You know sKewn? The man is part of the old guard of bass experimenters in Columbus that is always looking to expand the dialogue of dance music in Columbus. True to this spirit, I am coming full force at you today with a run down of sKewn’s mix and production work in the hopes that I can give you a taste for what this man contributes to the sonic landscape of Columbus dance music. Interestingly, this post differs from many in this series. In most iterations of this post series, I have focused on what one mixes tells us about an artist. Yet, many times one piece cannot describe the flexibility and malleability of an artists craft. It would be like trying to describe the work of any painter, sculptor, or mixed media artist through only one period in their work. Such a cross sectional snap shot really does not do justice to artists. In an effort to expand upon this normal process, I will discuss the lessons I learn from three of sKewn’s mixes. I will argue that experimentation with genre blending, using history as a tool, and taste selecting are key goals that can be accomplished through mix work that serve vital functions for any music community.
Exhibit One: Genre Blending as a Musical statement.
sKewn — “Fire” — LISTEN HERE
sKewn’s Fire mix merges dubstep, techno, and jungle in a genre blending experiment that shows how three genres that are often put in opposition to one another can not only co-exist but flourish. The result here is a HARD mix that grips you and never lets go. sKewn himself told me that he created this mix to show someone that the classifications he was using to construct his ideas of good and bad music genres were much less distinct entities and that all genres speak to one another in some way. This highlights sKewn’s desire to break down these classification systems and just spin records. No doubt, this is what we did in the infancy of dance music, before we erected elaborate classification systems that attempt to index every sound that could be created. Yet, these genre blending practices are present in our scene today as well.
Such an expansive view of music and the advancement of genre blending is a hallmark of the music approach of witch house producers/DJs like Textbeak, but has always been adopted by many people in our scene. Have you seen “The Facebook” blow up with discussions of how many tempo/genre changes up you can make in a set? No doubt, this is just evidence of the fact that many people in Columbus have always tried to find new ways to create sound by throwing two seemingly disparate tracks together. Such an approach is so important, and I argue we need to continue to move in that direction. Genre Blending and breaking down classification systems only allows us to create new sounds and realize our potential as a music scene . Early pioneers in Evolutionary Control Committee, Body Release, and in the ele_mental crew sought to create new noise out of the disparate musical landscape around them. No sound was off limits. I propose we continue on in that tradition.
Exhibit Two: History as a Tool
sKewn — “Bus Bass Mix”
Building off the the idea that genre blending is important, this crazy old-school Jungle mix by sKewn highlights what historically important musical forms can do for you musically. No doubt, this mix takes you on a fast-paced journey to the depths of the subterranean underworld we are only willing to explore on the darkest of nights. Yet, it also demonstrates what the dark, frantic sounds of jungle can do for someone looking to take a new direction. Often times when searching for new directions, we look to the “newest” trend, but sometimes the new does not offer us much a nuanced understanding of the sonic landscape around us. In this way, I think sKewn’s mix shows us what we can get out of appreciating where we have come from. Such an appreciation of history helps us understand where we have been so that we can push our artistic creation forward. Most of our greatest artistic achievements have come from a merging of the old with the new. How best can we build on the music that is around us and forge a new direction? What can we learn from the history of dance music?
Exhibit Three: Taste-Selecting
sKewn–“Fresh Skweeezed”—LISTEN HERE
Though it is important to look to history, sometimes the new directions can be equally as compelling. It is a full time job for a DJ to keep up with music innovation today. For many DJs though, this job is what drew them to this mode of expression. They wanted to be able to share the newest and best music. For them, the function of a DJ is to be a taste-maker or taste-selector. They want to push the music dialogue forward by presenting new sounds into the dialogue. sKewn holds this DJ ideology and believes in what new music expression can do for a live or produced mix. He has always pushed what he believes the newest and most innovative music forms are. In his “Fresh Skweeezed” mix, sKewn highlights the possibilities of the scandanavian lo-fi genre known as Skweee, which explores the use of soul and funk rhythm and minimal synth pops to create new directions for bass music. I believe, like sKewn, that the function of the taste-selector is so important for a scene. First, it provides a means to stay up to date with trends. Secondly, by understanding these new trends we can continue to push the boundaries of new sounds by playing off of these sounds when we are trying to create our own music.
As is evident, I find the ultimately goal in all these lessons drawn from sKewn’s mixing ethos and style is to push our scene forward musically and continue to craft our unique musical statement like the old school did in the 90s. I held genre blending, drawing on musical history, and remaining open to new musical styles are three ways we can facilitate new music creation. My hope is that you could take something away from sKewn’s approach that helps you listen or created music in a new way.
Want more sKewn? Here is a link to a bunch of his mixes on Dubearth–CLICK HERE
Here are two originals he has done recently: