Untold: Dubstep’s Next Mutation
- Words: Matt Earp
Burial may have introduced the world to next level of richly layered dubstep in 2007, but Untold is fearlessly waving that flag in 2009. The 31-year-old Londoner (along with artists like Mount Kimbie, Pangaea, and Phaeleh) is breathing new musical life into a genre increasingly prone to obvious hooks and bash-your-brains-in basslines. And while the man born Jack Dunning has only been at it for about 18 months, it’s stunning how each of his complex releases sounds significantly different from the last. To Dunning, “Dubstep is just a skeleton to throw loads of influences at and see what happens.”
His first release early last year on Hessle Audio, “Kingdom,” explored a dark, simple, and almost paranoid vibe that fit the dubstep mould at the time. But soon after, he dropped “Sweat” (Hotflush), a song so slinky that it recalled classic 2-step or even swung house, and “Just For You,” a massive stomper that referenced both Konflict’s over-the-top drum & bass anthem “Messiah” and the simple but effective rhythms of U.K. funky. And most recently, he’s let loose his biggest release yet on Hessle, “I Can’t Stop This Feeling” b/w “Anaconda,” Dunning’s attempt at updating the gritty 8-bar/grime sound of 2005, all chopped up and heavy but with its own playful twists.
But there’s more than just musical styles influencing Dunning’s complex and ever-evolving sonic palette. “To me, writing tunes and designing web pages was actually quite similar in a way,” he opines of his 10 years spent in graphic design. “Because you’ve got both the creative aspects and the technical or engineering sides in each. It helps my music writing to see the connection between the two.” Eventually, though, “It was too much of a conflict between work and music,” he says, “and I was screen-burnt by the time I got home.”
The extra time has also afforded him the opportunity to start up his own budding Hemlock label, which Dunning co-runs with a friend. Hemlock features both beautiful artwork (courtesy of Dunning, naturally) and seriously deep tunes from a roster of similar-minded up-and-comers like James Blake, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Rich Reason.
Dunning has also found himself increasingly in demand for remix work, with Ramadanman, Milanese, Naptha, and Moderat all scheduled to receive Untold’s nuanced treatment. If that weren’t enough, he’s also looking to collaborate with vocalists, and with more tunes in the energetic vein of “Anaconda” forthcoming on Hemlock in the fall, he’s basically ready to create a “torrent of new stuff to unleash on the States.” And while Dunning says that in some ways he’s struggled to reign in the intense attention to detail that marked his earlier releases, it’s gratifying to know his music-making philosophy is well grounded in practicality: “Good dance music is actually really simple,” he says, “and details and richness are just kind of the icing.”
Keep an eye on XLR8R.com in the coming weeks for Untold's exclusive podcast.
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