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Rather interesting article on the current state of rum and ass......

Juan Love

TRIBE Member
Drum 'n' Bass 2002: Rhythm Vs Sales?


Drum 'n' bass 2002: whither next? For disgruntled old-skoolers like me, it was strange if not downright ironic that the appearance of Andy C & Shimon's 'Bodyrock' (which did some damage in the UK Top 40 as well as garnering itself major radio airplay) was hailed as such a leap forward for drum 'n' bass. Converts gushed about its swing-time rhythm, DJs argued over whether you could mix it with regular d 'n' b or not (many seemed to imagine that its changed rhythmic emphasis meant that it wasn't in standard 4/4 time - of course it was), while others suggested that it would start something of a revolution in the music (although with the exception of Bad Company, no-one else seems to have taken up this particular torch as yet…)

'Bodyrock' is undoubtedly a successfully concocted package of drum 'n' bass pop, put together by master craftsmen, but is it a rhythmic revolution…? Hardly. Drum 'n' bass, it seems, has a short memory. Once the most rhythmically-inventive popular musical form since jazz, drum 'n' bass has consistently been staging a retreat from the possibilities opened up by Jungle's splicing and dicing of breakbeats since 1997.

Since the advent of the 2 step rhythm and the tech soundscapes pioneered largely by Ed Rush / Nico and Optical, their 'less-is-more' ethos has become set in stone as THE sound of drum 'n' bass. Small wonder that disenchanted breakbeat scientists such as Paradox (a veteran producer of more than 10 years) has taken to denying that he even makes drum 'n' bass any more, as he feels the shackles of the tightly controlled scene fetter his desire to create new and challenging rhythms.

Why did this happen? Most of the leading producers and DJs have refused to be drawn on the question in interviews, eschewing any questions that even hint of criticism of their scene. Meanwhile, young House / Techno / Rock converts to the stock Andy C / Bad Company sound baulk at the suggestion that their scene could possibly be suffering by comparison with its previous incarnations, and refute any allegations that their heroes could be held guilty of diluting the essence of the music in order to appeal to the broadest possible base...

Unfortunately, the evidence is right before their eyes. Look at the last appearance by Shy FX in the UK Top 40 (with the seminal Ragga-jungle anthem of '94, 'Original Nuttah') and compare and contrast it with his current hit ('Shake Ur Body'). While his first smash deployed an explosive battery of cut-up Amen breakbeats under the hi-octane toasting, 'Shake Ur Body' relies on a constant, unchanging 2 step rhythm (lifted from Dillinja) to carry the r'n'b-style vocals. Indeed, with some young d 'n' b fans recently heard to remark that they had come across a 'new' type of drum 'n' bass that used 'breakbeats' (as looped by the Renegade Hardware crew in their current rave revival trend), it often seems as if the awesome experiments of the '92 - '94 golden era had never happened at all...

Of course there is little point in begrudging mainstream commercial success to those who deliberately choose to target it. And indeed Shy's past successes are proof of the music's flirtation with the over-ground since Day One (check early breakbeat-hardcore chart crossovers by SL2 and The Prodigy for further evidence). Nonetheless, the current commercial successes of drum 'n' bass have ensured that any deviation form the winning formula of e-z 2 step pop is likely to be viewed by the scene as a threat to the supposed "renaissance" that drum 'n' bass is now experiencing (copyright Mixmag). D 'n' b producers, and the A-list DJs whom they serve, have refined the music into a single easily-identifiable form down through the years. A form which, with a little further dilution, facilitates massive crossover successes just as easily as the once-reviled Trance genre succeeded in achieving (e.g. Kosheen). -------->

Other factors in the dumbing down of Junglistic rhythms deserve consideration. The cut-up breakbeats of Jungle made serious demands of a DJ's skills - skills that all too few possessed - while the changing rhythmic emphases seemed too open-ended - too endlessly challenging and ever-morphing to allow those who had committed themselves to a lifetime career in the industry to settle back in comfort and roll out the industry standard, as so many of their 4-2-the-floor house and techno compatriots were able to.

Drum 'n' bass evolved at a bewildering pace in the mid '90s - clearly too fast even for many of the people involved in making and playing it. However, while its primary strengths (rhythmic invention and the range of moods / atmospheres attainable through sampling from other music) have since largely been purged from the scene, a kickback against the rhythmic fascism of the last 5 years has finally begun to take shape. Labels like Streetbeats, Inperspective, Cadence are bucking the trends to push their music regardless of which camp it appeals to, while long-serving heads like Danny Breaks, Paradox and Polar are beginning to find common ground.

Whether these initiatives have any larger impact remains to be seen. Attempts by Digital, Total Science and Alpha Omega (all prime exponents of the Rave Revival sound that has dominated the music for the last 2 years) to drop anything other than their patented Amen-smashers are now generally ignored by the circuit DJs, while Cert 18's TeeBee - a vocal critic of the stagnancy of the UK drum 'n' bass scene 2 years ago - has since fallen in line with the rules of the game. Meanwhile, former drum 'n' bass visionaries like Photek and Roni Size have moved on to different pastures, and all the while, the explosion of creativity that is underground UK garage continues to suck up the talent that cannot find a voice or an outlet in the tightly-controlled drum 'n' bass fraternity.

Although the future seems less certain than it has done for some years, there can be no doubt that, broadly speaking, the music's creativity has peaked, with most of the innovations now taking place on a strictly technical level. Nonetheless, this mutant form of music has surprised on many occasions before, and thus always holds the potential to do so again. But if it does, one thing at least seems certain (and perhaps even more so in the wake of d 'n' b's recent chart successes) - the change is going to have to come from outside the UK, where the same rules do not necessarily have to apply...

The Upsetter
BURNBABYLON!BURN!

------------------------------------

Feel free to send death threats or big this cat up here:
upsetterthe@hotmail.com
 

AVE

TRIBE Member
nothing goes together better than rum & ass:D

but regarding the article, i agree and disagree. I do not believe the jungle has been 'dumbed down' as he put it. And there are still quite a few producers that sway away from the structured two-step beat. I don't believe that jungle has reached its creative peak, and probably never will.

I DO however agree that the change in the music will come from outside the UK, its already started. Brazil, Germany, N.Z., and N.A. are the future of drum & bass, and styles will always change.

:)

And comparing Shy FX's 'original nuttah' chart success to 'Shake It' is retarded. The tunes were made 8 years apart. How could they not be different in style??? If they were, the whole scene now would be redundant. I know he may have been talking more about the chances he took with nuttah, and played it safe for Shake it, but i still think he was off base with that one.

Good article though
 

Vise

TRIBE Member
Damn Juan... you must either be on the same mailing list as me or you picked that up off DOA. :D

I agree it's an interesting article, but I hardly think it is anything close to subjective or representative of anything but the author's one sided view of things. As much as I enjoy complex breakbeats (and I do), to write off a large portion of the music as being dumbed down just because it doesn't fit his narrow minded opinion of 'what is right and true' is both laughable and a mistake.

To each his own I guess...
 
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AVE

TRIBE Member
^^nope, the article has absolutely nothing to do with re-hashing old ideas

come again:D
 

seeker

TRIBE Member
i was out the other night and thinking things similar to this, albeit with less vitriol towards the new music.

the first time i heard 'jungle' in '97 at a party, i recoiled in horror -- how could anyone dance to this? slowly i got into it and grew to love those cut-up beats.

back to thursday night, i got to hear several different djs mix it up, tagging in and out of the mix every few records. the music was pretty solid all night long, but one dj in particular had the vibe tight every time he stepped up. he was playing old skool. not cheezy shit either.

new dnb is nice in it's own right, but those devastating rhythms are what it's all about for me.
 

evil homer

TRIBE Member
it seems that most interesting beat cut ups these days are not in DnB as much as IDM. Nonetheless, Squarepushers last LP was pretty heavy on the jungle side of things. apparently this venetian snares fellow is on similar vibe too. Amon Tobin was going in the same direction though I haven't heard anything new fro him for a 7year or two. Unfortunately, i find it doesn't have the same dancefloor appeal as classic jungle. Although it would be nice if more dj's explored the croosover potential. I regularly put a squarepusher tune or two into harder DnB sets and the crowd is always appreciative (or stunned)
 
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