I was once utterly obsessed with pop music, and my flatmate likes to wind me up by implying I don't care about it anymore, and am gradually devolving into a one-album-a-year type. The last time I really cared about a New Music rather than listening to burnt CDs of old Isaac Hayes, Wu-Tang and Cabaret Voltaire albums was Grime and to a slightly lesser extent Cologne Techno, about five years ago in each case. My attention has been briefly grabbed since, by the Northern bass-noise-pop of bassline house for a time, but never, ever, with the token exception of Burial's second album, have I cared a jot for Dubstep. Not because it's full of people like me - personally I prefer not to have a pall of menace around where I spend an evening, I had enough of that as a teenager, thanks - but because it's so fucking dull. It suggested drum and bass if it had only ever been the music it had turned into by 1998, a ponderous stonerstep for slovenly, unshaven UCL science students in expensive rainwear. I thought it was boring when Slimzee started playing it on Rinse FM in 2003, I thought it was boring when Rephlex jumped the gun with the nomenclature, and I thought it was dull when I went to FWD for the first and last time in 2004; why listen to this when you could have instead the sonic imagination, the futurist melodrama of Ruff Sqwad?.
So my attention was not attracted by that-which-we-cannot-call-wonky, early on, as I assumed it was another facet of this wholly uninteresting scene. Further investigation made clear that while some was predictable pomo stuff some of it was rather exciting, a bizarre lolloping G-Funk made up of bright, wilfully tasteless synth squiggles. You could actually imagine dancing to it. Another Joker track, 'Digidesign' (above) got me even more excited, sounding like a vision of Asian megacities rising out of dubstep's Brixton squats, of the signifiers of the urban moody being rejected in favour of the urban sublime. So after raving about this elsewhere I was very kindly sent a link by the blogosphere's favourite buffoon empiricist Dan Hancox to a recent mix by Guido, and after managing to put down my hackles - the producer is called Guido, for God's sake, an unshaven Tolkein-referencing Bristolian - there are fine things there, albeit amidst some tracks which evoke a straining for drama reminiscent of incidental music to SNES games. The best things here sound like they're picking up from the luridly synthesised Sinophile grime of 2003 - Jammer, Terror Danjah - with gunplay removed and funk transfused: Guido, Aarya and Ruthless's 'Beautiful Complication' (also above) is a particular joy, a teen-pop melodrama in garishly artificial synth and genetically modified R&B vocals. It's a bit sad that it's been mainly the preserve of those hostile to theory or writing about music rather than scene politics - if this music takes off from the dynamism and drama of the tracks above and leaves its torpid roots behind, there could be something here truly worth overheated prose and grandiose theorisation.