For the life of me, I can't recall when exactly Parris' first proper solo release came out in 2016 but, like the debut release from Ploy at the start of the year, it served as an early indication that something I didn't quite understand yet was happening in that derivative space too long referred to as post-dubstep--that the qualifier has been in use for longer than the genre proper existed is quite telling about the state of music journalism in the 2010's. While I have followed the courting between dubstep and techno since 2006, there was something ineffably new about the apparent dub techno on display within the music of Dwayne Parris-Robinson when the esteemed Idle Hands imprint released the two-tracker of "Burr" b/w "Blue."
One of the more obnoxious patterns that emerged in the media's coverage of dubstep in the mid-00s was their focus on the genre's portmanteau of a name to assume that this was music indelibly influenced by the country's storied history with both dub reggae and stepping music of the 2-step UKG variety. As Dwayne-Robbinson noted in our conversation last summer, dubstep's first wave of innovators could be roughly divided into two camps. There were those like Mala, Coki, and Loefah of DMZ who "were mainly influenced by jungle" as evidenced "with a lot the sounds and drum patterns they used," citing the track "Changes" as an example of a "jungle tune at 140." The other half was deeply inspired by the dark garage of El-B and Horsepower Productions, which manifested in "deep basslines and focus on soundsystems" in addition to "having the snare on the 2nd + 4th."
As we've seen across our analyses of the songs and producers that have sought to reclaim the shock of the new that surrounded dubstep's early days, there's a very real weariness amongst these producers to be grouped under any one label. In discussing what if any shared aesthetic exists between scene-leading labels like Mistry, Timedance, and Wisdom Teeth, Parris notes that "sonically I feel like all of these labels and records do actually have a focus on bass but I guess it's not as direct as say early Tempa or DMZ records. It's just a re-interpretation of styles we're all heavily influenced but without imitating. There was a period where a lot of people would lazily bang labels into 'bass' but the tag has shifted to a completely different set of artists and now most people would normally just put us into 'techno' as it's something they can relate to even though we may not fit into there any better." Indeed, it's the media's long-standing desire to mindlessly group artists amongst stylistic similarities or shared localities that has long encouraged producers still finding their voice to try and create tracks in a particular genre or style. As Parris-Robbinson notes of his own development, "I would naturally be influenced by past genre's of UK music due to the influence dubstep had on me and the influences of other genres on it." However, as the lack of new genre tag this decade has indicated, we're seeing not so much a lack of creativity and evolution amongst artists as much as their resistance to being identified by concepts that might not even be relevant any longer. "I've felt like the term genre has been pretty irrelevant in the current space of music over maybe the past 5-6 years due to the fact that there's so much middle ground. Labels like Hessle Audio and Hemlock helped in opening doors which most people didn't even know existed and helped in using the hardcore continuum as a catapult into exploring different spaces," the producer noted when I asked him about whether he sees Simon Reynolds' longstanding concept as still being relevant or having even existed in the first place.
From its opening moments that see the start of bass drop extended into a glissando-laced drone atop martial snare hits on the two, three, and four, it's clear that "Burr" is all about exploring that middle ground between easily defined genres. Anchored by an undulating bass line that oscillates in the space between the beat and bell-provided accents at the end of each phrase pass, the spirit of dub is made literal in the hands of Parris as sound FX are affixed with echo and delay and left to float about the mix. A masterclass in subtlety, the ghost of a 4X4 kick pattern makes "Burr" easy to fit into many a techno DJ's set but on closer listen the track feels ineffably effortless n its ability to crib from across the genre and stylistic spectrum without ever feeling beholden to a particular style or genre. Commenting that"trying to categorise uk music into genre's at this point probably isn't worth it but more just focusing on people as tribes in similar sonic spaces," both Parris' music and thinking is steeped in a lived experience spent both in hallowed UK club spaces and online resources that provide windows into music that simply weren't accessible prior to the widespread adoption of the internet. "Blue" on the B side is slightly more literal in its use of dub tropes and even more extreme in its unwillingness to ever settle into a single, genre-defined drum pattern.