Dubstep draws its energy from the dance floor. That’s where the genre was born, and where its roots remain – planted firmly by the 140 tradition; a strict structural template developed with the DJ in mind. Unlike some electronic genres, sonic experimentation doesn’t define dubstep’s musicality. It’s magic is in the meditation achieved collectively in the dance, under the expert navigation of the DJ behind the decks. The journey they guide is built from moments that producers provide. The genre’s unwavering alliance with the 140 tempo isn’t a stubborn attachment. It’s inherent to dubstep’s designation as sound system music.
Such is the essence of Sleeper’s emerging role as a leader and executive curator of the sound. Electronic music as a whole may be shifting away from the club, but as a producer, a DJ, and a label curator, Sleeper remains singularly focused on the dance floor. He is among dubstep’s true innovators: through his own production and the releases featured on his label, Crucial Recordings, Sleeper is a force for dubstep’s artistic evolution. Rather than abandoning the genre’s rigid requirements, Sleeper embraces them, asserting a convincing challenge to the misguided notion that musical creativity is stunted by convention.
Sleeper’s progression as a producer since his dubstep debut is obvious. His personal discography displays not only technical improvement, but the coherent evolution of his sound. On the surface, this week’s release on Crucial Recordings seems a stark contrast to his 2012 Chestplate premiere. Sleeper’s legacy is often defined by his Chestplate releases, which showcase a heavy and voluminous vibe characteristic of Distance’s label. But his productions have found fitting homes on many of dubstep’s most prominent labels, including Tempa, Osiris, and Artikal. His music encompasses the genre’s many personalities, with temperments ranging from existentially aggressive, to pensively pessimistic, to the vibrantly purposeful paradox best described by the vocal signature, “Don’t be afraid”. Each release possesses distinguishing qualities that reflect the labels they represent – an attribute most striking in his current releases, which serve as the sonic soul of Crucial Recordings. The Check It, Shatterz, Burn Finger, and Crushin EP’s are marked by an aesthetic unique enough to justify the need for the label they’re released on. Yet for all the ways in which they depart from Sleeper’s previous releases, the qualities they share are the most profound.
Some of Sleeper’s tracks do stand out, and intentionally so. But Sleeper’s prowess as a dubstep producer is epitomized by the way his tunes fit in. His music is mindful of the dance, and his tracks are made to be played out. He produces with a loyal adherence to 140 bpm and an ear to the sounds that garner reactions from a crowd. Sleeper makes music for DJs. The essence of his pervasive popularity is playability.
It’s a principle rejected by modern electronic music culture, which situates creativity in the context of SoundCloud streams. Each three-minute morsel exists in a vacuum. Originality is assessed by a track’s impact as it stands alone; complementary qualities that spark magic in a mix are dismissed as a lack of artistry. The narrow view of musicality contradicts dubstep’s foundational character in a way that many of the genre’s young producers struggle to reconcile. Sleeper reminds us that creativity can take on many forms – and it can manifest within them.
Sleeper is a producer, a DJ, and a label executive, but in practice, not much separates the roles. The artist is better described as a conductor and curator of the sound, and thus of dubstep’s metamorphosis. Unlike many current innovators, Sleeper has no interest in defying the genre’s musical legacy. Instead, he champions its tradition, unleashing dubstep’s fundamental black magic with refreshed fervor over and over again.
Follow Sleeper on Facebook and SoundCloud. Keep an ear to Crucial Recordings on Facebook and SoundCloud. For tour dates, booking information, and more, check out Sleeper's agency page. Grab the Crushin EP this Friday from Crucial Recordings.