Jack Dunning, aka Untold, took the stage at Empire Control Room Friday and nervously cleared away the beer bottles left atop his table of modular electronics, samplers, and synthesizers. He put his headphones on, scanned the knobs and LEDs, prepped a few samples, and walked offstage. Such an entrance epitomizes London’s post-rave bass scene.
For starters, Untold comes intended for movement, rather than bobbling heads and eyes-to-the-stage spectatorship. Most aspects of Untold’s appearance made the cross-Atlantic disconnection glaringly obvious, yet Dunning pulled it off with smooth London swagger, as he strutted back and forth like a cross-fader above a crescendo of bass frequencies and modular squelches.
Although a live set, Dunning melded material together like a DJ, sifting through decades of British bass culture, from early-Nineties rave to the continuum of dub, jungle, drum and bass, garage, 2-step, and dubstep. Although sub-bass pervaded throughout, Dunning didn’t rely heavily on the dying belches of dubstep, a genre, which especially on our end of the pond, has been entirely gutted and repackaged into a cesspool of tween fragmentation, hypermasculinity, and hyperconsumption.
Like a lot of music out of South London, dubstep started as a platform for African and Caribbean influences to blend sub-aquatically with Western electronic styles. It was music for and by the displaced and marginalized. The genre’s hideous descent affirms to never underestimate the vacant influence of cultural appropriation and white washing commodification.
As part of this year’s downscaled Chaos in Tejas, a beacon for classic and under-appreciated punk and metal reunions, Untold reiterated the festival’s success with exploring the intersections of noise, industrial, punk, and electronic music. Dunning embodies CiT’s manifestation as a home for emerging acts such as last year’s Andy Stott, Cut Hands, and Container.
Empire Control Room, with its corporate, cock-rock atmosphere, would probably be considered a subpar venue for Untold, but the dinky crowd enjoyed the off-putting relationship between wall-tearing resonances and space, thanks in large to Dunning’s verve, which cut through the awkwardness like hi-hats over a warehouse beat. The energy reached its pinnacle as he mixed into “Sing a Love Song,” the single off of this year’s Black Light Spiral.
In a cheeky gesture, Dunning started the track with an soulful old reggae number, let it play out for a few bars, then turned it on its head, churning the chorus, “Sing a love song,” into mashed potatoes for our young millennium run amok.
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