Artcore

by george palladev

It happened in 1991 when jungle was not clearly identified as a genre yet and DJsí experiments made it evolve and develop; when the word jungle itself was not used to refer to a genre but the concept was about to emerge; when Danny Williamson better known as LTJ Bukem played Demonís theme during his sets which in fact was the first jungle track that had a consistent ambient feel to it—atmospheric sound, in other words. Bukem said in an interview that Demonís theme was actually written in 1990, a year after the DJs started to mash breakbeat, house, reggae, techno, dub and other genres and subgenres. Soon after he released a vinyl record on the newly created Good Looking Records label which sported a logo of a cartoon-like man. The record featured two tracks that turned out to be a great influence on the drumíníbass culture of the time and promoted the atmospheric sound among wider audiences. However, we wonít say another word about drumíníbass just yet.

  1. jungle
  2. detroit techno

LTJ Bukem

LTJ Bukem — Demonís theme 1991

Written by Danny Williamson
From Demonís theme / A Ůouple of beats single, Good Looking Records

LTJ Bukem — Music 1993

Written by Danny Williamson
From Music / Enchanted single, Good Looking Records

Another year later, in 1992, Bukemís label released more records that featured his own tracks along with the music from other producers. The records were all tending towards the atmospheric ambient sound. Atlantis and Music became the classics of the atmospheric jungle music which was called so due to the absence of any other name. Lead melody infused with various samples, relentless up-tempo rhythm and somewhat eclectic sound are the features that best characterize Bukemís early work.

In 1992 Clifford Price (aka Goldie) and Rob Playford united as a duo, chose the name Metalheads and released a record which set the tone for the industry if not was actually ahead of its time. Terminator EP hits with its crazy energy and somewhat savage sound, brutal force verging on aestheticism. Heavily syncopated metal drum beats, Diane Charlamagneís hypnotic vocals in Kemistry—all these factors will make the four-track EP an absolute hit of the Grooverider parties. A year Angel was released where Goldie, still using the name of Metalheads, now single-handedly continued to develop his own vision of music: the melodious opening of the track is enhanced with the sampled seagullsí cries while Diane Charlamagneís vocals are so outstanding that the chorus sounds as if her voice was reversed. And there is this rough ragged bassline that does not give the listener a break. Angel made Goldie famous outside the circle of drumíníbass fans and became a classic of ambient jungle.

Metalheads — Angel 1992

Written by Clifford Price
Vocal Diane Charlamagne
From Angel single, Synthetic

Omni Trio — Renegade snares 1993

Written by Robert Haigh
From Vol. 3: Renegade snares single, Moving Shadow

Omni Trio

1994 and the middle of the Ď90s was the time when jungle and the ambient jungle reached their peak popularity. Connoisseurs say that ambient jungle is a simple combination of ambient and jungle music and if we dispense with the drum component of jungle and still get a solid ambient piece without any awkward pauses then this piece can be identified as 100 percent ambient jungle. There is a ring of truth to this statement since we can think of an entire list of tracks that have a long melodious opening and an equally long melodious ending. In 1995 the PFM duo presented their second record on the Good Looking label with its first track quickly becoming a classic of intelligent.

PFM — The western 1995

Written by Mike Bolton, Jamie Saker
From The Western / Hypnotizing single, Good Looking Records

Goldie — Inner city life 1994

Written by Clifford Price, Rob Playford, Diane Charlemagne
Vocal Diane Charlemagne
From Timeless (The full canvas) single, FFRR

Diane Charlemagne

We have introduced the term intelligent for a reason. It was exactly 1994 when Goldie first presented his 21 minute long symphonic drumíníbass track named Timeless as well as the single Inner City Life and the hungry journalists didnít know how to refer to this mix of a complex rhythm pattern, indefinite atmosphere, reversed vocals and a whole range of advanced unheard-of effects. While the structure of ambient jungle was quite simple, they hesitated to classify this track as atmospheric since it showcased a lot more than just spacey synths. Feeling tired of the dark and rough rhythm patterns the press called this new, melodious direction intelligent drumíníbass. In the same year, 1994, the British duo 4hero released Parallel Universe—a splendid album infused with soft, warm jazzy melodies. In most of the tracks the drums do not offend the ear, they are slightly muffled and do not sound sharp at all. Soft, delicate melodies sound refreshing and soothing.

4hero — Universal love 1994

Written by Dennis McFarlane, Marc Clair
Vocal Carol Crosby
From Parallel universe album, Reinforced Records

Seba

Seba & Lotek — So long 1996

Written by Sebastian Ahrenberg, Staffan Soderman
From Logical Progression compilation, Looking Good Records

Doc Scott — Tokyo dawn 1996

Written by Scott McIlroy
From Tokyo dawn single, Looking Good Records

During 1994 and 1995 LTJ Bukem gathered a crew of musicians who made mellow jazzy atmospheric tracks that fit the concept of the Good Looking label. The Looking Good label appeared at the same time and specialized in more experimental drumíníbass. People called it spacey: it featured samples from sci-fi movies, sharp hats, metal drums and, basically was all about space, whether it seemed warm or cold to a musician. Aquarius (aka Photek), Doc Scott, Seba, PHD, Big Bud, Moonchild, Artemis, Blame, Tayla, Nookie were among the residents of Bukemís label during the golden age of intelligent. The beginning of 1996 saw the release of a legendary compilation Logical Progression named after Bukemís first track. Released in collaboration with FFRR label, it took this musical style and Danny Williamson himself on a new level of popularity that implied recognition among wider audiences and the end to the time of rejection (some say that Bukemís early atmospheric work was not regarded seriously) as well as huge interest from the press.

However, the in-crowd of drumíníbass was not impressed by the labels the journalists were giving out and they tried to keep their distance from the press and critics so that their work remained intact. This is especially true in respect to the period when jungle was transforming into drumíníbass. Bukem was annoyed when some called the music of his label intelligent implying that it was made by intelligent producers and aimed at intelligent listeners. ďLike other forms of drum and bass are not intelligent,Ē he used to say grumpily. Danny never used one specific term to describe his music. When he spoke of his tracks he mentioned the jazzy features of the music, smooth rhythm patterns, increased publicís attention to their musical structure and the way his style peacefully co-existed with the darker styles of other labels. It was often enough to say ĎGood Looking soundí to make sure everyone understood what he was talking about.

LTJ Bukem — Horizon 1995

Written by Danny Williamson
From Horizon / Rainfall single, Good Looking Records

Aquarius

Aquarius & Tayla — Soul searching 1995

Written by Rupert Parkes, Russel Taylor
From Bringing me down / Soul searching single, Good Looking Records

Saint Etienne — The sea (PFM remix) 1996

Written by Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs
Vocal Sarah Cracknell
Remixed by Mike Bolton
From Artcore 3: Expressions in Drum & Bass (1997) compilation, React

For a long time Good Looking label with its affiliates was the biggest label among the few ones that released music of such kind. It was a major player in the industry and a true home for the producers whose work was in tune with the labelís philosophy. Yet when the situation started to change and there appeared more intelligent musicians who released their music on other labels, the term of artcore was invented in order to refer to the sophisticated features of the style. In 1995 a British label named React released the first volume of the Artcore compilation. The cover featured detailed characteristics of a newly proclaimed subgenre: ďArtcore: jungle with fusions of various styles: from ambient to jazz. Artcore: rhythmic, hypnotic, melodic, deep, spacey. Artcore: breakbeats used more as another sound or instrument, to complement the surrounding sounds. Appreciate artcore on different levels: relax to the spacious, abstract, ambient, surround sounds and allow them to drift through your subconscious at the same time focus on the jungle rhythms in the forefront for direct, immediate, stimulation.Ē

The second record which was released the following year described the subgenre shortly yet very precisely: ďA rich collage of drum and bass masterpieces whole original use of technique and style has given artcore itís meaning as a modern art form. Constantly redefining itself, the deep and rhythmic drum and bass vibe naturally mutates the traditional genres of dub, jazz, soul, techno and ambient.Ē

MC Conrad — Nadiresonance (PHD remix) 2001

Written by Conrad Thompson, Chris Campbell, Mikis Michaelides, Ranvir Verma
Remixed by Patrick Henry
From Logical Progression Level 4 compilation, Good Looking Records

Chameleon — Just close your eyes & listen 1995

Written by Tom Middleton, Mark Pritchard
Vocal Kirsty Hawkshaw
From Links single, Good Looking Records

DJ Crystl — Meditation 1993

Written by Daniel Chapman
From Meditation / Warp drive single, Dee Jay Recordings

The first issue of Artcore magazine. February 1986

Artcore is not a new word. It was used by hardcore punks in the Ď80s when they referred to their conceptual performances, exhibitions and tricks. 1986 saw the foundation of the Artcore magazine which it still issued annually. It focuses on hardcore bands, labels, freshmen and veterans of the music industry. The magazine puts an emphasis on the graphic design of the punk-rock movement and presents the matter in a way which was relevant during the hardcoreís popularity of the Ď80s. Which is actually very cool.

Artcore as a hardcore subgenre, for example

In 1993 Patick van Kerckhoven, a Dutch man with a shaved head who had been a DJ for about 10 years at the time, founded his own record label named Ruffneck Records where he released his own music as well records made by other musicians. Van Kerckhoven used a musical style that he invented as a basis for his work. He named the style artcore and it was in fact a small subgenre of hardcore characterized by a more melodic sound which was achieved due to extensive use of the Roland Juno synth. It still sounded a lot like hammering, whether you called it artcore or not. In 1997 the hardcore movement declined, Ruffneck Records went bankrupt and artcore went deeply underground.

The terms of darkcore that used to be a subgenre of jungle before transforming into drumíníbass and artcore both lexically take their origin in the hardcore movement. These terms both refer to the sound yet darkcore was later renamed into doomcore while the term of artcore stayed. It is worth mentioning that there is artcore and there is Ďardcore which is a vernacular form of the word hardcore and the two should not be confused.

Alaska & Seba — Back from eternity 2006

Written by Dev Pandya, Sebastian Ahrenberg
From Perpetual / Back from eternity single, Artic Music

Requiem — Synaesthesis 2009

Written by Requiem
From The age of outsiders. Volume 3 compilation, Outsider

Bob James
Westchester lady
1976

Back to the topic, I would like to show an excellent example of artcore which is a fusion of different styles that back in the day gave birth to jungle. In 1995 Adam F whose records had been released in a rather limited amount released a demo of Circles on an acetate disk that did not really impress the DJs since it lacked the key element that later made it famous—the main sample taken from a Bob Jamesís funk track. ďThe Bob James sample was probably the last thing to be added to this, actually. When I was making this I was driving around in my car and playing it back. Then I randomly switched the music to a Bob James CD and that sample came on. I was like, ĎMy God! This is so going to work.í So I rushed back upstairs and then re-worked the whole track.Ē Circles became the most popular drumíníbass track of that time and gave artcore that was running out of steam due to the frequent use of hardly varying atmospheric twists a chance for revival.

The next single Aromatherapy sounded like a breath of fresh air taken in the misty alleys of a china-town full of dangling paper lanterns. When Bukem heard the track, he offered a record deal to Adam who was already signed to another label. Adamís multi-style singles were a highlight of Metalheadz Nights that were held on Sundays in a small club called Blue Note. ďThis was the kind of sound you'd get at Fabio and Bukemís night [Speed]. I was going to them a lot. It was the flipside of the Blue Note. It was all about those long intros and tracks—this is over seven minutes. Some went for nine! Now you might play 40 tracks in a set. Back then youíd play 12. They were strong enough to take you through a journey. Thatís what Aromatherapy was about. It also has a traditional Ďthiní drumbreak over the top. Back then, in that Good Looking world, it was all about that and the heavy 808, rolling with the bass.Ē His next single was called F-Jam and it was one of the very first tracks that gave the listener a taste of what was going to be later called jazzstep. F-Jam is built on the live sound of the instruments: you can hear live trumpet, guitar, percussion, keyboard instruments and flute. MC Conrad, a resident of Good Looking Records and Bukemís long standing performance partner did a voice part for the vocal version of the track. Adam F took his time to work on a new album and presented it in 1997. Colours might just be the best example of what you can get when fusing jungleís components: there is funk, soul, jazz tunes, a touch of ethnic music, breakbeat and surely drumíníbass (dark, though).

  1. jazzstep

Adam F — Circles 1995

Written by Adam Fenton
From Colours album, Positiva

Adam F

Adam F — Aromatherapy 1996

Written by Adam Fenton
From Colours album, Positiva

Future Bound — The ephemeris 1997

Written by Alan Ryan, Brendan Collins, John Collinson, Paul Maker
From The ephemeris single, Timeless Recordings

The expression intelligent drumíníbass (or intelligent jungle) sounds nice yet very vague. While jungle evolved into drumíníbass and continued to develop the term intelligent gradually became used when referring to such independent subgenres as jazzstep, liquid funk and sambas, without giving any thought about the distinctions between these styles and artcore. Like I said before, artcore is versatile, yet it has its clear lines. Artcore canít be too jazzy, filled completely with live or synthetic instruments that are typical of classic jazz bands. Voice parts that serve as a base for soulful liquid funk are not very common for artcore. If you hear Latin American rhythm patterns, the right term for the style will be sambass. Being the first style representing the melodic side of jungle and drumíníbass, artcore is the predecessor of all of the above mentioned styles; they developed what artcore started and continued to evolve each in its own direction.

Intelligent is more of a general name for anything that represents the melodic or, as they say, lighter side of drumíníbass and is convenient when there is a need to generalize.

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