This chapter investigates North American dubstep, a ‘net-native’ genre of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) in which synthesized bass timbres are described in terms of filth and foul stenches. The climactic musical moment known as ‘the drop’ induces a nauseated visage termed ‘the bass face’, while the ‘vomitstep’ dubstep created by the producer Snails is voraciously consumed by his social media followers (the ‘#vomitsquad’). At the inaugural Lost Lands Music Festival in Ohio, the online-offline furore surrounding a so-called ‘ass eating competition’ in the campgrounds led to the development of tracks that frame the dubstep drop as the sound of anilingus.
In order to examine aesthetic disgust in this context, the chapter mixes fieldwork at the first two iterations of Lost Lands with digital ethnography and close analysis of specific tracks. By analysing dubstep’s inextricable relationship with self(ie)-consciousness, the attention economy, and androcentric fetishism in the age of the (anti)social web, the research problematizes idealist accounts of the musically visceral that affirm its primordial power and capacity to dissolve the boundary between self and other. Although the ‘bass face’ seems like an innate reflex, its real-time, real-life appearance is routed through its online depiction and underscored by ulterior motives of acquisition (the pursuit of attention and social capital). The latter part of the chapter argues that the ‘ass eating competition’ does not warrant psychoanalytic accounts of a return to a lost, infantile state via anal eroticism because of its reification as musical clickbait. As an androcentric fetish, the dubstep drop does not disrupt the gendered disparities of the digital era, but rather serves to reinforce them.
The chapter closes with a call for a critical turn in disgust scholarship that moves beyond the facile and affirmative use of theoretical fetishes derived from continental philosophy and psychoanalytic thought. There is a growing need to examine how web users and corporate infrastructures invest in and exploit aesthetic disgust as well as a need to consider how experience of the musically visceral is mediated by the sound of the social web.