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We’re kicking off with an extensive blog post that comes complete with a solid hour-long mix of total jungle classics. It’s already received some heavy attention on its original home DrumTrip, and it’s not hard to see why: blog founder The Law has meticulously researched his influences to create a piece that sums up the very first chapters of drum & bass’s rich, raucous history. When he got in touch we said we’d have his hands off. But then he wouldn’t be able to mix like a badman any more, so we just politely said thank you.
Get to know: The Law is a Herts-based music lover who found his way into beats at 10 via hip-hop. He got his first decks in 2000 and after brief dalliances with UK garage he dived deep into D&B to the point he’s set up a pirate radio station, played at Ministry (thanks to Drum&BassArena!), D&BTV, The Scala and Deep In The Jungle. He also set up a label Repertoire in 2009.
Being 27, he’s the first to admit he wasn’t around when jungle kicked off but that hasn’t stopped him digging deep and grasping such an impressive knowledge of our scene’s history that he puts some of the oldest heads to shame. Check out his mixes here, but in the mean time, get your ears around this slab of history…
Take it away Law!
I imagine not everyone has encyclopaedic knowledge of hardcore and jungle. Neither do I. But this write-up and swift mix will hopefully demonstrate the evolution of hardcore to Jungle to drum & bass by taking five tunes from each of the five years which were so influential in creating the sound we love.
A lot of this information might not be new to regular readers or people who were actually there at the time, but for anyone else – whether you dismissed jungle as another fad or you were too busy on the climbing frame at playschool to notice Original Nuttah riding the charts – this is for you.
You can trace jungle and drum & bass way back before 1992. It depends how far back you wish to go as it takes influences from James Brown funk and soul breaks of the 60s and 70s, golden age 80s hip-hop, acid house and the burgeoning hardcore scene of the late 80s-early 90s. It wasn’t until 1992, however, that something darker and more uniformed reared its head; and that is where we begin…
Instantly recognisable by its signature pro-London sample, Euphony’s simplistic rolling breaks (sampled from Bobby Byrd’s ‘Hotpants’) , sparse samples and bass set it apart from its more frantic counterparts and takes its place as the intro to this journey.
The track that started a genre; as hardcore started to split between the happier and darker vibes LTJ Bukem took it in a totally different direction.
Originally written in 1991, Demons Theme sounded out of place amongst its contemporaries and kick started the whole ‘intelligent’ movement of the 90s. Rolling amens, sub bass, soothingly deep strings and vocals backed with tribal percussion: This style did not catch on until late 1993 when it was being cloned by half the scene. A testament to how ahead of its time it really was.
Darkcore had arrived, Nasty Habits (AKA Doc Scott) served up a four track EP on the legendary Reinforced and this track was the highlight. Rolling amens once again, backed with nasty reversed hoovers and the instantly recognisable samples ‘Confusion! Here come the drums’, this really is relentless stuff.
Goldie had already been producing under the name Rufige Kru on Reinforced records. Guided by Marc Mac and Dego, he produced this seminal piece of work. Futuristic sounding beats, with what is believed to be the first example of multi-pitched or time-stretched drum loops. Peppered with vocal snippets from the classic Terminator movie and big bass stabs, it went on to be one of Goldie’s biggest tracks (until 1994) and helped propelled him to the forefront of the genre.
Another example of a tune pushing the boundaries. This shows how fast the music was changing in late 1992. Noise Factory was already a recognised name with a slew of releases on 3rd Party parent label Ibiza Records. Breakage #4 was a variant on a track on the same EP called Futuroid, a very simple track with repetitive bleeps, rolling amens and the vocal of ‘I bring you the future’.
This track was up to 20BPM faster than other tunes at the time and mixes nicely with more contemporary Drum & Bass. As such, it’s had numerous remixes.
06: Q-Project – Champion Sound (Alliance Remix) [Legend Records]
Q-Project and the Legend Records crew had already been producers of the more conventional hardcore sound but it wasn’t until 1993 that they really established their own style. The label was a mix of deep, spaced out jungle as pioneered by Lucky Spin and the emerging Darkcore sound. The original mix of Champion Sound was written towards the end of 1992 but the Alliance Remix became the biggest track on Legend and was an example of the signature drum & bass sound.
07: LTJ Bukem – Music (Happy Raw) [Good Looking]
Another year, another Bukem tune. Starting with a hypnotic bell sample, the tune rolls out, showcasing Bukem’s signature progressive style. Half way through, the mood of the tune changes to a much darker vibe, with solemn chords and very tribal beats. A lot of DJs often mixed in the next tune by this point so it is a part of the tune that is often overlooked.
This track demonstrates Moving Shadow at the peak of their powers in 1993. With a fantastic set of artists such as Omni Trio, Foul Play, Cloud 9 and 2 Bad Mice, along with Reinforced it is probably the greatest hardcore / jungle label there was.
Omni Trio was already well known for his piano led, subtle hardcore sound and Renegade Snares was a certified classic, but Foul Play toughened it up for the dancefloor and created a monster that still gets dropped in sets today, made famous to a new generation by a certain Andy C teasing it over today’s upfront drum and bass.
When experienced producer Ant Miles joined forces with 15 year old Essex resident Andy C, they started a special label and created a special tune. With the Ram only a year old it was a B-side track that would go on to be the biggest in the label’s history, totally over-shadowing the excellent amen roller ‘The Touch’ on the A-side.
Valley Of The Shadows, like many timeless tunes, was a relatively simple affair but would form the classic drum & bass blueprint. The bell sample, the break loop and several other samples all came from a CD given away in a 1993 edition of Future Music magazine. However the ‘long dark tunnel’ vocal was sourced from a BBC documentary from 1989 about out of body experiences. This got ever increasingly popular and was remixed and re-issued in 1996 on Ram. It was one of their biggest selling tracks.
Another track ahead of its time. Made up of what sounds like only five or six tracks, it was minimal genius. It featured some clever amen chopping neatly laid behind the main break that drives the tune along. Simple but effective sub bass is present but probably the most famous aspect of the tune is the inclusion of the samples lifted from the 80′s black comedy / horror ‘The Evil Dead’. Cries of ‘Scottie!’, ‘I don’t wanna die’ and demonic laughter make this a classic.
11: Renegade – Terrorist [Moving Shadow]
With the help of Nookie, Ray Keith was already an established and respected producer by the time Terrorist hit the shops in 1994. This was by no means the first record to utilise the Amen Brother break by The Winstons, but it went on to be probably the biggest amen track of them all. As well as the amen break, you have the classic intro piano melody and of course the huge bassline. The bass was taken from a track by Kevin ‘Reese’ Saunderson called ‘Just Want Another Chance’.
This 1988 slice of early Detroit techno had been sampled before but Terrorist made it its own and spawned years of copycats and became a staple part of D&B, especially the Tech-Step sound pioneered by No-U-Turn.
Another Moving Shadow tune and another landmark, Dead Dred (aka Ascend & Ultravibe) were already producing for Back 2 Basics but this one was no doubt their biggest track by some distance. Dreamy and swirly synths are interrupted by gunshots before the dread sample hits. This sets up the frantically pitched amens and what is commonly referred to as the first reversed sub bass line in jungle. This style of bass was huge within the UK dance scene and was re-used over again in jungle and the new genre of Speed Garage a year or two later.
Consisting of Marc Mac & Dego AKA 4Hero; Tom & Jerry was known as the duo’s more dancefloor orientated alias having released some classic hardcore tracks a couple of years before. There were so many great tracks in this year but I felt this one shows the range jungle had in encompassing samples from all genres and, in this case, the funk and soul genres. Sampled from Maxi – Lover To Lover, Maxi(mun) Style starts off positive and soulful with familiar strings and melody before dropping with hard bass and jungle FX.
Anthems don’t come much bigger than this one, so big in fact Pete Tong picked up on it and re-released it on his FFRR label. Leviticus was DJ Jumping Jack Frost; with only a few previous releases he wasn’t that prolific as a producer but with Optical and Dillinja on the boards for the two different versions of the track, it was destined to be huge. Spurred on by the ‘Think’ break drum loop sampled from a Lynn Collin’s track of the same name, The Burial had it all; moody strings, Ragga vocals, the sing-along section, a hefty bassline and a melody to hum along to.
Possibly the greatest jungle or drum and bass tune ever made. From the creative mind of Goldie, perfectly crafted with the help of Moving Shadow boss Rob Playford as engineer; Inner City Life was a landmark and gained major airplay on Radio and MTV. The amazingly mournful vocals of Diane Charlemagne work brilliantly with the deep strings and choppy beats to create a masterpiece. The track proved to the media that jungle was more than just a ‘rave’ music, and it was capable of being just great music on its own, whether it’s in the dance or at home. The album Timeless, three tracks woven together for over 20 minutes as a symphony concreted this notion.
16: Dillinja – The Angels Fell [Metalheadz]
Dillinja was already creating crushing jungle work-outs for a couple of years by this point. His work was often ragga-influenced and more dancefloor orientated but this track signalled a slight change in some of his output and was one of several tracks that pushed the futuristic tech-step sound. The intro starts with strings sampled from the Bladerunner OST by Vangelis (a goldmine sample source for D&B producers) and lazy breaks taken from the Incredible Bongo Band’s version of ‘Apache’, originally by The Shadows. When it drops, a subtle amen and huge bass combo drive the track along without it ever really letting loose. A refined classic.
17: Alex Reece – Pulp Fiction [Metalheadz]
This track divided opinion, but there is no disputing its effect on the progression of drum and bass. With its very simple two-step drum pattern Pulp Fiction offered something different and focussed on a simple groove and smooth but very big bassline. Due to the two-step pattern sounding slower, despite being the same BPM as everything else, many believe it pushed the average tempo of drum & bass to over 174BPM, much to the dismay of many original jungle fans.
18: P-Funk – P-Funk Era [Frontline]
P-Funk (AKA Pascal) was another player who had been around since the early days of jungle, creating massive tracks like Johnny and Flammable under the alias of Johnny Jungle along with Sponge. 1995 was the dawn of the rollers and this was one of the best examples. Featuring Dr Dre influenced strings, a rolling break with further samples from KRS-One and floaty female vocals, P-Funk Era was played and remixed for years after.
Another one of the rollers – just as the title suggests. Andy C must have only been around 16 years old at the time of release! This, as with other tracks at the time, followed a similar pattern; strings and melodies from the intro, the percussion builds until the bass hits and when it finally drops it is almost an anti-climax as it peaks earlier in the build-up. Another track that followed this pattern was Jo – R-Type which narrowly missed out being included in the 1993 section.
A vintage double A-side release from Ram with ‘Cool Down’ on the flip, and as such was re-released as part of Ram’s 15th year anniversary in 2007.
DJ Trace, along with Ed Rush and Nico gave birth to the tech-step genre and this may be one of the earliest proper examples of the style. The DJ Trace remix of Mutant Jazz totally changed the atmosphere of the original with spooky reversed piano keys, horn stabs and huge subs combined with the Reese bassline made famous by Terrorist a year earlier. This style went on to be huge throughout 1996-97 with No-U-Turn and Metalheadz pushing the boundaries.
The dark tech-step style was in full effect by 1996. Dillinja perfectly demonstrates the movement away from conventional jungle sound to a more subtle and futuristic style. Grooverider’s label Prototype was also highly influential in establishing this new sub-genre and the incubator was the legendary Metalheadz nights at London club The Blue Note. I could have chosen one of several tracks from Dillinja alone in this year, including Silver Blade, but the strings, massive (deliberately) distorted bass line and status as a Blue Note anthem means Threshold gets the nod.
That man Doc Scott again. Back then the King Of The Rollers was always ahead of the game and created this extremely dark steppy number. The tune rolls out with sharp beats, deep bass and that huge hypnotic synth driving the tune along, it sounds like the end of days but at the same time shows restraint. I imagine it sounded very unique at the time.
Boymerang was a bit of an enigma, the man behind the name is now alternative rock producer Graham Sutton. At the time he was well known for his part in group Bark Psychosis but around 1994, maybe intrigued by the explosion of jungle, he began his own productions.
This culminated in releases and remixes for Prototype recordings and No-U-Turn as well as a full length LP. The LP in my opinion is easily one of the greatest drum & bass albums of the 90s and amongst the track list is probably his most famous creation; Soul Beat Runna. Known best for the drum loop that runs throughout, it was a Boymerang’s creation entirely, made by deconstructing the amen break and replacing the individual drum hits with new samples (among other techniques). The loop was left clean deliberately by Sutton so other producers could sample it and Dillinja took the invitation and used it to great effect with the monstrous Silver Blade. Shortly after the album’s release Boymerang left the scene as fast as he entered and continued his work as a producer for various Rock acts including British Sea Power.
This list would not be complete without a Photek score and I am surprised it took until we reached 1996. Prior to this time Photek did what he did best: amen smashers across a spectrum of labels. However it was this release that he cemented that Photek sound after great work on his own Photek label the year before (Rings Around Saturn anyone?).
The Hidden Camera was dark, jazzy, with sparse samples and funky double bass throughout with his trademark ninja beats. This style peaked with the fantastic Ni-Ten-Ichi-Ryu (Two Swords Technique) which made the UK top 40 and featured on the end credits to the Wesley Snipes vampire flick ‘Blade’.
Although originally released at the tail end of 1995, it wasn’t until 1997 that the track was re-issued on F-Jams and featured on the seminal album Colours, that it truly made its mark outside of drum & bass circles. A perfect example of the way this music can be enjoyed at home relaxing, or in the middle of a hyped-up club night. Sampling Bob James’ Westchester Lady as the foundation of the tune, Adam F created one of the most recognisable and celebrated tracks of the 90’s. Circles seems to transcend genres, even drum & bass sub-genres, and appears to be universally enjoyed, something you do not really get with the Drum & Bass tracks of 2011.
That brings the mix and the write-up to an end. There are plenty of tracks I have missed out, there is no mention of Ed Rush, DJ Crystl or Source Direct, some of my favourite producers. But there were only five places available per year, and I chose what I thought were either the most groundbreaking tracks, or the biggest in general.
Thank you Law for being our very first repper! Do YOU want to write a blog on the sounds you love? Get in touch through the comments section below and we’ll hit you straight back…