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Published 17th May 2012
I think that there’s a pretty general consensus regarding dubstep as a genre – loud noises, people sweatily crashing into one another in some dark club and repeated insistent instances of bass being dropped. At its best you wouldn’t dance to it sober and at its worst it’s as if somebody took the sound of a chainsaw being run down a blackboard and threw it into a cement mixer. But if you move away from the kind of Skrillex-y material that dominates the mainstream, dubstep comes off as a much more nuanced genre. ‘Post-dubstep’ is the moniker that encompasses the more ambient and UK-based sound. If they were paintings the Skrillex and Flux Pavilion’s of the dubstep world would be a Jackson Pollock, all stabbing synths and pounding bass of vivid colour and madness whereas the relaxed, garage influenced likes of Burial and Matthew Dear would be much more Hans Hoffman, much more subtle strokes and minimalism.
Daughn Gibson’s first solo album All Hell walks more in this relaxed form of Dubstep, a strange angle maybe for a former drummer in a stoner-rock band, and a current truck driver – but he brings that rugged honesty to the album and just as James Blake samples R’n’B across his tracks, Daughn does the same by utilising nourish country ballads.
For example opener In The Beginning begins with a gentle looping piano and Daughn allows the trapped loop to slowly encompass gently building beats, and then his own rough croon – which then gives way to a lone female voice. The track does its job of pulling you into the album, as well as getting you used to the totally unique style of Gibson.
Tiffany Lou is probably the best track in All Hell, Daughn’s voice is pitched down over a low hum and drowns you with stories of washed up men while a slow country guitar thuds out chords that every now and then loop and glitch as if to remind you of how alien a sound the album produces. By the time you listen to A Young Girl’s World, you know whether you’ll like Daughn’s style or not – I certainly did although his cowboy drawl sometimes comes off as too rough and masculine, he sometimes sounds like Johhny Cash gargling whiskey on the rocks, with actual rocks – and lines like “I saw him/Underneath the neon lights of a corner bar/ Crying like a child” are hard to take straight faced but Daughn’s dedication to a true Country vibe helps you ignore these moments where the album seems too over the top.
The other stand out track is Lookin’ Back On ’99 where it opens to lurching guitars and pounds forwards ceaselessly on a minimal drum beat – the real strength is little lyrical images like “Don’t we love the love we knew?” That gives a strange sense of the profound regarding Daughn’s gritty style.
All the way through the album Daughn seems to be conjuring up the imagery of a broken Americana, perhaps taking a hint from UK-producer Burial whose tracks use ambient pulsations and solemn beats to evoke the image of a night-time London, flickering lights of distant tower blocks catching lonely drops of rain on empty streets – whereas Daughn uses the juxtaposition of guitars and his own baritone drawl against pulsing bass lines and electronic buzzes to paint us a dusty world of small towns and broken, washed up men in bars, all linked by one empty road in the rolling desert.
It’s the way that he really engages with this story that makes the album so strong – and although the genre seems so alien to deepest American, you can imagine All Hell rattling into life on some old jukebox while old drinkers lean against barstools. The other major success is that it’s a perfect endorsement of how full and aesthetically interesting a genre dubstep can be. I think that all those people who think that tracks like “Bass Cannon” represent all that dubstep has to offer should look at All Hell, regardless of whether they enjoy it or not, but just as a demonstration dubstep can be as diverse and varied as any other form of music.