10 Acts Pushing Dubstep FWD>> In 2024 🌪️

Words: Son Raw

Dubstep rose to astonishing heights and crashed to terrible lows. Emerging from a cottage industry of record shops (Big Apple), club nights (FWD>> first, countless others after) and pirate radio broadcasts (Rinse FM and the rest), the South London sound briefly took over the world in the mid-to-late aughts, fuelling the American EDM boom and lapsing into self-parody before being sidelined by trend chasers and DJs weary about being tied to a fad. Nevertheless, dubstep’s true sound—heavy, cavernous and community-oriented—never truly went away, kept alive by true believers and an international circuit that looked beyond the hype towards the genre’s true values.

Now, much like its older brothers drum & bass and garage before it, dubstep is experiencing a revival amongst a new generation of ravers too young to have experienced its rise and the subsequent backlash, but fascinated by its sound, energy and history. Y2K nostalgia? Maybe a bit. But with a new cadre of producers making noise, younger ravers need not only look back at the golden era: there’s plenty to enjoy in dubstep right here, right now, with the following 10 acts being only a taste of the sounds percolating in the scene today.



Formerly of the duo Sicaria Sound, the now solo Imbratura Lou is carrying on the Sicaria name and flying the flag for dubstep at its deepest, without losing sight of the genre’s ability to let loose. A lot of that is down to her skills behind the decks, where Sicaria seamlessly blends various strains of 140BPM bass music, supplementing dubstep with grime—new and old—as well as recent hybrid bass music from kindred spirits like LCY. This combined prowess as a DJ and producer also finds a home in her output as a label head, first with Cutcross Recordings as part of Sicaria Sound, and now solo with Club Confi:DANCE, with both releasing output equally suited for peak-time and eyes-down sessions.



While dubstep often gets (mis)labeled as either aggressive tear-out filth or deep, “eyes down” music to meditate to, the reality is: much of the genre’s best music toes the line between those extremes, balancing aggressive midrange basslines with fleet-footed drums. Rising star Hamdi is the rare producer that perfectly captures that balance, combining Coki and Benga-worthy basslines to skippy garage hi-hats in a sound that merges the best of 2007 with up-to-the-minute production. Among his already lengthy catalogue, tracks like “Pulsewave” and “Eclipse” have garnered widespread acclaim among ravers, but it’s “Counting”, his rave anthem with Princess Superstar, that best epitomises his party-ready approach, thanks to its cheeky vocal and thunderous drop. Countless producers have the chops to make bangers, but “Counting”’s pop hook? That’s priceless.


Chad Dubz

A Deep Medi cosign is worth one’s weight in gold in bass music circles, and Bristol producer Chad Dubz hasn’t wasted his shot. Releasing both trueschool dubstep of the highest order and more experimental, multi-tempo explorations on Mala’s esteemed label over the past two years, Chad has seen his star rise thanks to collaborations with Warrior Queen and Riko Dan, but don’t confuse him for a newcomer. As founder of Foundation Audio, he has put in over 10 years of graft into the scene as a producer, A&R and DJ, with a particular emphasis on dubstep’s connection to its Jamaican dub roots, most notably via choice vocal samples. Don’t sleep on Mr. Dubz.



Another producer who first made a name for himself during dubstep’s mid-’10s drought, Ourman has stuck to his guns, producing a melodic strain of dubstep that balances trueschool styles with the kind of cutting-edge sound design that just wasn’t available on a cracked copy of Fruity Loops during the genre’s initial boom. Of late, he’s formed a particularly fruitful relationship with White Peach Records, a longstanding home for both grime and dubstep releases since 2013. There, EPs like Rezolve and Zengo combine both strains of 140BPM instrumental music to lush, IDM-inspired arpeggios, making them as well suited for the club as for the night bus trip back, as all great dubstep should be.




So goes the vocal sample on Truant’s “A Little Love Song For The Dance”, and while rave music is no stranger to tongue-in-cheek patter, there’s no hint of irony here—not with a bass line this deep. While most Dubstep acts harken to the genre’s late 00s glory days, Truant goes deeper and darker, making music that’s just as close to the original Jamaican dub of Lee Scratch Perry and King Tubby, as it is to Skream and Benga’s Croydon step. He’s no magpie either, proudly shouting out everything from pre-Jungle Rare Groove raves on his socials, and playing the freshest dubplates out on Rinse.



Bristol’s musical output looms large in the dubstep scene’s popular imagination, with more than one tourist getting off the train puzzled that the city isn’t wall to wall reggae record shops and nightclubs. Memes and banter aside however, Brizzle’s responsible for a shocking number of producers and DJs, with Samba bridging the gap between Jakes, Pinch and Pev’s OG ranks and today’s up-and-comers. With clutch releases on Encrypted Audio, Deep Medi and Crucial Recordings for 10+ years, Samba’s no newcomer but he’s quietly (and on the right system, very loudly) carried the torch for dubstep’s OG, dub-influenced ethos, becoming a true pillar of the sound’s second city.



Dubstep isn’t the only genre to receive an uptick in attention recently, as a number of DJs and producers have taken a fresh look at hardcore techno as a distinct entity from Detroit and Berlin’s more austere purism. New Zealand’s Ebb produces right at the intersection of these two movements, using both genres’ common 140BPM tempo to explore the intersection between reese sass, melodic stabs and broken beats. He’s no dilettante either, with every tune providing maximum heaviness: unsurprising considering New Zealand’s (oft-unsung) history in dub music.



Another leading light releasing on Ecrypted Audio and White Peach, Chokez’s deep, weighty basslines, intricate percussion and ominous atmospheres are more than worthy inheritors of the DMZ tradition, with mid-ranged wobblers that rival Coki’s and deep basslines with gravitational fields to rival Mala’s. He’s not afraid to incorporate new elements into dubstep’s matrix however, with his forays into trap-inspired hi-hats and melodic leads offsetting any deep n’ dark purism. It’s this canny ability to bounce between dubstep’s various modes that makes him an asset to this new generation of DJs: there’s always a Chokez tune for the moment.



From Jamaican dub vocals to Japanese video game sound effects, dubstep—at its best—has always drawn from a diverse palate of sounds, reflecting the UK’s multiculturalism back at it. That said, rising producer Stain is a particularly interesting case of the genre coming full circle: whereas a fair bit of classic dubstep was indebted to South Asian music (particularly Dusk & Blackdown’s Margins Music album), Stain is actually from New Delhi, giving him a naturally different perspective on those musical elements. Take “Bhul Jao” from his Modern Disfunction EP, whose winding flute line echoes DMZ classics, or “Brain Checked”, with tablas aplenty for the win.



While plenty of diehard dubstep producers are carrying the scene on their backs, it’s also worth noting that the genre is once again finding a warm reception in minimal dance music circles. This exchange never truly stopped, given now-established UK techno acts like Batu have always shouted out their roots in bass music, but dubstep’s recent impact is now being felt further afield as well. Rhyw is right in the middle of these trends, with the Berlin-based Welsh-Greek producer having plenty of history in bass music despite breaking through in his adopted hometown’s techno scene. Fittingly, his recent Mister Melt EP contains plenty of his adopted home’s austere minimalism, but combines it with the broken drums and up-tempo rhythms of spiritual ancestors Scuba and 2562.

Posted on February 13, 2024