Lars Weiss is best known for doing time in legendary 80s NYHC bands JUDGE, SIDE BY SIDE, ALONE IN A CROWD, and UPPERCUT, but he’s always had one foot in the world of dance music as well. For more on Lars, check out his amazing guest reviews from last year, the podcast we did with him and stay tuned for some news on his new band GET INVOLVED with ex-THURSDAY and FROM AUTUMN TO ASHES members! – Sgt D
So now that we are appreciating all things 90’s and kids are all so into Dubstep we figured it’s a good time for a post on Jungle/ Drum’n’Bass. So here’s a short history lesson along with a primer on really dark, almost metallish D’n’B from late 90’s- a style that has direct links both sonically and historically to the “Bro-Step” Dubstep that is all the rage these days. Already, there are inklings of a Jungle/ D’n’B comeback. Sarge, who secretly loves Dieselboy, predicts there will be full-fledged Drum’n’Bass revival in a year or two tops. I’m completely with him on this…. So get ahead of the retro curve and read on!
First a little personal history: I got into Jungle in the mid- 90’s completely by accident. The first weekly jungle party in the United States, Konkrete Jungle started in 1994 and was on Monday nights at Coney Island High (sort of famous/infamous NYC punk/hardcore club). Since it was at CIH, a lot of hardcore dudes went to Konkrete Jungle to do lots of drugs and hit on 17 yr old raver chicks. After going a few times I realized I really liked the music. Thus, I ended up spending the rest of the 90’s keeping up with Jungle/ Drum’n’Bass along with a steady diet of reggae and hip-hop. (Fugazi aside, I listened to nothing remotely connected hardcore during this time, hence I’m completely baffled as to why Refused is the now the biggest band on earth).
Now for some history- please forgive any inaccuracies, I’m sure there are others who can provide you with a much more thoroughly researched nerd out sesh on the origins of British dance music. Long and short: Jungle/ Drum’n’Bass is considered to be the first genre of popular music to have originated in Britain. The Brits for most of the later half of the 20th century sweated music that either originated in the US (Jazz, Soul, Blues, R’n’B, Rock’n’Roll, Hip Hop, House, Techno) or Jamaica (Ska, Reggae). At some point in the early 90’s, after rave culture blows up in the UK, British producers/ DJ’s begin fusing breakbeats with Techno adding Reggae basslines and samples first calling it “Jungle Techno” then plain old “Jungle”.
Great album; contender for worst cover art of the decade – Sgt D
By the mid nineties, Jungle sort of blows up on a commercial level in the UK. This leads to a backlash by some of the genre’s originators who start making much darker sounding music, taking it back underground and eventually going as far as changing the genre’s name from Jungle to Drum’n’Bass. Creatively, this period from 96- 98 is my favorite. The music is still hard but at the same time funky. It’s almost jazz-like in its complexity and completely insane. Great for smoking out and listening to at home while at the same kills it in the club. Some prime examples: Adam F’s “Metropolis” (bass drop at 3:16) from 1996 and Optical’s “Moving 808’s” (drop at 1:31) from 1997. Also, check for anything by Photek from this period.
Starting around 1998- producers start upping the ante, making even darker and heavier tracks with insanely distorted basslines which that are like breakdowns/mosh parts played on synths. Eventually bro’ing out to a point where the music is no longer heavy the way Reggae sounds heavy, but instead heavy the way Black Sabbath is heavy. This style totally has the same vibe as all the bro step stuff that is coming out now- essentially it’s dance music that’s just as aggressive sounding as metal. So without any further ado, here are my Top 5 Really Metallish Drum’n’Bass Records From The Late 90’s:
(Plug in a Sub woofer and listen at retarded volume for best effect…)
1. Ed Rush, Optical, & Fierce- “Alien Girl”
Insane filtered bass line over an ill two-step drum pattern. Definitely one of the joints that kicked off this style. I remember hearing this once in a club after smoking some really strong glaucoma medication and feeling really scard.. this shit is dark! (bass drop at 1:31)
2. Bad Company- “Nitrous”
Not to be confused with the 70’s cock rock, “Feel Like Makin’ Love” Bad Co., but Bad Company UK. They broke through with another joint called “The Nine,” but this one has a sicker bass drop. Totally shreds up any club system and makes me want to start up the pit. (bass drop at 1:07)
3. Trace- “Sonar”
Always really liked the way tension builds in the intro and the drop (at 2:16) is a monster.
4. Capone (aka Dillinja)- “Tudor Rose”
Check for anything from Dillinja or Capone from this time. Intro sounds like a sample from some Henry VIII shit before every thing descends into hell when the bass drop comes. (drop at 1:30)
5. Moving Fusion- “Turbulence”
Don’t be thinking skinny American dudes invented the “wobble” bassline- check out this
joint from ’98! (drop at 1:43)
By the turn of the century, in response to this darker direction that the music takes, D’n’B loses a lot of its UK audience (read: chicks and black people) to the next big sound/ style: Speed Garage or 2 Step- essentially sped up, skippy house music with jungle basslines (I know that sounds god awful, but the music actually isn’t so bad). 2 Step eventually spawns UK “pop” stars like Craig David. As reaction to the popularity of 2 Step- some UK producers move towards a darker, more ‘underground’ sound (sound familiar?) incorporating more reggae elements and “Dubstep” is born. Fast-forward a few years later and dudes in the US who are in/ used to be in hardcore bands pick up on Dubstep (how and why, I have no idea) and here we are…