Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Dublab

Posted by Maximum Fun on 25th October 2010

Vital stats:
Format: sets and performances from Dublabbish sonic creators
Duration: ~3om
Frequency: erratic
Archive available on iTunes: most

Oh, how I enjoy this music, yet oh, how I find myself unable to describe it in any terms that make, y’know, sense. Dublab’s podcast [RSS] [iTunes] focuses pretty much solely on the music, provides thick sets of tracks with almost no speech whatsoever. But what kind of music is it? You can draw comparisons to CBC’s The Signal, but only in the sense that both shows play stuff that’s hard to pin down. It tends to have a beat, but you wouldn’t necessarily dance to it. It’s obviously produced with no small degree of technology, yet that’s often in the service of sounding handmade or “lo-fi.” It’s not experimental experimental — nobody would play it to a crowd of grad students in a repurposed lecture hall — but it’s not not experimental. It’s both slick and haphazard, algorithm-generated and handmade. It’s usually new, but it sometimes sounds old — or rather, sounds like it comes from no specific time period at all.

I came upon my show in my continuing quest to prepare myself for a semi-imminent move to Los Angeles. Some people might do this sort of research by reading books, talking to friends, watching Huell Howser, or memorizing Thomas Guides, but I’m a Podthinker through and through; I use podcasts. (And, let it be said, a pantload of Huell Howser.) One of the very reasons I want to move to L.A. is that it’s the kind of city that would produce an entity like Dublab, which is not just a producer of podcasts but, according to Wikipedia, is a “non-profit music public broadcasting internet radio station” that also does “art exhibition, film projects, event production, and record releases.” In other words, it sounds as if they’ve got a pretty solid foundation to become one of the most neato organizations ever.

That Wikipedia entry also contains a few clues as to the nature of the Dublab sound, which involves “mixing traditional music, such as folk, with electronic sounds” and “ the paradox that oftentimes music that is actually really old can sound very much like it was made in the present.” The identities of the artists and DJs Dublab presses into service might also provide helpful hints. Do the names Aska Matsumiya, Will Wiesenfeld a.k.a. Baths, SFV Acid, Chazwick Bundick a.k.a. Toro Y Moi, The Books, and 60 Watt Kid mean anything to you? If they do, you’d better start downloading this podcast toot sweet. (But then, you’ve probably already got it and have long since copied all the episodes to cassette.) If you’re like me and some of them kind of do, they probably all fascinate you enough to want to learn a lot more. Dublab’s podcast won’t really teach you anything about them, but it’ll give you a taste of their sonic style, which I suppose is the important thing anyway.

Given what I’ve found out about Dublab so far, they seem just utopian enough that they probably have some sort of residential geodesic dome. I enjoy their aesthetic so much that I’m starting to wonder if, instead of moving “to L.A.,” I should just move straight into that dome. But one question thrashes unresolved: as cool as I find this maddeningly difficult-to-describe music at the moment, might it just turn out to be an embarrassing late-2000s/early-2010s fad in twenty years? Like so many interesting things, there’s no easy way to determine if it’s absolutely permanent or the flashiest flash in the greasiest pan. I guess there’s an important lesson about the best music embedded in all this: you might just have to listen to the damned stuff.

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to be the host and producer of public radio’s The Marketplace of Ideas [iTunes], the blogger of The War on Mediocrity and the writer of The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project.]