Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in south London during the latter end of the 1990s. It is characterized by wavering bass lines, syncopated rhythms, and the minimal use of voice. Dubstep is generally thought of as “production electronic music,” created in studios, and often played by performance DJs.
Subsource is a dub-step band from Surrey in the U.K., currently living in the suburbs of London. They specialize in playing live dusbtep in real time using traditional instruments: electric double bass, guitar, drums and synths. Their current sound is a cross between dubstep and punk metal. It is aimed at a dance floor audience.
In 2011, the film producer and directer Colin Arnold (producer of “The Fallow Field” in 2009) followed Subsource as the band embarked on a musical journey: a tour across Europe for a period of 18 months, and a period of growth, evolution and evaluation for the band.
Cameras closely followed the group as they traveled all over the U.K., France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. The cameras were there to capture their super-charged performances, and the highs and lows of life on the road.
Like many rock documentaries of this type, the camera was also able to unravel some of the mysteries, and unveil some of the mystique, about a group of musicians trying to “make it” in the industry. Most music documentaries are created once the band or the artist has “hit the big time.” But in “Subsource- A Dubumentary,” the filmmakers have aimed to capture the development and growth of a band, as it actually happens. Very few films of this type manage to capture this unfolding in such an intellectual and immediate way.
Even if there is no intention of making a film (or the subjects) look stupid, producers of music documentaries – even those with a serious approach – tend to end up creating their own version of “This Is Spinal Tap” (the 1984 comedy rock and roll musical documentary.) One example of a “Spinal Tap” moment in the Subsource film is during the opening sequence, when members of the band seem to get lost in a huge maze of rooms and stairwells behind the main stage, just before they are due to play. As they struggle to find their way out of this nightmarish maze, we are introduced to their music.
We are then cleverly introduced to each member of the band. The film-makers focus on the rapper and front man – Kimba Mutanda – and this pays off later on in the film, with dramatic effect.
After some more introductions, we follow the band as they appear in various venues and festivals, some large and some small, up and down the U.K. and in Europe. Eventually we follow them into a backstreet venue in Hereford, England. At this event, the band seems to be playing to a microscopic audience. Guitarist Paul Frazer wise-cracks that the promoter must have paid, “30 pound for every member of the public to be here.” Immediately after this concert in Hereford, things start to come undone. Thus we see the cracks as they appear, and we also see the healing processes when they start to take effect.
Interesting and entertaining moments in the monochrome film include the “van envy” scene in which band members show us all their trusty, old, much-loved wreckage of a tour bus. It is compared to a state-of-the-art van parked nearby. Later in the film we are shown their van’s sad demise.
We are also exposed to the routine cliché about “everyone getting on well” as a band. “We do not ever fight, we all agree,” we are told. But shortly after this exclamation, we see Kimba with an obvious injury, and he tells us that he was hit in the head by the bassist. This is followed by their sweet talking band manager, Dominique, trying to calm things down with soothing words.
We learn how the band members have to make ends meet financially, each working with students for “up to” 11 hours a day (they are all music teachers). But they tell us that, when they are on the stage, they get their reward. The reward is the stimulation of the performance. In fact, for singer / bassist Stu Henshall, that 30 minutes of excitement is all that all he asks for. Dennis Ng (keyboards) says that he does it for the sense of adventure.
The film ends on a note of optimism. The viewer is left confident that the band will continue to be successful, even if it is going to be a struggle.
The music of the Subsource is defined, by the band themselves, as punk dubstep. A new track “Molotov” was released earlier this year. It has been chosen as a theme for the massively multi-player online role-playing game the “World of Tanks.” This huge exposure has helped the band break into new markets. On October 4, 2012, the “World of Tanks” game reached 40 million registered users, with a record-breaking 500 thousand concurrent players.
Other recent Subsource output tracks include “The Feeding” (from the Generation Doom EP) with it’s pendulum of rhythms and inky spots of sound that are ripped away like sticking plasters, only to be re locked and wedged into gaps elsewhere. The piece centers around a well-spring of golden sentiment and a giddy chorus.
Another recent track is titled “Kill The Thief” and introduces the audience to the band’s ambient side. This song comprises of low oscillations that spit along amiably before the full majesty really takes hold. Then things become regal, as the song approaches a powerful and heady climax.
For those who may be put off by the band’s type of music (and thus might miss seeing this wonderful documentary), you are asked to try to put prejudices aside. Think of “Subsource – A Dubumentary” as the story of a group of hard-working people held together with one clear mission: to continue to play their music live for the people who want to hear it.
It is an outstanding documentary about an interesting band. Subtly edited, aesthetically shot, and with a buzzing soundtrack . “Subsource – A Dubumentary” is very rewarding, and has been made for musicians and music-lovers alike.