Styles & Forms | Drum’n’Bass | Dance

Drum’n’bass was a kind of re-branding that came from the scene itself – the producer side that wanted to allow filmic sounds to speak for them rather than some patois MC. By downplaying the ragga, producers and DJs were effectively saying that they wished to communicate a message or mood sonically rather than verbally.

Some have argued that drum’n’bass is the UK’s equivalent to hip hop, and as such, this distinction mirrors the hip hop/trip hop raison d’être.

Still immersed in breakbeat manipulation, some producers began experimenting with sound textures or female vocals, speeding up the breaks so much that they ceased to be visceral triggers for dancing limbs and actually became soothing. One DJ, LTJ Bukem, had pre-empted the split from the ragga sound with his mellowcore ‘Logical Progression’, ‘Demon’s Theme’ and ‘Music’ releases. For his part, Goldie delivered ‘Angel’ and his masterpiece, ‘Inner City Life’, which he described as ‘ghetto blues for the 1990s’. Others such as Omni Trio, Foul Play, A Guy Called Gerald and hardcore stalwarts 4Hero began moving away from what they increasingly saw as juvenile or druggy sounds and into the realms of artcore.

The scene effectively became split between the roughneck and the elegantly suave. At new central London club-night Speed, DJs Fabio and Bukem aired the jazzy, oceanic side of the sound, and suddenly, drum’n’bass was the buzzword on the lips of fashionistas everywhere. The major labels duly came begging.

Hearing Is Believing

As a parallel to jazzy jungle, others began to develop a science out of painstakingly building percussive breakbeats. Producers such as Lemon D and Dillinja produced tearaway monsters such as ‘The Acid Track’ and ‘Tudor Rose’; avant-gardists such as Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and U-Ziq took breakbeat manipulation to absurd extremes with their non-dancefloor ‘drill’n’bass’ oddities; the Jump-Up style popularized by DJ Hype and the Ganja Kru flourished; Roni Size and his Reprazent crew from Bristol won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize; and when DJ Trace tore up the sax-tastic ‘Mutant Jazz’ by T-Powervs Mk Ultra to make ‘The Mutant’, a new d&b style crystallized. Tech-step allowed producers to explore their sci-fi ormartial arts obsessions, and was a reaction to the perceived coffee-table acceptability of the sound. Pockets of drum’n’bass DJ/producers began springing up in countries such as Norway, France and the USA.

This premillennial darkness proved too much for some, and they heartily welcomed the positive, sunshiny Latino element brought into the music by Brazilian junglists Marky, Patife and XRS, and hits such as ‘Shake Ur Body’. Drum’n’bass is now a global genre, and the term is used more frequently (but still more or less interchangeably) with jungle.

‘I could knock out 17 million jungle tracks a week just by getting all my old reggae seven inches and sticking them over an Amen break. I think people are more intelligent than that.’
LTJ Bukem

Leading Exponents

LTJ Bukem
Roni Size
A Guy Called Gerald...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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