What's the most important instrument of contemporary beat music? A thumping kick drum? An oxygen-sucking bass line? A tastefully choppy vocal edit?
Nope. It's something much simpler: an 808 snare drum.
Two acts playing back-to-back sets in the Gobi smashed up hip-hop beat making, experimentalist noise samples and a mix of goth moods and party-hard pheromones. But TNGHT and Purity Ring each got through purposefully gratuitous smacks of digital snares.
For the last year or so, the Southern sound of "trap music" has been the default mode of smart hip-hop and producers winding their way out of dubstep. Instead of merciless bass drops, the sound hovers in the higher registers, clattering along on military-style snares and quarter-note claps, punctuated by looming bass drums at the big moments.
TNGHT, the Montreal-Glasgow duo of Lunice and Hudson Mohawke, has roots in the Warp Records sonic-alchemist scene, but the group (and especially Mohawke) has crossed over into mainstream hip-hop with productions for Kanye West and a new deal with his G.O.O.D. Music crew.