The evolution of the bassline is one of the great success stories of music. From the beating heart that accompanied a lone shepherd’s prehistoric ditty, via polyphony, boogie woogie and rockabilly, to hip-hop, house and dubstep, it has reached its second golden period (the first being jazz) with modern dance music.
When a bassline steps out of its usual role as the tonal and rhythmic skeleton of track, and brings something completely different and mind-blowing to the floor, pulsing like a mad snake with a mind of its own, that’s a damn fine piece of dance music. ‘Groove Is In The Heart’, for example, is synoymous with its bassline – it’s the reason the song is so good.
Synthesisers and electronic programming gave basslines a new lease of life. It took Mr Oizo two hours with a Korg MS-20 to make the bass loop you hear in ‘Flat Beat’. Skrillex’s trademark fat, enraged basslines can be achieved using Ableton or Logic. Hip-hop is awash with glorious bass, pinning down tracks such as KRS-One’s ‘Can’t Wake Up (I’m A Blunt)’ and Smif n Wessun ft.Top Dog & Starang Wondah’s ‘Sound Bwoy Bureill’.
You know that weird, ecstatic screwed-up face people pull on the dancefloor when they’re thinking ‘what the hell is this amazing sound’? In my experience, it’s all about a walloping great bassline. It’s universal. Check out your parents grooving to ‘Heart Of Glass’ by Blondie, Jacko’s ‘Billie Jean’ or Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’. Bass does nay discriminate.
SonicRouter recently posted the ten of the best basslines in dance music. Nicolas Jaar’s ‘Mi Mujer’, Squarepusher’s ‘Come On My Selector’ and Caribou’s ‘Sun’ (Midland Edit) were on there as well as classics on the list such as ‘The Judgement’ from Skream & Benga. Here’s an alternative top ten. We’re talking music you can dance to (we’ve already done the mightiest basslines in music) and I’ve tried to concentrate on newer stuff (well, more recent than ‘Superstitious’). Add your suggestions for obscene basslines at the bottom.