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A short history of Drum and Bass

By Ben Gilman

The UK, its 1991, a new style is blowing up the spot all over the country - its name is hardcore. Hardcore was a totally new type of music that was nothing like anything before it - events occurred in huge fields in the middle of nowhere or in warehouses that someone had just broken into. For these few years the rave/hardcore scene flourished and grew. However, who would have guessed that the scene was doomed. Tracks such as Urban Hype's "Trip To Trumpton" and the Prodigy's "Charly" gained chart success and hardcore music lost its underground culture - it became, some might say, "cheesy". Ravers all over the UK watched as the scene split. Born from the hardcore style were two new genres - happy hardcore and jungle/drum and bass. Happy hardcore is those people who are keeping the vibe alive with the manic pianos and chipmunk vocals. This scene still has a huge following all over the UK, Europe and Australia. The music is much more accessible by everyone than drum and bass, it is sub-divided into: gabber techno, 4-beat, breakbeat etc..

Drum and bass is the style characterized by the breakbeat, at first these were sped up hip-hop beats, this sound was pioneered by the likes of DJ Hype and others. Soon DJs and artists were creating more complicated breakbeats and the jungle scene was born. The style passed through phases of ragga - i.e. M-Beat feat. General Levy - Incredible and hip-hop i.e. Ganja Kru - Super Sharp Shooter - before emerging as a style in its own right. The drum and bass scene now in the UK is growing and developing all the time. The house music masses have been served up undiluted drum and bass from Grooverider and LTJ Bukem in the Cream Courtyard, Liverpool, UK. Drum and bass can not only be the music of outdoor events but the refined rollers for UK clubland.

As journalists sub-divide the scene we must remember that it is all drum and bass, from artcore to darkside and from techstep to intelligent. Drum and bass DJs are finally getting the residencies at top clubs and their own slots on UK-wide radio - (check out Fabio + Grooverider 2:00 - 4:00 Friday Night/Saturday Morning - Radio 1 - UK 97-99 FM.) The style seemed to be heading for emergence into general popularity a few years back, with every pop act wanting a fashionable jungle remix on their B-sides and every "trendy" advertising agency putting 160+BPM breakbeat to their TV commercials. However, fortunately a genre so embedded in the underground was destined to remain that way, and it probably saved it. To be widely accepted would have killed the cutting-edge nature of the drum and bass scene and destined it to a commercial onslaught that would have ultimately destroyed the most forward-thinking of music.

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 (R.I.P) + 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 its 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's Incredible 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.

All written by Ben Gilman for Asylum Drum and Bass. Ask before copying please. Asylum Drum And Bass mk.4 1999 - All Rights Reserved

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