Genres are not typically developed by a single person, but rather by a cluster of musicians in a web of crossing influences. That’s how dubstep came to be, rising out of evolutions at the core of the UK club scene, and of all its early innovators, Skream reigned among the top with his seminal 2005 hit “Midnight Request Line” widely considered a mission statement for the movement then brewing. But by the close of the decade, dubstep had been overtaken by a number of divergent tones, and many of its original forebears found themselves disillusioned with its shift.
Skream’s since moved away from the cerebral nature of dizzying dubstep towards more elemental body music. His journey of artistic rediscovery towards this new identity began on Soundcloud, where in the early ’10s he started sharing demos from his lab that embraced a warmer sound palette and freely experimented with genres like disco, garage, and techno. His DJ sets also evolved in the public eye as the variety in his weekly BBC Radio 1 residency with Benga careened towards every corner of the dance world before settling among the house music circuit near its close in 2014.
Meanwhile, Skream began touring the world as part of the supergroup J.E.S.u.S. alongside Jackmaster, Eats Everything, and Seth Troxler. He also launched his record label OFUNSOUNDMIND, quietly amassing a glut of influence by supporting risers and newcomers like Waifs & Strays and Billy Turner. The first major solo release for Skream under his new house music focus came in 2015 through Damian Lazarus’ Crosstown Rebels label, the mystifying and bright “Still Lemonade,” towing along a Redshape remix perfect for darker vibes. He followed that up with “You Know, Right?,” channelling some of the garage influences seen during his experimental phase, and finally with “Settled,” which feels like Skream coming to terms with and finding out how to express what he really wants to produce.
Now, two UK mainstays have come together as fabric brings forth FABRICLIVE.96, Skream’s indelible contribution to the vaunted mix series. It finds Skream defining this new path as a genre-agnostic selector in the starkest terms yet, as its tracklist name-checks his new label contemporaries – Dekmantel, M-Plant, Turbo, Rekids, Technicolour and more – while sidling through time and space in a loose association of music locked between transient grooves. It’s a dazzling display of talent and dexterity behind the decks, tied together by two new Skream originals: “An Ode To Mr. Smith” matches an affinity for sample-filtering with a Balearic bump, and the serene, backwashed “SDN” closes out the compilation.
It’s somewhat ironic that FABRICLIVE is the home for Skream’s creative resurgence defined by house and techno, given that their momentous contribution to the dubstep scene, Caspa & Rusko’s FABRICLIVE.37, helped accelerate its late-00s evolution in the first place. But that just goes to further hit home the point that, just like fabric, Skream has become an institution in his own right, distanced from genre and with volumes of powerful material waiting to be unearthed. Anchored by a love for any music that makes you dance, his next moves are surely to be watched as this legend once again becomes a household name.