How to DnB – A HMS intro for budding junglists

Our upcoming Haarp Media VIP Sessions on Friday 13 April is going to be a special for Drum and Bass (for which we’ll use the abbreviation “dnb” to identify) music.  I’m sure most northern NSW electronic music fans understand the basics of dnb, in that all dnb originates from the UK, and is made up of fast broken beats ranging from 160-180 bpm.  We also know that in the Pacific region, it’s most popular in New Zealand and Melbourne.  However, it hasn’t been at all common in the NNSW area.  When some of you see our flyers on the streets of Lismore and on social media, you might be asking yourselves “wtf are Neurofunk, Jungle/Liquid and Techstep?”

Don’t worry, we have your back and will run you through this. For the purpose of this article, we’ll leave cultural, political and social contexts out of this, and focus on the actual music at hand.  The sub-cultural history is very interesting to pursue though, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.  We also won’t be getting into the raw layout of jungle/dnb music, but it’s worth checking out information in regards to the Amen Break, Reese Bassline and 808 drum sampling.

You might have guessed Neurofunk, Jungle/Liquid and Techstep are what we like to refer as Sub-genres.  Now there’s arguments to and for why we would bother making this affair of identifying  more complicated than it is.  The main reason for having genres is about identifying aesthetics and ease of their catagorisation.

If you’re interested in buying dnb and you get an all-out psychotic harsh noise affair when you were going for the more chilled and intelligent affairs, perhaps you might have an easier time if you identified the difference between crossbreed/tear-out/technoid styles of dnb to liquid, jungle and techstep varieties.  Also if you happen to write electronic music, a lot of artists tend to stick to conventions for the purposes of marketing and selling dance music.  You can of course throw these conventions out the window if you’re aiming for a more individualistic affair; it’s generally up to what you’re trying to achieve as an artist.

There’s more detailed and accurate explanations of these sub-genres at Wikipedia, and this is just a friendly starting block for you, to help you understand as to what kind of dnb you might listening to at our upcoming April sessions at the Gollan Hotel.

 

Jungle/Ragga

Jungle is spoken of in reverent tones for followers of dnb, and fans of the music consider themselves an elite corp known as “junglists”.  You probably see the shirts around a fair bit.  But what is Jungle?

Jungle was the earliest form of dnb, basically.  It stems from dub and reggae roots (as a less commercial variety of dnb known as Ragga), and was at first a raw and “dirty” form of electronica, known as a more rough and ready style.  It emerged as a kind of hybrid of early/mid-90s rave music, focusing more on the heavy end of rapid broken percussion.  A good commercial example of this style of early jungle-rave sound was The Prodigy’s first album released in 1992 – Experience (which is a massive departure from their modern punky image).

Artists like Goldie and LTJ Bukem later developed a cleaner, more commericially successful variety that LTJ dubbed as “intelligent jungle”, which took a lot of jazz samples and influence to create a chilled, loungey form of jungle which utilises rapid percussion in a more subtle way.  Goldie’s 1995 LP Timeless and Roni Size’s 1997 Mercury Award-winning LP New Forms still stand as the most mainstream and classic of all Jungle releases.

Modern jungle has become a relative hive of newer hybrids of influences, which has birthed Breakcore (championed by Venetian Snares and essentially the death metal of jungle), Techstep, Jump-up and Liquid funk (these three will be discussed shortly).  It’s also created hybrids that are close to sub-generic qualification such as Footwork Jungle.

 

Liquid funk

As previously mentioned, this sub-genre has its roots in “intelligent” and more ambient forms of jungle.  A dnb artist Fabio started pushing this sub-genre around the year 2000.  The form was pumped right up by youtube channel-come-label Liquicity, and “bigger” artists such as Concord Dawn, Netsky (who we previously interviewed), High Contrast, Chase and Status, Etherwood and Shapeshifter.  These more accessible artists utilised soulful vocals quite often in their production, occasionally derided by the more hardcore puritans amongst dnb fans for their cheesiness.  To date, it remains arguably the most popular and not arguably the best collectively selling sub-genre in all of dnb.

Labels Hospital Records and Shogun Audio, and artists like Calibre, Break (both aforementioned artists known for Techstep as well), Alix Perez, Spectrasoul and Seba all have produced some good liquid funk for you to check out.

 

Techstep

This sub-genre (coined by Ed Rush and Trace) emerged around 1995 as a progression from jungle, into a more deep and industrial, and cleanly electronic realm of the Ragga/Jungle prototype.  One might argue that Techstep prescribes to more generic or formulaic conventions because of this cleanliness.  It’s also characterised by a deeper, darker sound that can be identified as sounding “sci-fi” and analysts like Peter Shapiro have described it as carrying a feeling of “urban dystopia“.

Other artists and labels to champion this genre earlier on include labels Metalheadz and Renegade Hardware, Ed Rush and Optical, Teebee, Dom and Roland, and Doc Scott and Technical Itch (amongst others).

 

Neurofunk

Known commonly as a harder and darker progression of techstep conceived and coined by music critic Simon Reynolds in 1997, as he had noted a definite shift in how Techstep was being produced.  It’s unknown as to whether or not any actual producers of these sounds agreed with the critic at the time, but time has shown that the sub-genre stuck.  Timbres of distorted basslines and backing sounds from techstep were becoming so dark and heavy that they characterised their own sound, one that was laden in funky backdrop beats to replace breakbeats.  Technically, you could argue that it’s more of a divergent shift in aesthetic from Techstep, but it’s pretty much agreed that it comprises enough of a new sound to be its own sound.

Ed Rush and Optical’s LP Wormhole is agreed on to be one of the earliest prime examples of Neurofunk.  Other  artists to exhibit the Neurofunk sound include Black Sun Empire, Noisia, Spor, Phace and Misanthrop.

 

Half-time/Half-step

Half-time/Half-step is not to be confused as a slower form of this sub-genre – Dubstep – as the latter has certain aesthetics (which utilises space and more of a dubby sound – if it’s original dubstep) and bpm (70/140 bpm) to half-step.  The main thing they have in common is utilisation of half-time signature, which gives the sub-genre a more “hip-hop” feel.  For context, it probably is best to recognise the “sub-genre” as more of a half-time signature for dnb, as the kinds of tracks under this umbrella can vary massively

Perhaps one of the most well-known champions of half-time is Alix Perez, who began a series of collaborations with glitch-hop-style artists like Eprom and Ivy Lab.  Other labels and artists who use half-time signatures include Exit Records, Saturate! Records, Subp Yao, Mr. Carmack and Om Unit.

 

Crossbreed/Tear-out

A more energetic and massively heavier version of Neurofunk with simple signatures, plus grittier basslines and drums akin to heavy/death metal sounds.

Dillinja (early work), DJ Krust, Mampi Swift, Dieselboy, Current Value, The Panacea, Limewax, Counterstrike, Tre Technics and Machine Code are all good examples of this heavy style of drum and bass.

 

Juke/Footwork

We’ve included juke and footwork, because we’ll be utilising this kind of music and its hybrids at our sessions.  Lately there have been a lot of specific footwork/jungle hybrids coming out.  UK producers who represent the jungle aesthetic of juke/footwork include Kid Lib, Crypticz, Machinedrum (actually hailing from America, but definately has a jungle flair in all his production), Om Unit and Sam Binga.

Juke itself came out of the Chicago area as a faster variation of the Ghetto House genre, the latter of which is a ‘hood variation of Chicago House.  Juke nearly always travels at a rapid pace of 160bpm and has a history dating back to the late 80s, and is highlighted by its looped vocals, skipping beats, 2-3-4 bassline and use of older drum machines.

Juke of course travels hand in hand with footwork, the rapid-fhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z3GZnN_VTkire battle dance of chicago which utilises complicated stepping techniques to outshine your opponent.  Footwork as a music was championed by the actual dancers themselves like pioneer RP Boo, who were also Juke producers.  They took the juke formula and synthesised the drums and vocals to compliment footwork stepping for their battles.  Such crews and DJs to do this were the Teklife crew, DJ Rashad (RIP), DJ Spinn, DJ Nehpets.

The genre really started gaining mainstream popularity when Gantman had a remix of Beyonce’s single “Check On It” released on Columbia/Sony records in 2005.  Missy Elliot also showcased Chicago footwork dance culture in her 2006 video “Lose Control”.  British label Planet Mu released the 2010 compilation entitled “Bangs and Works”, which primarily represented Juke tracks of the Footwork vein, and another big UK Bass label Hyperdub released a great deal of Rashad’s work before his passing – hence Juke/Footwork’s massive popularity with UK Bass lovers.

———-

So that’s it for now.

There’s a lot more to dnb than we’ve told you here, and this is only really skimming the surface of dnb.  Other sub-genres you might wish to check include Autonomic, Jump-Up and Drill ‘n Bass.  A more detailed version of defining Jungle/Dnb is here.  This article has been promotion for our upcoming Friday 13 April Haarp Media Sessions monthly, at The Gollan Hotel, Lismore.  It features DJs Shampoo, Balance and Nimrod.  Please click this link to RSVP and hope to see you there!

Written by Kristian Hatton

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