LOEFAH with KNIFEHANDCHOP , SEK ONE , CRYOGENETIC and YTEE at Crosstown (178 Bathurst), Saturday (April 7). $15. 416-362-7677. Rating: NNNNN
In just the last year, dubstep has gone from a somewhat obscure subcategory of UK urban music to the hot new sound of London, displacing much of the hype heaped on grime not that long ago.
Add the earthshaking sub-bass of drum 'n' bass to some sparse hiphop-informed drum programming and dark, brooding atmospherics and you're getting close to the sound.
"Before last year it was quite a struggle," recalls Loefah, a central figure in the emerging scene. "Because it was new and different, people often didn't realize what they were listening to, and they didn't know how to dance to it or how to get into it. We just kept our heads down and kept going, and now there seems to be real energy behind it."
Much of the boost in visibility is due to a BBC special called Dubstep Wars that profiled the emerging sound and introduced many of its key players to the rest of the world. Thanks to the power of the Internet, most major cities have a small dubstep scene going on, but some are better than others at reproducing the authentic vibe.
"Each city has its own unique take on it. You can always tell when promoters have been to a dance in London, because they see what it's about.
"It's a groove that comes from the bass line basically, so if you haven't got the speakers set up right you kind of miss the point, and a lot of the places we go to the system isn't quite right. It's hard to explain - a dubstep dance is basically minimal lighting and big speakers. That's it, really. We try to keep away from laser shows or whatever."
That snubbing of flashing lights and grit is partly a reaction to the bloat that took over much of the world's party scenes toward the end of the 90s. Megaclubs and go-go dancers weren't what Loefah and company were looking for in a night out, so they spent their time writing new rhythms instead of partying all night.
"It got to a point in the late 90s when I didn't want to go anywhere. It seemed like people were looking at what everyone else was wearing, what drink they were drinking, what car they came in, what shoes they were wearing. Nightclubs started looking prettier and sounding worse."