Bassline (music genre)
|Stylistic origins||Speed garage, Italo house, UK garage, grime|
|Cultural origins||Early 2000s, Sheffield, UK|
|Typical instruments||Turntables, drum machines, sequencer, synthesizer, samplers, personal computer|
|Speed garage - Bouncy techno|
Bassline is a type of music related to UK garage that originated from speed garage, and shares characteristics with fellow subgenres dubstep and grime for their emphasis on bass. The style originated in Sheffield around 2002.
Bassline has been at the centre of controversy in Sheffield due to a police raid on the former bassline club night "Niche", after which the club closed down. Police raided the club amidst reports that the scene had been attracting violence, drug use and gang culture. Since it was the most popular bassline night in Sheffield prior to its closure, "Niche" is sometimes used as an alternative name for the musical genre. Like grime, bassline is still associated with violence, anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.
Early bassline shares more similarities with its predecessor speed garage than the style that began to emerge in the latter half of the decade, with many people still referring to bassline house releases from the early 2000s as speed garage. This early style grew from the sound that was pushed in nightclubs in the North and the Midlands during the late 90s that played speed garage mixed with melodic vocal house. Most early bassline house tracks simply expanded on this as many tracks feature either 'warp' or 'reese' speed garage basslines, or the Korg M1 style organ lead. This led to many releases having a 'warper' mix along with an 'organ' mix of the same track. Like most electronic music, sampling played a big part, as lots of the same sampled basslines can be heard in old speed garage and bassline house releases.
Towards the end of the 2000s, a new wave of younger producers such as TS7, coupled with the rise of Digital audio workstations, which reduced the use of drum machine samples and old sampled basslines, took bassline to a different path. This style started to be called '4x4', moving further away from the original speed garage sound, but still retaining the core elements such as the warping basslines and female vocals. In general, bassline as a whole remained fairly underground and was mostly only popular in the North and Midlands, and releases often never went beyond a 12" vinyl EP, or featuring on obscure CD mixes or compilations. However, 4x4 Bassline gained popularity on the pop charts and allegedly one reason for this is it appeals to both genders, while grime and dubstep at the time gathered a predominantly male following. However, a more aggressive style of bassline also caught on, which was absent of pitched up female vocals and melodic leads, and was more reminiscent of grime. It became common for people to MC over bassline.
Like dubstep and grime, bassline generally places a strong emphasis on bass, with intricate basslines (often multiple and interweaving) being characteristic of the genre. Bassline tracks use a four-to-the-floor beat. The music is often purely instrumental, but vocal techniques common in other styles of garage can also be present, such as female R&B vocals sped up to match the faster tempo, and also samples of vocals from grime tracks. Most songs are around 135 to 142 bpm, faster than most UK garage and around the same tempo as most grime and dubstep.
The increased appeal of bassline may be in part due to the vocal contributions of female artists such as Jodie Aysha. The lyrics of bassline are often focused on love and other issues that may be considered more feminine. In a blog posting, Simon Reynolds described the bassline genre as "the drastic pendulum swing from yang to yin, testosterone to oestrogen, that I had always imagined would happen in reaction to grime, except it took so long to happen I gave up on it and just forgot." It has been argued that grime and dubstep originated in turn from "an over-reaction - to the 'feminine pressure' of late-'90s 2-step."
Together with its return to feminine-style music, bassline is said to embrace pop music aesthetics, and to have a euphoric, exuberant quality similar to that of earlier British rave music - both also in contrast to grime and dubstep.
Bassline has been described as largely similar, and in some cases synonymous, with its precursor 2-step garage, a description denied by proponents of the scene. The 4x4 beat of bassline has been noted as a difference between the two. Producer T2 maintains the genres share a common origin in house music but are different sounds, while major bassline distributor and DJ Mystic Matt describes bassline as having a similar rhythm to UK garage, but that the strong emphasis on bass renders it a separate genre.
The closure of Niche Nightclub
Bassline originated from the Niche Nightclub in Sheffield, which was closed down on 27 November 2005, following a police raid named "Operation Repatriation", where over 300 police officers raided the club, although no one was arrested. The police force had expressed fears that the scene attracted violence, gang culture and crime, largely from outside of Sheffield.
Sheffield's police force have stated "the only gun crime related to nightlife in Sheffield has been with bassline", and that many shootings, stabbings and drive-bys have occurred in and around bassline nightclubs including Niche. Steve Baxendale, the former owner of Niche Nightclub, has also expressed that the closure of the club that brought bassline into the spotlight has helped to increase the genre's popularity, but also that organizing bassline nights has become significantly harder, as club owners are put off by its early history. In 2009, Baxendale opened another venue in Sheffield called Niche nightclub on Charter Square located at different premises from the original Sidney Street building. It was briefly closed after another stabbing in 2010 but allowed to reopen as a members-only venue. As of 25 October 2010, the club had again been closed down permanently.
Emergence into the mainstream
Excerpt from "Heartbroken" by T2, one of the most widely known bassline tracks and the first to be internationally popular.
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Bassline was an underground scene in the West Midlands (Birmingham) and the north of England until the release of T2's single "Heartbroken" on All Around The World, which attracted international attention, entering the music charts in several countries, including the UK Singles Chart where it reached #2. Grime MC Skepta reported from a tour of several resorts in Greece and Cyprus in summer 2007 that the track was requested in clubs there. Additionally, the track received significant airplay on UK radio stations. Some music critics have said bassline is more mainstream-friendly than grime, since it appeals more equally to both sexes, whereas grime gathered a predominantly male following.
In December 2007, a reworked version of "Heartbroken", renamed "Jawbroken", created in aid of Ricky Hatton's world title fight against Floyd Mayweather, was selected as warm-up music for the fight.
T2 has expressed that he is pleased with "Heartbroken"'s success, and with bassline's emergence into the mainstream and its potential to become popular in the rest of the UK and internationally. After T2's success, H "Two" O released their single featuring vocal group Platnum, "What's It Gonna Be" which reached number 7 in the national charts on downloads alone, rising to number 2 the following week, where it remained for the next 3 weeks. Later in the year, one of London's leading bassline producers, Delinquent, signed a deal with All Around The World for another national release, "My Destiny".
DJ Q (BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ) & MC Bonez signed a deal with Ministry of Sound to release their single "You Wot" nationwide for download and sale on 14 July 2008 & 21 July 2008 respectively. The video for the single has received airplay on notable TV music stations such as MTV Base. 23 Deluxe also released their single "Show Me Happiness" which reached number 2 in the Radio 1 Dance Singles Chart. "Daddy O" - a song by Wideboys reached number 32 on the 2008 UK singles chart.
Back to the underground
An example of "Newskool" Bassline. Harder bass lines and 4x4 beat can be clearly heard.
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Following its mainstream success, bassline reverted into the underground scene and is no longer considered mainstream. Many popular artists who produced bassline have moved on to different genres such as jacking bass and defected house. Having reverted to the underground bassline remained popular for sometime but is now disappearing due to the popularity of the genre Jacking bass and defected house which a more funky beat.
Notable bassline artists
- Collins, Hattie (2007-11-29). "Deep down and dirty". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
- “Bassline House Looks to Find a Niche Where Grime Failed”. October 17, 2007. March 13, 2007. http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/music/2007/10/bassline_house_looks_to_find_a.html
- Beck, Richard. "The Low End: The Bassline House Invasion". February 26, 2008. March 13, 2008. http://thephoenix.com/article_ektid56914.aspx
- K-Punk, "Bassline House and the Return of Feminine Pressure," Fact Magazine, January 2008.
- Morris, Davina (2007-11-29). "Niche: The new garage?". The Voice. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
- "David Beckham digs bassline". Central Station. 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
- Niche Nightclub Website
- Collins, Hattie. "About To Blow! Bassline". RWD Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
- McDonnell, John (2007-10-17). "Bassline house looks to find a niche where grime failed". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
- Collins, Hattie (2007-11-03). "Get down to dirty pop and bassline". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
- "Hatton's Round T2 Knockout". The Sun. 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- Official UK Top 40 week ending 8/3/08
- Official UK Top 40 week ending 15/3/08
- Niche: NICHEUK.com, The Official Niche Nightclub Website
- MadTunez: http://www.madtunez.com, Oldskool Bassline forum and free downloads.
- Hattie Collins: About To Blow! Bassline, MTV Base and RWD Magazine feature, December 2007
- Causes: http://www.causes.com/causes/563248, Support Niche Back To Sidney Street, 2011