PREVIEW "The mainstream of dubstep is becoming such an abortion," Kode 9 complained to electronic music advocate (and former Bay Area writer) Philip Sherburne in an eMusic.com interview. It's a curious statement from someone who is being marketed (along with Burial, Skream, Benga, and a handful of others) as leaders of the dubstep incursion, a hybridization of 2-step garage, jungle breaks at half-speed and good ol' ragga. (It's the amalgamation of "dub" and "step.") Only two years after Burial's Untrue (Hyperdub) brought pop's cool-hunters to this bastard genre, it seems, dubstep is already eating itself.
U.K. electronic music (and its Anglophile offshoot) is herded by theorists, and Steve "Kode 9" Goodman is one of them. He has a doctorate in philosophy, and recently received a commission from the New Museum of Contemporary Art's Rhizome technology initiative for a forthcoming documentary, Unsound Systems, that explores the use of sound as psychological weapon. His record label, Hyperdub, started out as a Web site spotlighting futurists like Kodwo Eshun and was responsible for the aforementioned Untrue as well as Zomby's recent spin on '90s 'ardkore dynamics, Where Were You in '92? (Werk).
Kode 9's first collection, 2006's Memories of the Future, pairs bleak echoing tones with pummeling bass thuds. One popular track, "Sine," finds vocalist Spaceape reinterpreting Prince's "Sign O' The Times" as dread intonation: "Sign o' the times mess with your mind, hurry before it's too late."
Declaring that a scene is "over" just as the great unwashed embraces it recent dubstep parties in San Francisco have packed dance floors seems particularly snotty and perverse. But by disappearing into thicker brush, Kode 9 stays ahead of pop mediocrity. His new singles, particularly "Black Sun / 2 Far Gone," add melancholic melodies and popping bass, retracing a path back to 2-step. Accordingly, U.K. critics have made it an example of a silly new subgenre called "funky." (George Clinton would laugh at that one.)
All this ideological shoegazing shouldn't distract you from enjoying Kode 9's tunes. But it should tell you that U.K. electronic music has traveled very far up its own arse. "I think U.K. electronic music is a bit of a mess right now and very microsegmented, to be honest," said Kode 9 in the eMusic interview. "But there are some lines of intersection that are promising."
THE FUTURE: KODE 9, SPACEAPE, THE FLYING SKULLS Fri/10, 10 p.m., $10 (advance). 103 Harriet, 103 Harriet, SF. (415) 431-8609. www.1015.com/103harriet/events