Forward is widely regarded as the birthplace of dubstep, through its promotion of dark experimental garage through the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Based in Shoreditch’s equally iconic Plastic People its doubtful as to whether the night would have risen from strength to strength were it not for the clubs superb sound system.
I was slightly apprehensive because despite having been a fan of early dubstep and it’s more recent and house-influenced incarnations I was unsure the extent to which the over oscillated abrasive basslines (that has come to characterize the view of dubstep in wider world of music) had permeated the night that played such a great part in pushing (forward) the early experimental sound of dubstep.
The line up was a varied one, Hessle Audio co-owner Pearson Sound was topping the bill (hailing from the more recent, house-influenced, end of the spectrum). Scene veteran N-Type was second down with the up-and-coming Hyetal taking the early slot. Hyetal played a set full of tracks I was familiar with however the overarching sound of his set seemed disjointed from the vibe that dubstep-purists in the (small) room cast. This wasn’t helped by his frankly, terrible mixing; something I was not experiencing for the first time. Having seen Hyetal play out twice now I’ve come to think his DJing will never live up to his considerable skill as a producer.
N-Type took to the booth around 11:30 bringing an MC to sit in for the rest of the night. N-Type started well with some 140bpm tracks that all had the clear, pulsing bass-weight associated with the dubstep sound circa 2006, however about 15 minutes into his set it all descended into the saw wave mid range basslines I had been apprehensive of. Even when appreciating that this sound is a large part of the scene I still found it musically unadventurous and a bit much to fill the best part of an hour set with. Several bar-trips and a sit-down later and the club seemed to be tiring of N-Type’s slightly formulaic track choices and cast their sights towards Pearson Sound who stepped up to the decks at about 12:30.
Pearson Sound’s selection was a distinct departure from his usual 130-135bpm party sets that his recent Fabriclive mix showcased. Playing exclusively vinyl released during the 2004-2007 heyday of dubstep it was clear that he had put a lot of thought into his hour-and-a-half set. The mood he cast fit perfectly with the dark, enclosed space and incredible sound system of Plastic People. His set really played to the immersive qualities of early dubstep. Much of this feeling arising from the venue’s dark and simplistic characteristics, Plastic People clearly being the most fitting location for the “home of dubstep”.
Forward may not be at the cutting edge of the UK underground in the same way it was 5 or 10 years ago, however it was unmistakably essential for the shaping of all modern dubstep sounds today, regardless of which strain of the genre you look at.