DnB? Let me see…
Your tunesmith-in-residence MATT TEALE provides a brief exposition of d’n’b.
Drum and bass is a largely misunderstood and unappreciated genre.
A subjective assessment undoubtedly; but also a truth for lovers of musical plurality. It is misunderstood because of the notion that mainstream artists like DJ Fresh, Chase and Status and Shy FX represent the entirety of the genre. I’m not pulling down the achievements of producers who have pushed the sounds of drum and bass into popular recognition, but the appreciation of these performers barely scratches the surface. The reluctance of people (particularly Cambridge studs) to explore this genre can perhaps here be blamed on its affiliation to intrusive mainstream dub step.
Like all musical varieties, drum and bass is segmented into numerous sub genres where one can find expression for all moods within their listening landscape. The label “relaxed” or “calming” (though in the proper classification liquid funk) is well ascribed to the sounds of Calibre, Lenzman, Marcus Intalex and tracks from Alix Perez including the irresistibly melodic “Melaine” (one of the first drum and bass songs to ignite my interest). Often these tracks combine ambient vocals with harmonious drums to the effect of making them almost symphonic.
Moving into the realm of energetic stimulation of sci-fi soundscapes, high BPMs commonly complimented by MC lyrics, you enter the domain which is sometimes referred to as “techno” or “dark” drum and bass. The pioneers of this sub section include the likes of Octane DLR, Jubei, Kasra, the unmistakable tribal drum sounds of Enei and the astonishingly consistent producer Break. The pulsating base encourages audiences into breaking from the shackles of conventional dancing; a liberating feature which grew more popular in the rave scene of the 1990s.
However, to say that any of the aforementioned artists clings onto one sub-genre is unfair. Within their albums, listeners will find a diverse range. Mentioned above are just two of a plethora of different strands. Not addressed is the Jamaican influenced jungle music which gave birth to contemporary drum and bass forms. Modern breakbeats used in drum and bass and hip hop owe their existence to the Amen break, a 4/4 drum solo used in the funk band, The Winstons’s song “Amen Brother”, the most sampled drum loop of all time in electronic music.
If you want to find out more, I recommend searching the above artists and/or listening to Friction’s section on Radio 1 which features guest mixes from prominent DJs, and Friction himself often jumps in. If still enthused, and desire a live experience, try going to Warning nights held at Cambridge Junction. Expect energetic jump up beats from the decks of the most renowned DJs in the world including Andy C and DJ Hype.
At the risk of sounding like a music snob, I feel almost within my right to criticise chart music because of its annoying universality,whereas to disregard a genre when only hearing a handful of artists is to commit musical myopia.
This goes for any musical genre that does not have a monopoly on popular radio stations. This article was written to promote engagement with drum and bass because it’s the genre that appeals to me and I know the most about, but I welcome other expositions on house, disco, hip hop, reggae, electro etc. from people with more knowledge. I am by no means a drum and bass expert, having only been exploring it for two years, but I strongly believe that it’s an area which deserves a more open minded investigation. This is a call to expand musical horizons beyond the sound waves of Cindies/Cindoza and into new and more soulful pastures.