is all about your elitist insecurities – is what is really shit about mnml in ’07. (Read: while all of ‘us’ have been enjoying the Dubfire’s prog ram for mnml, your false debate has been ruining the party… why oh why do you insecure people have to ruin my enjoyment by criticising something that I [and the other POPULAR people] like?)

  10. "as for pipecock's comments, yeah, deep dish did some really good house stuff quite a while ago, but have they done anything decent this millennium? perhaps they have, but i havent come across it."

    but that is the point! they have sucked for quite some time, and they continue to suck. nothing has changed. they were prog, now they are mnml. nothing has changed!

  11. "nothing has changed. they were prog, now they are mnml. nothing has changed!"

    yep, well this is the point on which we disagree. i think the fact that they are now mnml (yet doing the same ol' crap) does make a difference. it could be the case that we are blowing this thing way out of proportion, but i think it is important for the identity of the sound and those making and pushing it.

  12. I'm not sure if that reply to my comment was meant to be sarcastic or not, but I just want to be clear: I really really don't care if anybody likes ribcage or not. What irks me is the huge controversy that's formed around it, much of it having nothing to do with the actual music. And these concerns around the "identity" of minimal; what exactly are you so worried about? It's not like the term isn't already vague and meaningless.

  13. "i think it is important for the identity of the sound and those making and pushing it."

    what is happening is that now that the completely arbitrary lines between mnml and prog are being blurred, people can see that the emperor is butt naked. it irks them. to me, i think it's hilarious because its been obvious to me how the same they are for a long time.

  14. But the thing is, mnml is all about disavowal.

    Magda: "Well, I have a problem with the word minimal because I think it's really misused nowadays. It's gotten slowly out of control. When I think of minimal, it's not what we play, you know?"

    It's all about disavowal - this is integral to the posture.

    But maybe it's all really software disguised as a genre. Maybe it's just all 'Ableton music' - I think Andy Vaz was the first person to really fetishise it as part of his sound design with the 'Sound Variation' series, but anyone who's making loop-based music on Ableton that uses the drop-in plug-ins... well, it very quickly starts to sound like mnml... not that we were ever mnml...

    Magda's quote continues:

    "Minimal to me is like Basic Channel, early Studio 1, really just that. Few sounds. And now, what's happening, it's built upon that idea, but now if you really listen to the tracks we play, there is a lot going on, a lot of sound. You can't really say it's minimal. But I think it's really easy for people to attach that word to anything that's not fast or hard, you know? In general I think it's good, I think the important thing is for people not to make the same stuff as other people because then it's just saturated and then it gets boring. And I'm already bored with a lot of it, actually. It's okay because there's so much new shit – this is a good thing. This music has gotten so big because of the Internet and because of people being able to get software more easily and make stuff. It's a good thing, I think, because I'm always getting a lot of tracks now, online or whatever, people sending me, and they're not all the same. There are different styles, different things, people are going in different directions. Thank God for that. Just hearing the same stuff, even if it was popular, I think I'd get bored. It's really important that this music progresses, keeps moving to whatever direction it's headed."

    So, who can say what *is* mnml? In contemporary music...






    Or Just Sahko, Studio Eins, Profan and Thomas Brinkmann? But I think this stuff, while definitely minimalist... is... not..... mnml

  15. Ironically, contoversy is a great marketing tool.

    Whether people are loving you or hating you, they are at least talking about you = fantastic marketing.

    Every time someone puts Dubfire down, it will just make someone who has never even heard of him check his stuff out to see what the fus is about.........


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