Download: Sub Swara’s Bass-Booming “Speak My Language,” Costarring Dead Prez


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

Brooklyn bass duo Sub Swara will scramble your insides with low-end by any means necessary. Their music refuses to sit still or be easily described, frantically crossing the lines between instrumental hip-hop, dubstep, house, dub, dancehall, trip-hop and South Asian field recordings. But their motives are clear: boom, pound, move feet, rattle brains. Birthed from a well-received club night in the late ’00s, the group is down from five DJs to a tight two-man production duo on second album Triggers (out now via Low Motion), which handily splits the difference between the friendly notions of “global groove” and the more provocative elements of oppressive boooooom. The heavy-hitting, woofer-warping “Speak My Language” teams the pair with rabble-rousing MCs Dead Prez, who turn Swara’s double-time computer-love blippery and gnarled crunchstep into an impassioned cry for individuality.

Q&A: Sub Swara’s Dhruva and Dave Sharma on “Speak My Language”

How did you hook up with Dead Prez?
Dhruva: We were thinking about vocalists we wanted to work with for this album and knew that we definitely wanted some hometown Brooklyn representation involved. I reached out to their manager through a common friend, and sent them a few sketches of tracks. They were vibing on one of them in particular, which was initially supposed to involve Antibalas . . . M-1 said had already written a chorus, so I talked to stic on the phone and he sang the chorus to me. The amazing thing about collaborations in this day and age of technologically accelerated music is that the session was completely virtual. M-1 recorded his verse in Milan and stic did his in the Southeast at two different studios. They sent us the vocal bounces and we mixed the track to get the vocals to sound like they were from a consistent session.

Why have you decided to make the album’s sound library available for purchase on your website?
Dhruva: Transparency is important in the arts. Giving other people unique tools to make their own interpretations and use in their own performances and productions is exciting for us. The sound library was created by us by actually playing the parts or by sourcing them from different parts of the world from live recording sessions. A lot of the south Asian drums are indigenous to particular regions, and so this is a set of sound that people can’t readily get ahold of. We wanted to put them out there to see what people can do with them.

How important is volume during your recording sessions?
Dave Sharma: Volume, in terms of sonic amplitude… not very. I’m a stickler for the boring sides of gain structure in recording, and also drums sound bigger on a recording when you don’t completely slam them. So yeah, our sessions aren’t very loud at all.

What is your favorite bass sound of any song released in 2010?
Dhruva: The bassline in Big Boi’s “Shutterbug.” It’s so banging but has such an organic quality to it through the hybrid vocal-bass. Really original sound that hasn’t been heard much.

Sharma: I think I speak for both of us in that we’re not particularly interested in a super-produced, modulating bassline from another world when it resides in a crap song. That mentality has been the downfall of so much electronic music — that only folks involved in making it can get “into” it, and its one of the hallmarks of particularly bad dubstep. With that said, I’m crazy about the arpeggiated bassline in Jamie XX’s remix of Nosaj Thing’s “Fog.” Rattles your chest for days. Close seconds include the low-end in Moldy’s “Embrace the Filth,” and the guaranteed-to-cause-dental-damage rumble in James Blake’s version of “Limit to Your Love.”

What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played in New York?
Dhruva: Probably our album-release party for our first album, in 2008. We were still running the monthly club night then and we had no guests that night. Just the Sub Swara crew — which back then was five people — doing individual DJ sets and then a joint live set where we featured the whole album. It was at Love, and there’s nothing like playing on that pristine sound system and hearing your own music move a hoard of people through it.

Sharma: I joined Sub Swara in late 2007; the first event I played, in December of that year, was our then-monthly party at Love. As guests, we doubled up: We had both Mary Anne Hobbs, who was still hosting her BBC1 radio show then, and Stereotyp from Austria. The place was rammed, we could barely even get up to play, and an endless amount of fresh music was played to an overwhelmingly energetic audience — who didn’t leave until about 6:30 a.m. When we walked outside after finishing up, the sun had just risen and there was a dusting of snow on the ground, making the city entirely silent. Pretty great.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
Dhruva: Al di La. In a city loaded with a zillion Italian spots, this one is my favorite since they have all the classics on lock and is just down the street from where I live.

Sharma: I’ll never say no to Chavellas, as it’s right down the street from me. Though I did finally get a chance to eat at Mile End — that Ruth Wollensky is serious.

Download: Sub Swara, “Speak My Language”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 13, 2011

Archive Highlights