Tes La Rok? The name sounds like a Bronx rapper from 1986, not a Finnish dubstep producer from 2010. But Tes La Rok (aka Jani Niiranen) is indeed one of Europe's top generators of the bass-centric club sound that's sweeping certain sectors of the civilized world with its fibrillating low-frequency rumbles and edifice-threatening beats.
Tes La Rok—who has received love from some of the most prominent and respected names in the global underground, including Mary Anne Hobbs ("Up in the VIP" on her Evangeline compilation), Caspa & Rusko (his remix of Uncle Sam's "Round the Way Girls" on FabricLive 37), and N-Type ("Lickshot" and "Roll Out" on Dubstep Allstars: Vol.05)—reveals a deep knowledge of roots-oriented reggae and dub in his tracks. He bridges the past and the present with a panache that's as natural as, um, ganja. (Perhaps you dubwise dubsteppers can relate to this analogy.) In this way, Tes La Rok strikes me as a quintessential artist for Kid Hops's Saturday morning Positive Vibrations show on KEXP. Tes can do both ominous and also festive with equal aplomb, and his remix of reggae great Junior Murvin's "Police & Thieves" is an irresistibly warm and rhythm-fattening rejiggering of a classic that's been tackled by the Clash, among others.
It's good to see someone outside of the London dubstep mafia, like Tes La Rok, make it to the States. Dubstep and its offshoots will continue to become more interesting—and, sometimes, watered-down—as they spread across the globe and accrue myriad regional influences. It's an exciting time to be cocking an ear to the underground; just make sure that ear has a plug in it.
Seattle producer Dubtek (aka Kyle Schaub), by contrast, creates more archetypically dark and rugged dubstep. His are the sort of cuts that mark a natural progression from the hyperaggressive drum 'n' bass that's enraptured young folks over the last decade—except, of course, Dubtek's tempos are much slower. He's mastered that malevolent tactic where the producer pressurizes the bass frequencies so strenuously, they start to shred and disperse into tones that toggle between horrifying and slapstick, like an infernal raspberry. Dubtek's beats, though, are all stoic business, hitting with the finality of nails being driven into coffins. Yet they make you feel so alive. It is from such paradoxes that one draws sustenance.
Dubtek (record release party), cB, the Dowlz perform Fri Jan 15, Contour, 9 pm, $5, 21+; Tes La Rok, Just One, DJ Collage, Control Bass perform Tues Jan 19, Nectar, 9 pm, $10, 21+.