Documenting Dubstep: Bassweight on DVD


Though it’s only recently toed the line of the mainstream, dubstep is a popular, endessly referenced form of electronic music that first emerged in the UK during the early 2000s. Clocking in at just over an hour, Bassweight is the first feature-length documentary that investigates the genre’s origins and claims to offer “an unparalleled insight into the subterranean world” where it began. Rather than trying to piece together a cohesive trajectory, the film rambles through the streets of Croyden in South London, tucking into the record shops, clubs and studios that incubated the sound.

The camera trails closely behind the hoodies of both established and obscure members of the tightly-knit scene, who function as modern-day Virgils as they usher viewers around the town while recounting anecdotes about dubstep’s early days. These insiders are almost uniformly men in their twenties and thirties who share a love for the sub-bass wobble at the heart of dubstep. Interspersed with these guided tours are conversations with industry legends that range from playful prattle to insightful observations. By far the most interesting commentators are BBC DJ Mary Anne Hobbs and producer/DJ Kode 9. Hobbs succinctly ties dubstep to earlier forms of electronic music like drum’n’bass and jungle, while Kode 9 muses on the relationship between sound, politics, and power.

Meanwhile, the images are intentionally grainy, and occasionally monochromatic or out of focus—as if providing a visual counterpart to the music’s razor intensity and griminess. Viewers come to understand how before it landed on the stages of international music festivals, this genre germinated from South London’s industrial landscape and sweaty underground clubs. As is to be expected, the soundtrack is also stellar and exhibits the full range of dubstep’s sounds, from gloom-filled pops to serrated scratches.