When we first opened our doors, it was pretty hard to imagine that a music scene would emerge from the internet one day, a technology which at that time had only just started to become part of everyday life. 17 years later we welcome Kareful to the club, a DJ and producer who has become one of the foremost names in a genre that has existed almost exclusively online for the last few years. From teens on Tumblr and Soundcloud messing around with beats, to trans-Atlantic exchanges of stems and collaborative crews being formed, wave is now making the transition from URL to IRL (in real life) and this evolution in the scene is being spearheaded by people like Kareful and veteran grime and dubstep selector, Plastician. A blend of trap, dubstep and grime influences with a focus on chilled, ethereal soundscapes, melancholy melodies and straddling a range of tempos, wave is a multi-faceted sound with the potential to be played in both the club environment and more traditional concert venues.
Plastician takes over Room Two with his Terror Rhythm label, with Kareful making his debut with us via the takeover. So it was the perfect time to speak to him about the emergent scene and its history, plus he prepped this exclusive mix to showcase music he feels represents the sound he’s been helping to cultivate over the past few years.
Give us some background on where wave has come from…
It was a natural progression from dubstep, trap and, in some ways, grime. You had a bunch of kids wanting to make music and trying to emulate their favourite producers and basically making do with what they had, in terms of their skills, experience and equipment. It started off like grime, very DIY, kids not really focused on commercial success, but having fun, creating a vibe. In the beginning people were just making it as a way to complement their visual art on Tumblr, there was this ‘wavy’, artistic aesthetic at the time. A lot of people would post strange art, and in tandem with that, the music started coming out – kids would make strange art with Photoshop and add some wavy music they’d made to accompany it. A lot of it was bootlegs, made just to be listened to by a few thousand people on Soundcloud. I was a dubstep DJ at the time, around 2012, and I became fascinated with this scene of kids making weird music in their bedrooms.
So it was just online?
Yeah, people would make music and post it on their blogs, via Soundcloud, Tumblr became a way to promote the music. It worked both ways with people promoting their art via the music and others promoting their music via the art. It was not serious at all, in fact it was done with irony; very internet and quite young – I mean, I was at college and even I was probably too old to fully understand it. I started experimenting with it, making trap and hip-hop beats, blending those with the ambient dubstep styles I was into. It’s just a natural progression that’s been slowly happening over the past three or four years, but I’d say it’s only in the last six months when people have really started to sound professional.
And a lot of the music wasn’t being made with the club in mind, is that correct?
Definitely. Half of these kids were 14, 15, 16 and had never been in a club in their life. That’s just talking about the English kids, let alone the Americans, who can’t go to clubs until they’re 21. They didn’t know how to build a track for a DJ. People will always try to make songs when they don’t have the club in mind.
Where do things stand now with yourself coming forward as one of the main figures in this scene? How is it transitioning from online to real-life?
It’s happened so fast, from me starting in my bedroom to playing it to people in clubs. It’s a really exciting time to be part of it, obviously it’s been online so long that it feels quite bizarre to have people come up after my sets and say they liked a particular tune or mix of mine. It’s hard to say exactly where it’s at; it’s had a degree of underground success, all our tracks online are doing well, the radio show I do on Radar with LTHL is doing really well, you’ve got Plastician playing at least an hour of it on every one of his Rinse shows, which is big… there are so many shows happening and promoters acknowledging it as a scene and a market. I’m playing fabric now, Skit played there not long ago, so even the big clubs are recognising it now. It’s such a legendary club that it seemed like an unattainable goal that we’d get to play this kind of music there.
How has the music been received in the clubs? And are you and other people in the scene focusing on a club-friendly sound nowadays?
What’s crazy about wave is that it hasn’t even really got a fixed tempo. Most genres have a particular tempo, dubstep, grime… but this music is anywhere from 100bpm to 140. How I play, and what tempo, depends on where and when I’m on. If I’m on at 9pm for example, I’ll play 110-120, maybe 100 if I feel like pushing it a bit, but if I’m at a proper party, I’ll always play 140. People will hear it and it won’t sound a million miles away from what they’re used to, the stuff that’s sub-120 though is very alien to them.
It’s not music you have to go mad to, though you can. I guess it’s similar to when dubstep first came around – it’s not a club environment when you necessarily have to dance. It was music you felt in the bass. With wave, because it’s being made on headphones or crappy speakers, people aren’t paying as much attention to the low end and making it beautiful, chilled and driven by melody. It touches the clubbers in their hearts more than their stomachs, which sounds cheesy I know but when I’ve seen people drop wave tracks into their grime sets for example, it leaves people awestruck. You can tell they’ve been touched by the music. I think there’s an opportunity, with the slower end of the genre, to present it in a concert setting as an audio/visual experience in a sit-down kind of arrangement.
Where can people hear it played out?
In London you’ve got Yung doing their thing in Dalston once a month or so. They’ve been curating some really nice intimate events, and have also done a couple of nights at The Nest. And Wavemob are really pushing music online, building a community - their merchandise sells out really quickly. People are supporting it and identifying themselves with it, it’s a scene that people are aligning themselves with by wearing the merch and chatting about it via social media.
You’ve already released an album, but what are you up to right now?
I was making about two or three tracks a day up until recently. I’ve got a lot of unreleased music, I’ve been sending stuff out and giving music to DJs, building relationships. Coming from the dubstep scene I’ve got that mentality that stuff shouldn’t be released straight away, if ever. I want people to be listening to the radio shows and getting to know the music that way. I’m working with a couple of rappers and singers, no one I can mention at the moment but some big things will be happening soon hopefully. I’m experimenting and trying not to put out too much for the moment, I don’t want to get pigeonholed. I’m having fun, making stuff to play out – I don’t like to plan too much, I like to put stuff out spontaneously. I’m confident enough in this scene now to drop stuff whenever and it will do well. The music has a strong following of active young people who are really on point social media-wise helping it snowball.
Who should people be checking out?
To me wave means DIY music that sounds wavy and isn’t necessarily built for the club. Artists I feel fall under that category, whether they think so or not, are; Skit from wavemob, Klimeks from wavemob, Silk Road Assassins to an extent, Trash Lords, Wispa, CVRL, KTNG and Sorsari… to name a few.
Tell us about your mix...
It’s an introduction for veteran fabric followers to our new scene. People might hear it and think, “Oh it’s trap, oh it’s dubstep, oh it’s grime”, but wave is its own thing and has a lot of influences. I decided to showcase some of the best 140bpm range music from this scene, which I feel works in a club environment but stands alone as it’s own thing.