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Drum and Bass

Based almost entirely in England, Drum'n'Bass (then called 'jungle') emerged in the early '90s. It is one of the most rhythmically complex of all forms of dance music, relying on extremely fast polyrhythms and breakbeats. Usually, it's entirely instrumental — consisting of nothing but fast drum machines and deep bass.
As its name implies, jungle does have more overt reggae, dub, and R&B influences than most hardcore — and that is why some critics claimed that the music was the sound of black techno musicians and DJs reclaiming it from the white musicians and DJs who dominated the hardcore scene. Nevertheless, jungle never slows down to develop a groove — it just speeds along. Like most dance music genres, jungle is primarily a 'twelve inch' genre designed for a small, dedicated audience, although the crossover success of Goldie and his 1995 debut Timeless suggested a broader appeal.
Dozens of respected artists started fusing breakbeats with influences lifted from jazz, film music, ambient, and trip-hop.


What is now a complex mixture of influences and genre began from humble roots in the UK. Though many debate the original drum & bass record, it was a combination of Lenny De Ice's "We are ie" and the late 1989 Perfecto release 'Baz De Conga' which pioneered the movement. The cut was an amalgamation of ideas and sounds, combining the sax drop from "Monkey Say, Monkey Do" with Steel City bleeps and a gospel vocal lift. What producer Steve Bicknell brought to the cut however was attitude - the whole mix powered by a tumbling sub roll, clattering breakbeats and an unrelenting synth strike.

Wherever people sought their influence, what followed was a snowballing of interest within this new form of UK sourced dance music. London at the time was a flurry of activity as labels, shops and clubs grew, this fire fuelled by an ever expanding pirate movement. Although the formation of labels such as Mendoza and Reinforced in the spring of 1990 gave direction, as late as the closing stages of 1991 the music was being played back to back with other forms of dance music.

This wasn't to last however, as the months rolled on the tempo spiralled and the music moved further and further from its house roots, each producer developing a style of their own.

The music made a distinct split during 1992. The early months of the year saw the formation of Moving Shadow, who released Earth Leakage Trip's "Psychotronic EP" to critical acclaim, a breath of fresh air in the more dancefloor orientated releases of Sub Base, Ibiza and Sound Of The Underground, who were continuing on the rhythm based club cuts.

Nebula II's "Flatliners", typified the darkside sound of 92/93, menacing and unforgiving the sounds borrowed from Belgium techno wreaked havoc to the groove. Leeroy Small's Leicester based Formation at the forefront of this digression through the Dark & Moody series, the tempo again the deciding factor as it creept from the lower regions of 140 beats per minute all the way through to 170.

Two cuts turned around a darkside which had become somewhat overburdened with a cartoon horror film dynamic. Goldie's "Terminator" and a little known white stamped only as "Tic Tac Toe", the white bringing a new maturity to the sound, while Goldie brought the technical mechanics. His work at Reinforced, in addition to his legendary personality and enthusiasm for the music led to him becoming one of the first producers to sign for a major.

From this point the music continued to splinter, 1993 saw LTJ Bukem establish Good Looking Records. Although most quote "Music" as pioneer of d&b's more musical form, it was his earlier work "Demon's Theme" which laid out the framework for what later became known as ambient or intelligent drum & bass. What Bukem in fact pioneered was in fact neither ambient nor intelligent, moreover a more structured approach to the d&b production, which concentrated less on the percussives and more around the atmospheres of the track.

This increasing maturity became more evident through the work of Rupert Parkes, although 1994 had brought a number of releases for both Good Looking and Ipswich's Certificate 18 label it was on the establishment of his own Photek label, that his tracks truly began to charter new territory - his records unlike anything before or since - sub-orbital atmospherics caught in a mesh of beats and occasional bass pulses.

1994 also saw the advent of the drum & bass longplayer by way of the groundbreaking "Parallel Universe" from 4 Hero, a double album of pure abstract, bringing vocals and the first echoes of jazz to drum & bass. Marc Mac & Dego's technical prowess leaving most breathless - seventy minutes bringing more new breaks than had been used in the music within the last six months in addition to a number of new techniques one of which, filtering, has made an indelible impression on the way beat programming has been carried out since. This discovery and integration of jazz became a turning point for the music, these elements cropping up within a number of releases, perhaps most notably in Blame & Justice's "Icons" project released on Justice's own "Modern Urban Jazz" label as well as showing its head through D*Notes seminal "Criminal Justice" longplayer.

Bristol made an indelible impression both through a multitude of labels, Full Cycle stable and Brian G's London based V imprint leading the charge - releasing a wealth of tracks, responsible for bringing through artists such as Size, Krust, Die, Flynn & Flora and Bill Riley - who integrated jazz, dub and smokey trip hop elements into a whole new form.

1995 brought Techstep took its name from a compilation LP release by East Londons Emotif Recordings, though is widely hailed as the product of DJ Trace who, in conjunction with Nico from the No U Turn label and Grooverider's Prototype brought a new sound to the long-forgetton darkside. Releases such as Blame's "Planet Neptune" and Source Direct's "Snake Style", though based more within the technological side of the movement, influenced techstep's direction and sound - which continues to launch careers two years on.

1997 sees a number of developments in d&b's continuing expansion. The second wave of artists longplayers for majors are starting to appear - albums from 4 Hero, DJ Krust, Adam F, Goldie, Source Direct and Dillinjah are expected before the year is out, while many already released (Photek's "Modus Operandi" and "New Forms" from Full Cycle collective Reprazent) are receiving critical acclaim. In addition to this the work of labels such as Good Looking and James Lavelle's Mo' Wax are working at bringing d&b artists to instrumental hip hop and vice versa, while tours of the US and Japan by most major dj's in addition to clubs and pirates surfacing in most of the UK's towns and cities spread the word.

jahsonic@yahoo.com

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