This began as a response on Facebook to a friend of mine and I felt like more people should know my thoughts on why UK Garage is more respected now as a genre than it ever was before. I'm not an expert on UKG, but I've been listening to it for the past 3-4 years (and before that even, I just didn't know it yet..) and been noticing some exciting changes in its projected legitimacy and adoption.
how i discovered garage
Being a DJ at the time, I was first turned on to UKG by Todd "The God" Edwards with his remix of St. Germain - Alabama Blues. Not only is it still one of my favorite UKG tracks, it's also one of my favorite dance music tracks, period. It still gets me moving and shaking and a lot of my best produced music has been influenced, directly, by the sounds and production values I first heard in that tune.
So that was a UKG song, but it was played in a Daft Punk set, so I wasn't aware that it was Garage. Not only that, but pretty much any DJ I played the tune for didn't know it existed and loved the song very much. This begged a fascinating question: Why didn't UK Garage take off in the late 90s?
Now that I've studied UK Garage, Dubstep and House music a little more thoroughly, I have a few suggestions for why this phenomenon occurred.
why we woke up
- People finally realized how intricate and awesome the genre was, and grew bored with the repetitive nature of most dance music, instead taking some of the best parts of House, Jungle & Breaks and combining them into a single, funky idiom.
- It has the same vibe as deep house, lots of vocals/pianos/melody with little if any aggression. So it works in a deep house set. A lot of the time it's almost impossible to tell deep house from UK Garage, but also...
- It has the same vibe as tech house. With all those tuned and filtered drums, Garage works in a Techno or Tech House set, given the correct tracks.
- Now that Dubstep is a big-room sound, House needs to compete. UKG was originally designed as a means for House/Techno producers to compete with what was then the new sound in EDM: Hardcore and Jungle. So that's where UKG gets its speed and "oldskool hardcore" sensibilities from: a desire for House to remain relevant with those listening to Jungle. It's sort-of come around again, except "This Time It's Dubstep!" Now, we're actually speeding up House to slow it down. Since 140 is the average Dubstep tempo, UKG works in a Dubstep set.
- Artists like MJ Cole, Submerse and DJ Q have been releasing new UKG music that sounds an order of magnitude better, from a technical perspective, than anything that had ever come before it. The UK Garage from the old days sounds...well...old! Even though some of those classics from Nice 'N Ripe and Ice Cream were and are still absolute smash hits, there's just no way you can play "Hurt You So '99" in a club these days without catching some flack. So "big ups" to MJ, Submerse, Q and Disclosure for really showing the "vast unwashed" that UK Garage is alive, well, and most of all, still has a lot to do!
The artists I mentioned above, as well as pretty much anyone who's been rocking the Juno Download UKG/UK Funky section have been sacrificing a lot by continuing in a genre that was famously dissed on one of the most popular ways to learn about electronic music, and definitely not given the respect it deserves.
the merits of uk garage...for another time
I'll go into further detail on why I believe UK Garage is going to eventually, if it hasn't already in some diversion, usurp House and Techno as the world's most popular genres of dance music. I believe that UK Garage has a lot going for it: almost universal adoption potential, great quality tracks, and a tight-knit community from East London complete with its own slang, events and culture. This is all working to make UKG into something huge, something a lot bigger than what we're all observing right now...
But that's for a later post :)