Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder (Tri-Angle)
By Scott Creney
Four years ago, The Wire named Burial’s Untrue the album of the year. That was my introduction to dubstep, so it’s beyond surreal to see the genre mutate into a bunch of US jocks and fratties jumping up and down and screaming (to the point where the genre is now jokingly referred to as ‘brostep’ by a lot of people here in the States). Culture flows in weird ways. And what starts out in the London underground can end up several years later personified by some goofball Juggalo-looking Corey Feldman motherfucker.
Which is both somehow very interesting, and somehow very sad.
And then there’s The Weeknd — not to be confused with Slumberland band Weekend (no, not Vampire Weekend) or Weekends, or the new band I started last week called The Weakened [or even Alison Statton’s post-Young Marble Giants band Weekend – Ed] — one gets the feeling there are a lot of confused conversations going on between record store clerks and their customers these days). The Weeknd consists of some dude singing Usher-style R&B over dubstep that sounds pretty generic when it isn’t sampling Siouxsie And The Banshees, Beach House, or Aaliyah for that matter.
Pitchfork’s Joe Colly describes the lyrical content of their debut album House Of Balloons as “overtly sexual, narcotics focused, and occasionally downright frightening”. This is weird for a couple of reasons. First off, let’s hope the dude never reads Naked Lunch — he ‘s not going to leave the house for a week. And second, it seems we live in an age where the majority of the lyrical content in hip-hop/R&B — especially a lot of that championed by the ‘Fork — revolves pretty much exclusively around every conceivable drug and every conceivable exploitative sex act (there’s also a lot of rags-to-riches stuff in these songs and boasting about money, but that seems to get a lot less attention from the critics, which is a thorny ball of wax for another article).
Balam Acab may be standing on the Dubstep field, but he’s playing an entirely different game. Wander/Wonder isn’t banging; it’s beautiful.
I don’t mean to present Balam Acab as some kind of ‘wholesome alternative’ to Skrillex or The Weeknd, because in some ways I find his music far more disturbing, but not because of what it makes me think about him, but because of what it makes me think about me. It’s the difference between internet porn and actual sex, between Beavis and Bolaño, amusement and art.
Balam Acab’s music is a dubstep of the cosmos, perfect for moon landings and spacewalks. It’s a dubstep of the soul. He’s going to be playing in Brisbane, 23 February. Go see the guy.