The (relatively) recent demise of Kryptic Minds resulted in dubstep’s latest existential crisis – similar to the one caused by Brett Bigden and Simon Shreeve’s arrival into the 140bpm arena. Their take on the 140 sound, moulded by founding father Loefah and influential tastemaker Youngsta, brought a new flow of creativity that pushed the sound forward to where it is today.
Between 2007 and 2008, many new heads were drawn into the dubstep sound. They did so for the obvious reasons: the growth of the relatively new scene was smashing everyone’s expectation, with a near global exponential growth in its popularity. The sound appealed to a bigger crowd than those enjoying generic “electronic dance music”, perhaps through the hugely diverse range of sounds and influences that could be discovered and heard in 140. Dubstep, thanks to its experimental and inquisitive vibe, offered the perfect stage to bring bass-led electronic music to a wider audience.
While this may seem to be a positive direction for dubstep to take, many of the producers we may refer to as “originators” had grown tired of this new direction. Dubstep was beginning to outgrow its original philosophy, something you could hear in the generic sound design of the repeating clones appearing. Clearly, with the new genre breaking into more mainstream territory, the evolution of “true” 140 had begun to stall. Dubstep needed new ears, new inspiration and new flagbearers.
The arrival of Kryptic Minds, with their undiluted take on dubstep, offered just that.
Perhaps the most important reason for the duo’s impact on 140 was their unfamiliarity with the dubstep sound. They were unspoiled, blank canvases if you will, thankfully unaware of what had come before. Familiar with Burial’s discography, they initially believed dubstep was built around the 128bpm tempo.
In an interview (which, if you haven’t read, please do so) with Blackdown, Si explained:
“To be honest, in terms of dubstep, I’d heard a few bits when it first came around but I was so heavy into what I was doing I didn’t get it, to be quite honest. I was listening to things on shop websites and the stuff I’d listened to – it just reminded me of slowed down wobbly drum & bass, which is the stuff I really don’t like, so I just shrugged it off, quite kind of arrogant I guess, because I didn’t look deeper into it. Because it’s exactly the same issue with drum & bass: you can go and listen to wobble but if you look deeper, there’s some good music. Then basically a friend of mine, Skitty, sent me a link to Mala’s page and said check this tune out, and it was Bury da Bwoy. When I heard that and the Jah War remix I thought, ‘yeah I can make something like this.’”
Kryptic Minds were already well known in the DnB world, releasing on their own Defcom Records – as well as the globally renowned Metalheadz. Just like the generation of producers in dubstep concerned with the direction and behaviour of their beloved sound, Kryptic Minds weren’t happy with the drug-infested, hyped up vibe around DnB at the time. They needed new ideas and new inspirations, quickly realising they could find it outside the boundaries of the genre they were in.
The beauty of Kryptic Minds’ story is how two producers (we hold in extremely high regard) helped colour this blank canvas – creating a piece of art that went on to help rejuvenate dubstep. Kryptic Minds’ then label manager stumbled across their dubstep experiments and and suggested they connect with Youngsta. Again, Si explained (in the same Blackdown interview):
“It wasn’t until I started speaking to Youngsta that he said ‘nah bruv, your tracks need to be 140bpm ish’ so he schooled us a bit. We sent him tracks and he’s say ‘try this, try that, you’ve got the tempo right’ and it was just really nice to come away from 172bpm and drop it down and just have fun with it instead of ‘your music has got to be like this and got to be like that, and if it’s not like this it’s not going to sell or so and so is not going to play it.’”
At the same time Kryptic Minds were discovering dubstep, the same production stipulations were seemingly apparent in Loefah’s mind – but for 140 instead of 172bpm. It seemed Loefah was starting to feel that, in one way or another, he was having to make music for the fans rather than himself. But, at the same time, Loefah wanted to step up and give producers a platform to release quality music on. Thus, the Swamp81 imprint was born – raised with a single goal to help create art (both in sound and release artwork) that would be:
“The real experimental side of like ‘you know what, we’re making music for pissed off people in the rain’ kind of thing.”
Kryptic Minds’ debut album, One of Us, epitomised these efforts. The Swamp81 release really is, even today, experimental music for pissed off people in the rain.
The first few Kryptic Minds releases in 140 breathe Loefah’s philosophy. There’s not a sonic similarity with the music created by the likes of Digital Mystikz or Loefah, but the philosophy behind it was similar. SWAMP001, or as many of us know it as the mighty One of Us / Six Degrees shows the starting point of what became known as the ‘dungeon’ sound in dubstep: a deep, dark atmospherics with heavyweight bassweight played across a sonic battlefield of medieval proportions.
Kryptic Minds’ defiance towards the existing sounds is what bound Kryptic Minds with the sound’s forefathers. A philosphical bond rooted in a love of bass. And, like DMZ, Loefah and the others did before them, Kryptic Minds’ production style – the use of space and attention to detail in mixdowns – set an example of what was possible with the sound for nearly every producer starting with 140.
140bpm releases followed on the duo’s own Osiris Music imprint, a powerhouse which eventually grew to home artists like Kaiju, Thelem, Sleeper, Killawatt and Ipman. A second long player – the absolutely superb Can’t Sleep – followed in 2011 on Black Box at perhaps the peak of KM’s popularity. The album debuted around the time of the duo’s Fact Mix which, as a dubstep fan, is still the best mix in the series some four years later.
“Kryptic Minds are perhaps best known as standard-bearers for halfstep, their 2009 debut album One Of Us (released on Loefah’s Swamp81 label) sparking renewed interest in dubstep’s rhythmic founding principles, precisely at a time when many in the London scene were opening up to the emergent sounds of funky and recombinant UK garage . It’s not that the KMs were, or are, deliberately going against the grain; they just know where their allegiances and affections lie, have little time for fashion, and have established the parameters within which their creativity best thrives.”
Oddly, the progression of OSMUK and its more frequent artists apparently foresaw the end of the duo. With its focus moving from some of the dubstep around to what you could call ‘dubstep-influenced techno’, it was this change in direction and tastes that seemingly led to the disbanding of Kryptic Minds.
Having demonstrated just how innovative the sound could be, Si and Brett parted ways around the time the Namaste EP came out; a final farewell releasing what was one of the most sought-after dubs in our sound.
Today, Leon Switch produces dubstep and Si has fully embraced this OSMUK-style techno under the Mønic moniker. Kryptic Minds lead the way, taught us how to innovate the sound, and moved on when the time was right. You can’t ask for more than that…
Click to DOWNLOAD (75MB)
- Kryptic Minds – Secure Lost [Swamp81, 2009]
- Kryptic Minds – Varia [XLR8R, 2013]
- Kryptic Minds – Hybrid [Osiris Music UK, 2010]
- Kryptic Minds ft. Alys Be – Time Flies [Osiris Music UK, 2011]
- Kryptic Minds – The Talisman [Tectonic, 2012]
- Kryptic Minds & Youngsta – The Surge [Osiris Music UK, 2010]
- Kryptic Minds – Convuluted [Tectonic, 2013]
- DJ Madd – Dub Marine (Kryptic Minds remix) [Black Box, 2011]
- Lung – Afterlife (Kryptic Minds remix) [Kokeshi, 2010]
- Kryptic Minds – 768 [Tectonic, 2009]
- Kryptic Minds & Sleeper – Axis Shift [Osiris Music UK, 2013]
- Kryptic Minds – Askum [Tectonic, 2012]
- Kryptic Minds – The Divide [Osiris Music UK, 2012]
- Kyrptic Minds – Badman VIP [Osiris Music UK, 2013]
- Kryptic Minds – Six Degrees [Swamp81, 2009]