Drum and Bass, often known as Jungle, is an amazingly varied genre of music that has its roots in techno. It emerged out of the rave scene around 1990 as DJs sped up techno breakbeats to around 180 bpm. The complex rhythms were normally combined only with heavy bass sounds and only a few samples producing a very hardcore sound. From here though reggae vocals and Caribbean sounds were added to the tracks which some people thought was the reason for it's title, jungle. Signifying a more black flavour to the music. Drum and bass has been the vehicle for some of the most innovative music of the last decade and I hope it can continue to be so.
As far as the Drum and Bass vs. Jungle debate goes I think that phaze3000 and silentdan correctly identify the reason for the name change but I also think that frosty is correct to point out that drum and bass and jungle are not necessarily the same considering the evolution that has taken place within the genre over the past eight years. Jungle is the classic drum and bass sound, reggae influence sped up breakbeats whereas drum and bass has come to represent much more. It is also worth noting that many drum and bass artists and producers still refer to themselves as junglists and do not really make a distinction between the two.
In London music labels, like Reinforced, sprung up but the jungle music was still not being played separately from other techno. However within a year the style had definitely come into its own but the genre was still fractured and it took a couple of excellent records to show producers where the music should be heading. Goldie's "Terminator" and a white label known as Tic Tac Toe. They signalled the new direction that jungle was to take and the record earned Goldie a record deal with London Records in 1993, signed by A&R man Pete Tong who only two years before had dismissed the genre as "dead".
From here drum and bass went from strength to strength. LTJ Bukem pioneered atmospheric drum and bass, he focussed on the overall effect of the track rather than individual beats of samples. Rupert Parkes under the Photek name began to make excellent experimental records. In 1994 4Hero, Marc Mac and Dego, released their double album Parallel Universe. The album took the drum and bass world by storm. 4Hero came from a rave and techno background and the influence of techno music is clear throughout the album. For the first time elements of jazz where evident in the music and new production techniques that are still used today show what an important album for the genre Parallel Universe was.
Since around 1990 a group of artists had been growing in Bristol. It was here that the UK trip hop scene was to develop out of and also came some of the most influential drum and bass records ever. Around 1994 these artists began to emerge from the South West hidey-hole and one of them, Roni Size began to release the records and EPs that would make up New Forms. His record label, Full Cycle, formed in 1993, had artists like DJ Die and DJ Krust and his Reprazent crew are still one of the most active and influential drum and bass outfits around.
While Roni Size was emerging a the original dark sounds of drum and bass were being reformed by the likes of Ed Rush and DJ Trace into Techstep. Techstep remains a big subset of drum and bass and is very popular in clubs.
By 1997 many people though drum and bass had died, much like the ailing rave scene. However something so amazing was about to happen that it would not only change drum and bass musically but force people to re-evaluate their perception of it and its strength as a genre. Roni Size released his first album, New Forms. It is not possible to go into depth about the new ideas that the album brought to the scene but it featured more vocals, live instruments, jazz sounds, hip hop and a collection of some of the greatest beats you'll ever hear. The album won the Mercury music prize for best album and brought drum and bass to a whole new audience.
Only a year later came a very different but equally innovative album from the London duo 4Hero. The second offering, a double LP entitled Two Pages, was a jazzy soulful record that yet again redefined the boundaries of drum and bass. Completely different from anything that had come before but yet still uniquely drum and bass.
The scene continued to build on the success of these two breakthrough records and the new mainstream audience that it had found. The club sound developed with artist like Ed Rush leading the way, in 1999 Breakbeat Era, a collaboration between Roni Size and DJ Die Roni Size, released Ultra Obscene which had even more success making drum and bass available to the mainstream. In 2000 Roni Size released his second LP, In the Mode, with a couple of singles impacting the UK top twenty.
Following those releases however the drum and bass scene has once again become introverted and is looking in serious danger of being eclipsed by UK Garage
. Everywhere you turn you hear people bemoan the depressingly dark and sinister direction that drum and bass has begun to head in and the thumping techstep beats backed by speed MCs are certainly not to everyone's taste. What drum and bass needs is another revitalising album. The recent success of the Shy FX
single Shake ur Body featuring T. Power and Di, has shown that drum and bass will certainly not go down without a fight and I hope that it can hang on to be rescued.
Despite its huge success all over the world very few non-UK artists have been able to make good drum and bass music without simply copying UK records. In both the US and Japan drum and bass has a big following but only recently in the US has an individual drum and bass scene begun to emerge. Dieselboy has proved that there is life outside the UK drum and bass scene and perhaps the next injection of life for drum and bass will come from the shock of being outclassed by foreign artists.
All in all I love listening to drum and bass because of its variation, the numerous styles it encompasses and most of all because like I love a good beat. Listening the beat drop in Omni Trio's nu birth of cool or being hit with the rhythm in Breatbeat Era's Life is my Friend has no musical equal. I hope that drum and bass can continue to innovate and excite and above all keep on producing the astounding beats that make it a unique musical genre.
Some Key Artists
Some Key Albums