History Of Drum And Bass


02 Nov 2017

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Drum and Bass is an electronic music genre that that developed out of Jungle music. A shift of UK Breakbeat Hardcore and the rave scene of the mid-1990s. Drum and Bass has seen many transformations in its style, taking elements from, Hip hop, dancehall, funk, house, and techno. The genre is characterized by heavy bass and sub bassline’s as well as fast Breakbeat’s (a sampling of a percussion section as a drum loop), usually played between 160 and 180 beats per minute. The most renown break is known as the Amen break, a four bar sampled drum solo of the song Amen Brother by funk and soul band The Winstons. It has been extensively used in Hip hop as well as sampled based music and also became the basis for Drum and Bass and Jungle music.

Drum and Bass was seen to have a more melodic form, differing from the rough style of Jungle. While Jungle seared to the unyielding sonic boom of Ragga another style was gently maturing behind closed studio doors. A soft more textural form of Jungle which cross- matched spliced breaks with an ethereal ambience, along with cool jazziness and expressive turns. This was a new version, suitable for home listening, quite the opposite to the jump up sonics of the rough and raw Junglist soundtrack, it was referred to by the artists involved as Drum and Bass. However the tag ‘ambient’ or ‘intelligent’ was soon added to the title by promoters and journalists. The insinuations of the ‘intelligent’ label caused ramifications throughout the scene. With Junglists arguing that the name implied that the jump up style of jungle was in some way brainless music for dim-witted people. It also had racial implications since the majority of jungle raves were largely dominated by black youths. However this new genre was thought to be targeted towards a more middle class white audience.

Ironically Drum ‘n’ Bass was simply trying to keep the original ethos of jungle. Concerned with pushing the parameters of sound while engaging influences from the entire spectrum of music, Drum ‘n’ Bass represented the very spirit of jungle since its earliest house incarnations. …Drum and Bass development of Breakbeat can be seen as far back as 1991. As T-Power has already suggested, Drum ‘n’ Bass and Jungle were developing side by sideall along, although very much in the minority, the more mellow style of Drum ‘n’ Bass was showing itself even during the Dark period. [1] 

One of the more infamous DJ’s to explore this development L. T. J. Bukem. Together with DJ’s Fabio and Grooverider Bukem is known as one of the founding DJ’s of the rave scene. His style can be sketched as far back as the jazzier endeavours of Giles Petersons Dingwall sessions. However by the time rave had hit Bukem was DJing an unusual selection of Jazz Funk and prime House tracks to a growing mass of fans.

In 1991 Bukem released his 3rd LP ‘Demons Theme’ pressing up a dub plate to drop in his set; the track gripped the attention of the crowd immediately. Its mellowing vibes along with the rushing breaks and plush ambience created a fresh outlook within the dark ambience of rave. Early 1994 saw a tirade of people coming together to join forces with Bukem. Artists such as La Bello Blanco and Omni Trio began push forward the smooth vibes as established by Bukem. This more ambient style seemed equally at home in clubs as it did on a personal stereo.

One of the scenes most influential labels came in the shape of Reinforced Records. Formed by Iain Barouille, Dego McFarlane, Gus Lawrence and Mark Clair who also created music as a collective under the name 4Hero, the label brought about a new level of sound. Boasting a roster of the scenes most influential figures Lemon D, Doc Scott, Goldie, L Double and Grooverider, together they fashioned a collection of tracks which would range from the other-worldly contortions of Peshays Protégé to the fractured Breakbeats of Doc Scott’s Last Action hero. [2] Reinforceds approach to music resulted in a continuous ability to predict the next sonic development in Breakbeat science. This display of sound shifts of the future would redefine the Drum and Bass scene.

By June 1994 4 hero unleashed their debut album Parallel Universe this was to be a cutting-edge. Dabbling with experimental Jazz, the album draw upon b-boy roots whilst incorporating strings, layered with clear-cut breaks. The album helped to coin a term which exposed the scenes incessant attraction with Jazz.

Jazzstep becoming ever more prevalent towards the end of 1994 saw complex Breakbeat structures sounding increasingly similar to the rhythms of Jazz Fusion bands. The adoption of Jazzier vibes by Reinforced Records created a stir at the epicentre of the Drum and Bass scene. Artists such as Fabio would take very opportunity to weave together the jazzier tracks with his Breakbeat sets. Now with the arrival of this new Jazz element within Drum and Bass sound.

However for fans of Drum and Bass this new sound could only be enjoyed via the experimental shows of pirate radio stations. This was until October of 1994, Fabio, Bukem, Kemistry and Storm along with an assortment of guests saw a creation of a Monday night session at Mars Bar in London’s West End. The night was proclaimed Speed, it was to become one of the country’s most important club nights. Not only was it a place were likeminded DJs and producers could rendezvous it was also to be the new creative centre of Drum and Bass.

However this particular night was far flung from the raging crowds of the old Jungle raves which often saw gatherings of up to 5000 people. Mars bar only had a capacity of a few hundred, paving the way for a whole new generation of Drum and Bass heads, Jungalists and Breakbeat enthusiasts. These were people who listened to Drum and Bass through pirate stations.

Undeniably Speed was to Drum and Bass what Roast had been to Jungle and Rage to Hardcore. Fabio and Bukem would play out each week, presenting their fluid and rolling breaks, Bukem at the helm, submerged the crowd with rich string drive epics whilst deeper, jazzier vibes were introduced by Fabio. The night saw a fusion of sauntering basslines interlaced with complex beats, counter tempos and off key choruses. Speed also saw a change in clothing style; a more Hip hop orientated fashion traded replaced the previous flesh-revealing lycra and designer casual chic look. 1995 finally saw Drum and Bass sound come to the forefront, as this new melodic style of Drum and Bass progressed it became increasingly more supported by the media. That year Goldie released Inner City Life it received widespread acclamation, all of a sudden everyone wanted a piece of Drum and Bass.

Some definitions

Ambient jungle Drum and Bass tracks with an atmospheric feel/mood/style to them. Some have long intros or ambient breaks. The most popular example is Bukem's "Horizons."

Artcore / Intelligent These were the tracks that were initially written in a backlash against the big Ragga Jungle scene. The term was used most famously for the series of React Compilations, which have included mixes by Kemistry and Storm. This was and still is a favourite style for Good Looking Records - a label that was initially ignored as it did not base its music on the dancefloor.

Darkside The exact opposite to the optimistic and catchy hardcore anthems. Darkside takes in samples from horror movies, deep, dark basslines and screams. Has undergone some serious developements but an ever-present style throughout drum and bass history. Still popular with todays producers i.e. Blue Sonics - Devil Inside. It is not so much characterised by the samples now but more by the general sound and feel of the beats and synths.

Happy hardcore This is what remains of the original hardcore style, after jungle split off in 1991/92 some DJs and ravers remained loyal to the manic pianos, cartoon samples and sped-up vocals. The music self-destructed to some extent by becoming stagnated and too repetitive, as a result it would appear to be fading fast in the UK but still retains a large following in other countries.

Hardstep A term borne out of Grooverider's seminal 1995 LP - "Hardstep Selection." Usually simple tracks with deep grinding basslines and minimal or simple breakbeats. Jazzstep Another sub-genre for those artists who took in jazz influences for their productions. Originated with Alex Reece but more recently publicised by Bristol's Roni Size & Reprazent and 4 Hero. Still a style going strong.

Jump-up The style for the dancefloor, big, bad drums and strong basslines. Often utilise vocal samples so once you hear some tracks you never forget them. Most at home in a club or event and guaranteed to get people moving (even if it’s only head-nodding.)

Ragga-jungle The style of the originators. Many of the early jungle tunes took in ragga influences - spawned one of jungle's greatest chart successes: M-Beat feat. General Levy'sIncredible and Shy FX's Original Nuttah. The influence has died right down with the Tribe Of Issachar's Tribal Natty being a lone example of recent years. [3] 


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