Do circle pits have a place in dance music?
Fri 27th Apr, 2012 Features 5262 viewsin
On the flipside to Armstrong’s argument is a no-less-divisive breed of dancefloors, where no one’s nodding off. In fact, they’re ‘raging’. In place of ketamine there’s booze – or perhaps nothing more mood-enhancing than a burning desire to rage. In Armstrong’s example, the parties stretch for hours, deep into the morning, without much incident. In a mosh, it’s all incident. Each lurch in tempo is met by a frenzy of movement and the pay-offs come thick and fast. As a general rule, you probably don’t see many circle pits during slowburning six-hour sets.
While acts like The Prodigy and harder-edged electro can inspire a mosh mentality, its natural match seems to be the brash, hyperactive progeny of dubstep built for big rooms and 90-minute sets. It’s a sound that DJ/crooner James Blake laid into in an interview with The Boston Phoenix. “Certain producers – who I can’t even be bothered naming – have definitely hit upon a sort of frat-boy market where there’s this macho-ism being reflected in the sounds and the way the music makes you feel,” Blake said. “And to me, that is a million miles away from where dubstep started. It’s a million miles away from the ethos of it. It’s been influenced so much by electro and rave, into who can make the dirtiest, filthiest bass sound, almost like a pissing competition, and that’s not really necessary.” (Look up ‘brostep’ on Urban Dictionary and one of the definitions could double as a riposte to Blake: “New kids are destroying the dub scene with fun records you can actually dance to. They better all get off my lawn.”)
I asked US rising star Figure – whose specialities include dubstep and half-time drum & bass off-shoot drumstep – if he shares Nero’s observation about moshing. “I talk about this a lot,” he said. “I dig it, as long as people don’t get hurt. This isn’t a metal show. I don’t want girls punched in the face or something because a hard drop happened. It’s not for everyone, I guess, but I think of it as a sign that the person just couldn’t dance anymore. They had to freak out and flip out.”
So what is it in the music that causes the “freak-out”? “The space between the drums and the BPM in general in our ‘bass’ stuff really leads that on,” he continued. “At a Justice concert, it’d be hard to mosh to a 124-BPM song and be on beat. With the stuff I play like the half-time drum & bass, it has that same speed as metal. A lot of the patterns and the chops are the same as metal songs. It brings it out. Certain songs of mine that I consider to be my hardest, the patterns just don’t bring out the moshing in people. But others of mine with huge stabs over and over, syncopated perfectly with the drums, every time people will start to push each other around when I play them.
“The kids in America who would’ve been the new Marilyn Manson kids, they just turn into dubstep kids instantly now. Those are the kids who are diehard about it; who would’ve got tattoos in school of a band’s name on their neck, and it’s just the be-all and end-all.”