About Drum and bass Music
About Drum and bass Music
Drum and bass began as a musical paradigm shift of the United Kingdom breakbeat hardcore and rave scene of the mid-1990s; and over the first decade and a half of its existence, there have been many permutations in its style, incorporating elements from dancehall, electro, funk, hip hop, house, jazz, the pop-created fusion of hardcore, house and techno (also including new beat). This scene existed briefly from approximately 1989-1993, a period of cross-pollination in the UK hardcore sound. This sound did survive in various forms in its mother countries - primarily Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany - beyond 1992, but by then the general scenes in these countries had moved forwards to trance, industrial techno or gabba (with happy hardcore/hard house being the equivalent 'Belgian Techno' - derivative sounds in the UK). London and Bristol are the two cities which are most associated with Drum and Bass.
Returning to the UK, drum and bass (as jungle) has its direct origins in the breakbeat hardcore part of the UK acid house rave scene. Hardcore DJs typically played their records at fast tempos, and breakbeat hardcore emphasised breakbeats over the 4-to-the-floor beat structure common to house music. Breakbeat hardcore records such as The Prodigy's "Experience" (1992) Top Buzz 'Jungle Techno!' (1991), A Guy Called Gerald's 'Anything' (1991), Shut Up and Dance's "£10 to get in" / "£20 to get in" (both 1989), the Ragga Twins' "Spliffhead" (1990) & '18 Inch Speaker' (1991), Rebel MC's 'Wickedest Sound' (1990), 'Coming On Strong' (1990), 'Tribal Bass' (1991) & 'African' (1991) Nightmares on Wax's 'Aftermath' & 'In Two Minds' (1990), Genaside II's "Sirens of Acre Lane" (1990), DJ Dextrous' "Ruffneck Biznizz" (1992), Noise Factory's 'Be Free' (1992), Demon Boyz 'Jungle Dett' (1992) and LTJ Bukem's "Demon's Theme" (1992) are generally credited as being among the first to have a recognizable drum and bass sound.
Some hardcore tracks at the time were extremely light and upbeat; the most extreme examples of this were the so-called "toy-town" tracks such as Smart E's' "Sesame's Treat" which features the children's show "Sesame Street" theme song. A style of hardcore with light and upbeat sounds and a predominant kick drum, with less emphasis on breakbeats, would many years later be known as happy hardcore. These were particularly prominent in the summer of 1992 when hardcore crossed over commercially in the UK and its charts.
In response to these lighter tracks, some producers started focusing on darker, more aggressive sounds; this style became known as dark side hardcore or Darkcore. Strange noises and effects, syncopated rhythms made from rearranged funk breaks and loud bass lines defined the genre. Examples of darkcore include Goldie's "Terminator" (1992), Doc Scott's "Here Come The Drumz", and Top Buzz's "Living In Darkness" (1992). These took their cue from the darker sounds of 'Belgian Techno', as found in tracks such as Beltram's "Mentasm" and "Energy Flash" (1991), as well as the dark breaks of 4 Hero's "Mr Kirks Nightmare" (1990) among others. These tracks were not widely called jungle or drum and bass by the mainstream media at their time of creation (although the terms "hardcore jungle" and "jungle techno" were in common use in the rave scene by then, with "drum & bass" appearing here and there on particular mixes of several vinyl releases), but they can nevertheless be found on later jungle and drum and bass compilations. The first major round-up of these tracks which was to use the term 'drum & bass' was probably "The Dark Side - Hardcore Drum & Bass Style": a compilation on React Records, released March 1993, which featured both "Here Comes The Drumz" and "Terminator".
This darker, more aggressive sound appealed to many in the dancehall and reggae communities. A shared emphasis on rhythm and bass, and the tempos were well suited to be mixed. Soon many elements of dancehall reggae were being incorporated into the hardcore sound, and a precursor to what would become known as simply jungle was sometimes dubbed hardcore jungle. The Jamaican sound-system culture began to influence the emerging sound through the use of basslines and remixing techniques derived from dub and reggae music, alongside the fast breakbeats and samples derived from urban kinds of music such as hip hop, funk, jazz, and r&b alongside many production techniques borrowed from early electronic music such as a house, and techno.
As the yet unnamed genre evolved, the use of sampled funk breakbeats became increasingly complex. Most notable and widely spread is the Amen break taken from a b-side funk track "Amen, Brother" by the Winston Brothers (The Winstons). During this time producers began cutting apart loops and using the component drum sounds to create new rhythms. To match the complex drum lines, basslines that had less in common with the patterns of house and techno music than with the phrasings of dub and hip hop began to be used. As the beat-per-minute range rose above 165, the emerging drum and bass sound became incompatible for straightforward DJ mixing with house and techno, which typically range dozens of beats-per-minute less (making it impossible to play the tracks at the same speed on club equipment). This sonic identity became highly distinctive for both the depth of its bass and the increasingly complex, rapid-fire breakbeat percussion. Vastly different rhythmic patterns were distinctively being used, as well as new types of sampling, synthesis and effects processing techniques, resulting in a greater focus on the intricacies of sampling/synthesis production and rhythm. This notably included early use of the time stretching effect which was often used on percussion or vocal samples. As the influences of reggae and dub became more prominent, the sound of drum and bass began to take on an urban sound which was heavily influenced by ragga and dancehall music as well as hip hop, often incorporating the distinctive vocal styles of these musical genres. This reggae/dancehall influenced sound is most commonly associated with the term jungle
30-second sample illustrating the combination of basslines, broken beats, rave melody and aesthetics.
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Particular tracks from the 1992 - 1993 period that demonstrated some of the beat and sampling progression within drum and bass include A Guy Called Gerald's "28 Gun Bad Boy", Bizzy B "Ecstacy is a Science" (1993) and Danny Breaks / Droppin Science "Droppin Science vol 1" (1993). This was an ongoing process however and can be demonstrated as a gradual progression over dozens of tracks in this period.
By late 1993, the drum and bass sound was particularly evident in the release "Unreleased Metal" (by Doc Scott and Goldie and which launched the Metalheadz label in 1994) and the "Internal Affairs EP" (by Goldie and 4hero.
Goldie, one of the pioneers of drum and bass music and perhaps its most widely recognized face
Congo Natty aka Rebel MC
Pioneers such as Bizzy B, Shy FX, Andy C, Krust, Peshay, DJ Hype, DJ SS, Fabio, Grooverider, Goldie, LTJ Bukem, Jack Smooth, Omni Trio, Rebel MC, Soul Slinger, DJ Special K (USA) Rob Playford and others quickly became stars of the genre. Most of the early producers and DJs still produce and play in today's drum and bass scene, forming something of a jungle 'old guard'. Some important early artists such as A Guy Called Gerald with his seminal early jungle LP ("Black Secret Technology") and 4hero ("Mr Kirk's Nightmare") later developed their styles, leaving the drum and bass mainstream.
These early pioneers heavily used Akai samplers and sequencers on the Atari ST to create their tracks. Without these electronic instruments, the first wave of consumer priced but versatile electronic instruments, it is doubtful drum and bass (or many electronic music styles) could have appeared.
While the origin of the term 'jungle' music to refer to the developing electronic sound of the 1990s is debatable, the emergence of the term in musical circles can be roughly traced to Jamaican/Caribbean toasting (a precursor to modern MCs), circa 1970. References to 'jungle', 'junglists' and 'jungle music' can be found throughout dub, reggae and dancehall genres from that era up until today. It has been suggested that the term 'junglist' was a reference to a person either from a section of Kingston, Trenchtown also known as 'the Concrete Jungle' or from a different area, 'the Gardens', which was a leafy area colloquially referred to as 'the Jungle'. The first documented use of the term in drum and bass is within a song featuring jungle producer and lyricist Rebel MC - "Rebel got this chant all the junglists".
The appearance of the jungle also resulted in the appearance of the junglist subculture, which, while not nearly as distinctive, alienated, ideological or obvious as other youth subcultures, and having many similarities with hip hop styles and behaviour, does function distinctively within the drum and bass listening community. Many drum and bass listeners would and do refer to themselves as junglists, regardless of their attitude on whether jungle differs from drum and bass (see below).
Jungle to drum and bass
The phrase "drum and bass" was sometimes used in the seventies to name dub versions of reggae songs. With titles on b-sides of 7 inches, like 'Drum and bass by King Tubby. Also can hear the phrase in reggae songs from artists like Jah Tomas with the often sampled phrase 'strictly drum and bass make you wind up your waist. Or in album titles, like 'Show Case (In a Roots Radics Drum and Bass)' from Tristan Palmer. The phrase "drum and bass" had also been used for years previously in the London soul and funk pirate radio scenes and was even a bit of a catchphrase for UK Radio 1 DJ Trevor Nelson in his pirate days, who used it to describe the deeper, rougher funk and "rare groove" sound that was popular in London at the time. A station ID jingle used on London pirate Kiss FM from the late 1980s would proclaim "drum and bass style on Kiss".
Shortly after midnight on New Years Day, 1994, MC Conrad referred to the style of music LTJ Bukem was playing as both "hardcore" and "drum and bass", but neglected to describe it as the jungle.
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However, as the early nineties saw drum and bass break out from their underground roots and begin to win popularity with the general British public, many producers attempted to expand the influences of the music beyond the domination of ragga-based sounds. By 1995, a counter-movement to the ragga style was emerging.
Since the term jungle was so closely related to the ragga influenced sound, DJs and producers who did not incorporate reggae elements began to adopt the term "drum and bass" to differentiate themselves and their musical styles. This reflected a change in the musical style which incorporated increased drum break editing. Sometimes this was referred to as "intelligence", though this later came to refer to the more relaxing style of drum and bass associated with producers such as LTJ Bukem. Perhaps the first track to explicitly use the term "drum and bass" to refer to itself was released in 1993. The producer The Invisible Man described it:
"A well-edited Amen Break alongside an 808 sub kick and some simple atmospherics just sounded so amazing all on its own, thus the speech sample "strictly drum and bass". A whole new world of possibilities was opening up for drum programming... It wasn't long before the amen break was being used by practically every producer within the scene, and as time progressed the Belgian style techno stabs and noises disappeared, and the edits and studio trickery got more and more complex. People were at last beginning to call the music Drum and Bass instead of hardcore. This Amen formula certainly helped cement the sound for many of the tracks I went on to produce for Grange, Q-Project and Spinback on Legend Records. After a while, tracks using the Amen break virtually had a genre all of their own. Foul Play, Peshay, Bukem, DJ Dextrous, DJ Crystl and Source Direct among others were all solid amen addicts back then too."
Towards late 1994 and especially in 1995 there was a definite distinction between the reggae and ragga sounding jungle and the tracks with heavily edited breaks, such as the artists Remarc, DJ Dextrous and The Dream Team on Suburban Base Records. Ironically, one compilation that brought the term to the wider awareness of those outside the scene, 'Drum & Bass Selection vol 1' (1994), featured a large number of ragga influenced tracks, and the first big track to use the term in its title (Remarc's 'Drum & Bass Wize', 1994) was also ragga-influenced.
The Dream Team consisted of Bizzy B and Pugwash; Bizzy B did however have a history of complex breakbeat tracks released before any real notion of a change in genre name. This also coincided with an increase in the use of the Reese bassline (Reese Project, Kevin Saunderson), which was first featured on "Just Want Another Chance" by Kevin Saunderson (also famous for the group Inner City) released in 1988. Mid-1995 saw the coincidentally named Alex Reece's "Pulp Fiction" which featured a distorted Reese bassline with a two-step break, slightly slower in tempo, which has been credited as an influence in the new tech-step style which would emerge from Emotif and No U-Turn Records.
"Pulp Fiction was (and still is) a seriously badass tune, it was highly original at the time, and of course it will remain in the classic oldskool bag for many years to come. It was also the track that spawned hundreds of imitators of its "2-Step" style which unfortunately also lasted for many years to come.... hmmm... oh, and because the 2-step groove generally sounds slower, DnB then began to speed up way beyond 160bpm... say no more."
This has also led to the confusion of equating the "tech-step" subgenre with drum and bass, as distinct from the jungle, but "drum and bass" as a style and as a name for the whole genre already existed in 1995 before the release of DJ Trace's remix of T-Power's "Mutant Jazz" which appeared on S.O.U.R. Recordings in 1995 (co-produced by Ed Rush and Nico). Also note that DJ Trace, Ed Rush and Nico already had a history of producing jungle/drum & bass and hardcore in a variety of styles.
The media may have also emphasised a difference in styles. This was especially the case in the subgenre dubbed "intelligent" drum and bass by the music press, and its ambassador was LTJ Bukem and his Good Looking label alongside Moving Shadow artists such as Foul Play, Omni Trio and Cloud 9.
Some say that the move to drum and bass was a conscious and concerted reaction by top DJs and producers against a culture that was becoming tinged with gangster types and violent elements, and stereotyped with the recognizable production techniques of ragga-influenced producers. The release of General Levy's "Incredible" record in 1994 is taken by many as being the key point in the transformation. This ragga influenced track contains a statement by General Levy claiming to be the "original junglist" at a time in which he was proclaiming publicly that "I run jungle" which in turn angered the most powerful and influential drum and bass producers, resulting in the blacklisting of General Levy and possibly a conscious step away from the ragga sound.
"The whole tag jungle took on a real sinister... It just got so smashed in the press. We were like: "If we’re going to carry on we’re gonna have to change the name here, cos we’re getting slaughtered here." - Fabio.
Intelligent drum and bass maintained the uptempo breakbeat percussion but focused on more atmospheric sounds and warm, deep basslines over vocals or samples which often originated from soul and jazz music. However, alongside other key producers in the scene, LTJ Bukem, arguably the single most influential figure behind the style, is especially noted for disliking the term, owing to the implication that other forms of drum and bass are not intelligent. From this period on, drum and bass would maintain the unity of a relatively small musical culture, but one characterised by a competing group of stylistic influences. Although many DJs have specialised in distinctive subgenres within jungle and drum and bass, the majority of artists within the genre were and remain connected via record labels, events and radio shows. It is extremely important to note that many producers make tracks in more than one subgenre of drum and bass.
Around 1995-1996 there was a general splintering of the drum and bass scene. Subgenres could be referred to by their names as opposed to either jungle or drum and bass, though all subgenres were usually grouped by the new umbrella term drum and bass. This continues today. Roni Size, Krust and Dj Die might be considered the people that made Drum and Bass more mainstream.
Confusion is increased by the term jump-up which initially referred to tracks that had a change in style at the drop, encouraging people to dance. Initially, these would usually be breakbeat-heavy drops in this new drum and bass style, but producers of around the same time we're creating tracks with hip-hop style basslines at the drop. This would become a new subgenre "jump-up", though many of the early jump-up tracks included edited amens at the drop. Influential artists include DJ Zinc, DJ Hype, Dillinja, Source Direct and Aphrodite amongst many others. The Dream Team would also produce jump-up tracks, usually under the name Dynamic Duo on Joker Records, in a style with similarities and differences to their Suburban Base releases. Notice also the early use of the term "jump up jungle" rather than "jump up drum and bass". The pigeon-holes for genres changed so quickly that jump-up was quickly also called drum and bass even as a subgenre.
Around this time, drum and bass also sealed its popularity by winning a Friday night slot on Radio One, the BBC's flagship radio station, the legendary "One in the jungle" show. Initially presented by a revolving group of jungle luminaries, hosted by MC Navigator, the station eventually secured the presenting services of Fabio and Grooverider, two of the oldest and most-respected DJs on the scene. Many DJs made a sudden shift from pirate radio to legal radio at this time.
Up to this point, pirate radio was the only radio source of jungle music and in particular Kool FM, and Don FM's contribution to the development of this sound should not be overlooked or denied. It is doubtful whether the jungle would have gained popularity without pirate radio stations. The transition in name from "jungle" to "drum and bass" occurs at the same time as its legal appearance on airwaves.
Another aspect to note in the evolution of drum and bass is that the advent of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 specifically aimed at stopping illegal Raves prompted the move of the jungle (and other electronic music genres) into legal (mostly) nightclubs.
Jungle vs. drum and bass
Nowadays the difference between jungle (or old school jungle) and drum and bass is a common debate within the junglist community. There is no universally accepted semantic distinction between the terms "jungle" and "drum and bass". Some associate "jungle" with older material from the first half of the 1990s (sometimes referred to as "jungle techno"), and see drum and bass as essentially succeeding jungle. Others use jungle as a shorthand for ragga jungle, a specific subgenre within the broader realm of drum and bass. Probably the widest held viewpoint within the scene in London is that the terms are simply synonymous and interchangeable: drum and bass is the jungle, and jungle is drum and bass.