Drum ‘n’ Bass

by george palladev

If we take a look back in time and imagine that the musical scene never split, we will realize that by the end of the second millennium jungle would cease to exist as a style and would only live in the memories of the musicians and fans. Jungle has started to feel outdated during the golden age of ragga jungle, virtually suffocating in jump-up and hardstep, its last subgenres. Built upon self-sampling, jungle managed to quickly isolate itself from other genres. Jungle just was out of luck: despite its expressive musical predecessors, it was ruined by the Jamaican virus.

  1. jungle
  2. ragga jungle
  3. hardstep
  4. jump-up

The union aimed at reducing ragga jungle’s influence on the wide audience lost the war against stereotypes—jungle and ragga were inseparable in listeners’ minds and it was next to impossible to promote any new ideas under this old name. Even in 1994 when the ragga epidemic was at its wake, some musicians, not willing to follow the trendy movement and reluctant to label their music with the popularized term jungle, used the fresh term—drum’n’bass. Fabio: “The whole tag jungle took on a real sinister feeling. It just got so smashed in the press. We were like, If we’re going to carry on we’re gonna have to change the name, because we’re getting slaughtered here.”

Origin Unknown:
Ant Miles, Andy C

Origin Unknown — Valley of the shadows 1993

Written by Andrew Clarke, Ant Miles
From The touch / Valley of the shadows single, RAM Records

Andy C — Cool down 1994

Written by Andrew Clarke
From Cool down single, RAM Records

  1. darkcore

It is held that the first track that can be classified as drum’n’bass as it is understood now was the darkcore anthem recorded in 1993, Valley of the shadows although it is not quite fair to call it drum’n’bass since the genre had not yet emerged and even jungle was called hardcore at that time. Ant Miles, half of the Origin Unknown duo shares his memories: “At the time, hardcore music was changing; it was splitting in two direction,” remembers Ant. “One in a happy hardcore way, and the other in a jungle flavour. I had done my time with 4/4 bass drums, so me and Andy went for a more tribal, jungle sound with Long dark tunnel. It‘s a record that other people have told me is an anthem. I‘ve only been raving a few times in my career because I‘m more hooked on the computer than going out, but, essentially, I‘d like to think that it fed or assisted in the birth in d&b. I‘m not saying in any way that this tune was the be all and end all; but I can die knowing that I created something with Andy taht did exactly what it said on the tin, in every sense of the world.” Over 80 000 copies of the single have been sold since it was recorded, and it still sells.

The term drum’n’bass is not as new as you may think. In the end of the 1980s DJs from several British pirate radio stations used this word to describe some old funk and soul records. DJ Trevor Nelson called funk records with a very rough and deep sound drum’n’bass at that time. Legend has it that renowned radio station Kiss FM that was pirate at that time had a jingle saying “Drum’n’bass style on Kiss FM”. That’s what the drum’n’bass of the end of the 80s sounded like.

Drummer in the jungle

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Rough, but deep

Rough, but deep

The name was picked up and in 1994 the British label Breakdown, well known for its forward-looking releases since the times of UK hardcore’s heyday, released a series of compilations “Drum’n’bass selection”. Actually, they didn’t have much to do with drum’n’bass—hardly one fourth part of the tracks (sometimes even less) were not ragga-jungle or jungle. Other than that, the compilation mostly jungle-related tracks. (From the second issue the cover features the title 20 jungle anthems.) Musical lovers believe that this was the moment when the whole confusion with the terms started. Disputes on what the distinctions between jungle and drum’n’bass are continue up to the present day.

The USA has found the perfect solution to this problem: they decided to equate jungle to drum’n’bass and now use it as a single term: Jungle Drum’n’Bass or JDB.

Some debaters and musicians appreciated this conciliatory gesture, yet this uniting term never got widely used or well-known outside of North America. Even in the US it was not that popular. However, there certainly are distinctions between jungle and drum’n’bass. They are not drastic, yet they make drum’n’bass what it is, at the same time being a stumbling point in music discussions. Initially, when the ex-creators of jungle were moving their efforts to another area, the idea was to preserve the music and keep developing it under a different a name, without ragga-toasting. The old amen sound (noisy and thick, with rich drum parts) co-existed with the two-step sound. The name speaks for itself—instead those thick drum parts this style implied only two drum strokes: stroke—pause—stroke—pause. Alex Reece is considered a pioneer of the movement, having released minimalistic jazzstep track Pulp fiction in 1995. Two-step felt like a long awaited refreshment and virtually all of the musicians from Goldie’s label used it in the their releases of that period.

Alex Reece — Pulp fiction 1995

Written by Alex Reece
From Pulp fiction / Chill pill single, Metalheadz

Alex Reece

JMJ & Flytronix — Into the deep 1996

Written by Jayson Hurren, Daniel Demierree
From Into the deep / Delusions single, Moving Shadow

In the middle of 1995 Trevor Dann, programme director at Radio 1 decided to give drum’n’bass a chance and some air time making the young listeners of the UK’s prime radio station happy as ever. Drum’n’bass music was aired on Thursdays for one or one and a half hours (the duration was different every time). One in the Jungle was a live radio show where an MC announced tracks and a DJ played them. (The DJs got to invite MCs they wanted to work with.) 7 pilots were recorded over the summer and starting from the spring of 1996 up until the end of 1997 the live show was aired 87 times. True junglists couldn’t believe their ears—until that moment they only had a chance to hear their favorite music on pirate radio stations, definitely not on Radio 1.

Goldie & MC GQ @ One in the Jungle 1995

Live 27.07.1995

This was not the only present the main radio station of the country had given its listeners: in January 1998 Fabio and Grooverider, jungle’s godfathers and the developers of drum’n’bass left Kiss FM and were invited to the UK’s prime radio station as hosts of their own 2 hour long show which was aired until 2012. Drum’n’bass show with Fabio and Grooverider was aired overnight Friday into Saturday morning and overnight Saturday into Sunday morning.

The event that made 1995 was the release of Goldie’s epic album, Timeless. Any discussion of drum’n’bass hardly ever goes without a reference to this record. Only a year ago Goldie teased the audience with a sampler for his debut record that featured fascinating 21 minute long symphony that gave the album its title. Timeless is a one of a kind drum’n’bass album that takes the listener on a journey through forests, seas and oceans. This is the first example of practicing the breakbeat science, a process where the rhythm is so complex that the producer has to piece it together like a mosaic. “Technically, Timeless is like a Rolex”, Goldie says. “Beautiful surface, but the mechanism is a mindfuck. The loops, they’ve been sculpted, they’re in 4D.” And despite the fact that it was 4hero who recorded the first JDB album (their music was called intelligent after they released Parallel Universe album in 1994 :-), Goldie took drum’n’bass on a whole new level, getting to the core of it and setting new standards for other musicians. He experimented with it and combined delicate and rough elements of the style, balancing on edge at the risk of delving too deeply into one of these sides. Take Diane Charlemagne’s jazz vocals—definitely not the most obvious component to use in a drum’n’bass track.


Goldie — Timeless 1994

Written by Clifford Price, Rob Playford, Diane Charlemagne
Vocal Diane Charlemagne
From Timeless (1995) album, FFRR

Photek — Seven samurai 1995

Written by Rupert Parkes
From Seven samurai / Complex single, Photek

  1. jump-up
  2. artcore
  3. jazzstep

It is 1996 and jump-up, jungle’s subgenre is gaining momentum in clubs. The word jungle is forbidden (they say that Goldie punched the journalists who classified his album as jungle in the face); Bukem is continuing to mentor new musical elite as well as making music and attracting more talents to Good Looking Records; Fabio is promoting his own label, Creative Source, and invents a new name for jazz’n’bass (formerly called jazzy jungle) tagging it ‘jazzstep.‘ Techstep subgenre is rising, being a breath of fresh air for many producers. The second half of the 1990s, especially the very end, saw the second coming of darkside with the new, dark and hard sounding subgenres evolving from drum’n’bass. Techstep is known for its two-step rhythm pattern which meant that repetitious loops (amen loops—the symbol of jungle) had to be abandoned and musicians had to compose drum patterns themselves. It didn’t matter whether a musician recorded live drums or cut them out from old funk or soul records. It was called breakbeat science. Later it made its way into neurofunk (progressive version of techstep), peaking in drumfunk—a subgenre characterized by complicated drum patterns being the main focus of the tracks.

  1. techstep

(Nico Sykes, the owner of the main techstep label No U Turn, told that it was Ed Rush who should be praised for the creation of techstep. One day he was in the studio doing a lot of contemplating when he suddenly came up with the idea of dropping ragga samples and stated that the sound should get more ‘technical‘.)


Dillinja — Deep deadly subs (VIP) 1996

Written by Karl Francis
From Jah VIP rollers remmix / Deadly deep subs remix split single, Razors Edge

Ed Rush & Fierce — Locust 1997

Written by Ben Settle, Daniel Burke, Nico Sykes
From Prototype years compilation, Prototype

Music periodicals often emphasize that Roni Size, a musician from Bristol and the leader of Reprazent, a group of 8 fellow musicians, received a Mercury Prize award in 1997. His album New Forms won the best album competing with such renowned acts as Chemical Brothers, Spice Girls, Prodigy, Primal Scream, Radiohead and others. Although there is no doubt that the album is good, it still sounds somewhat uneventful and at times lacks variety (unlike Adam F’ Colours) and it is surprising that critics forget to mention Two Pages by 4hero which was among the Mercury Awards nominees in 1998. Roni Size’s renowned use of double-bass definitely was among the reasons that made the jury choose New Forms as a winner, yet the intention to acclaim the drum’n’bass culture and make sure it receives public recognition was just as important. Loyal drum’n’bass fans were happy and felt proud like a small island nation finally recognized as an independent country. Although some magazines wondered where the winners had disappeared after receiving the award, the drum’n’bass culture started to make its way into other styles, influencing music, featured in films and commercials.

Adam F — Jaxx 1997

Written by Adam Fenton
From Colours album, Positiva

Grooverider — On the double 1998

Written by Raymond Bingham, Matt Quinn
From Mysteries of funk album, Higher Ground


1998 saw at least two events that were big for drum’n’bass. First, Grooverider released his first solo album and later the same year Goldie’s second album came out, as epic as the first one. Grooverider was making the music doing what he was supposed to do yet it was hard to believe that after ten years of performing he finally released a debut album. He named it Mysteries of funk. The title perfectly reflected the way the musical trends were heading for the last few years of the second millennium and captured the essence of the music. It’s safe to say that Grooverider continued what Roni Size started using his own unique approach skillfully and artistically combining live and electronic instruments, staying loyal to the dark side. (Matt Quinn, aka Optical, worked at Grooverider’s studio as a sound producer in the afternoon and spent nights in a small studio he shared with Ed Rush letting off steam in the process of making his iconic neurofunk album Wormhole.)

Crazy about music, Goldie fulfilled his long time ambition and released Mother, a 60 minute long piece that came out as an even more powerful revelation than all his previous works. Mother features an orchestra of 30 string instruments where classical and contemporary music merge to create a great, glorious drum’n’bass piece, no exaggeration. “Do you think I can sum up everything that me and my mum went through in five minutes? I can‘t do that. All I can do is start and finish—however long it takes. I go through all the pain in that one song, and it takes that long to get it off my chest. It‘s worth sitting down for an hour and hearing all we’ve gone through, and I think people will follow me,” Goldie tells. “It killed me, that track. Afterwards I just fell to pieces, I was crying for two days. It tapped into things I never thought I was capable of doing.”

Goldie — Mother 1998

Written by Clifford Price, John Altman, Matt Quinn
Vocal Diane Charlemagne, Clifford Price
From Saturnz return album, FFRR

A shape—something between a mask, a helmet and a skull is staring sternly from the single’s cover. It is Metalheadz label’s logotype and it was created in the early 1990s overnight by Goldie and his housemate, an artist. The logo influenced the industry and now any label using headphones and skulls in their branding seems to be referring to Goldie’s concept, even without realizing it. Saturn’s return is an astrological phenomenon: every 29 and a half years Saturn returns to the same place in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person’s birth.

The Eve of the new millennium saw drum’n’bass on the verge of a crisis provoked by unreasonable over-reliance on one and only concept. Firstly, newly-created techstep took its place in the spotlight, secondly, neurofunk appeared and won a few hearts and then the dark-oriented music reached its peak in darkstep. People no longer believed drum’n’bass to be versatile, they perceived as a consolidated formation aimed at making dark-sounding music. On top of all this there was UK garage, the fresh, progressive-sounding competitor that stole the scene from drum’n’bass. The genre evolved from American garage (garage house) when the DJs in England played music from across the Atlantic at faster speed to make them more appealing to the audience that was used to jungle. The genre has a second name—speed garage.

  1. speed garage

Speed Garage
for example

Aphrodite — Cross channel 1999

Written by Gavin King
From Aphrodite album, V2 Records

Kosheen — (Slip & Side) Suicide 2001

Written by Darren Beale, Mark Morrison, Sian Evans
Vocal Sian Evans
From (Slip & Side) Suicide single, Moksha Recordings

Sian Evans

(A little off topic. Aphrodite—is the king of deep-sounding British bass lines. He made a lot of hits in his time. One of them was Cross channel with its powerful beginning bringing a black pebble beach to mind as well as sharp metallic cries of flying sea gulls and Aphrodite arising from the ocean on a gloomy afternoon. Kosheen later reinvented this dark Bristol feel and created one of drum’n’bass anthems although their track is often classified is jungle.)

“Dark had to happen—it cleared the scene of people who came in and spoiled our parties,” concludes DJ SS. “We came from hardcore, which went dark to clear the scene. The same has happened to drum’n’bass. Dark wasn't a bad thing, but the people who jumped on it were. There was this really bad time over the last couple of years when drum’n‘bass lost its originality.” Just like four years ago, in 1994, the style reached the point of isolation and self-sampling.


Nevertheless, drum’n’bass survived, thanks to the people who loved the style and were united by the same idea. They continued making their music and sharing their light and believed that it was possible to live at peace with all other styles. In 1998 Fabio started to develop liquid funk. 2000 saw his release of the compilation of the same name. This was his way of bringing back the long-lost roots of drum’n’bass or stating the kinship, to be more specific. Liquid established itself and for a few years it was the most flourishing of alldrum’n’bass-inspired movements.

D. Kay & Epsilon — Barcelona 2003

Written by David Kulenkampff, Dragoljub Drobnjakovic
From Barcelona single, BC Authorised

Kelis — Trick me (Artificial Intelligence remix) 2004

Written by Kelis Rogers, Dallas Austin
Vocal Kelis Rogers
Remixed by Zula Warner, Glenn Herweijer
From Trick me single, Virgin

DJ Marky, Makoto & A Sides — Tonight 2007

Written by Marco Silva, Makoto Shimizu, Jason Cambridge
From The masterplan. Part 2 compilation, Innerground Records

  1. jump-up

With onset of the new millennium, the drum’n’bass scene went through the phase of boisterous expansion in terms of its geography: various musicians outside Britain started to make drum’n’bass-related music. Europe, New Zealand, Brazil, US—you name it. New subgenres evolved, old forgotten ones were revived. Andy C and Shimon released Body rock in 2001 that brought the fun back to drum’n’bass and made those not used to experiments experience cognitive dissonance.

The question of where that difference between jungle and drum’n’bass is has not been answered yet. Drum’n’bass is jungle’s successor and its rhythm pattern and sound is more complex than those of jungle. Jungle was built upon self sampling, it was created by speeding up and looping no more than 5 or 6 drum breaks cut out from old funky tracks (The Winstons — Amen, brother; Lyn Collins — Think; James Brown — Funky drummer; The Commodores — The assembly line; James Brown — Tighten up and Soul pride). Amen break has always been the cornerstone of jungle while drum’n’bass producers attempted to compose their own drum patterns for several years. (One of a few early examples of separation is Goldie’s album Timeless that shows a different sound. It is definitely not a jungle album.) Techstep appeared as the result of these attempts and drew a bold line between jungle anddrum’n’bass. Amen break is rarely used in drum’n’bass—musicians silently agreed to leave it behind, unwilling to revive the complicated time when ragga was taking over.

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Jungle & Drum‘n‘Bass elements

Jungle & Drum‘n‘Bass elements

Self-sampling is not uncommon for drum’n’bass, too. It follows the same pattern as jungle: someone makes a new drum pattern that becomes recognized immediately finding its way into other musicians’ work. However, drum’n’bass musicians never forgot where they came from and various subgenres that evolved from the genre prove it. Jungle never had a chance to develop its musical heritage. Since the beginning of the 2000s when jungle was revived and the new school sound infused with recently developed musical features began to gain momentum the comments that stated that jungle and drum’n’bass is the same thing have sounded simply ridiculous.

Seba & Alaska

Seba — Distance 2010

Written by Sebastian Ahrenberg
From Pressure point / Distance single, Metalheadz Platinum

Alaska — Kodiak 2010

Written by Dev Pandya
From The mesozoic era album, Arctic Music

The situation is a very interesting one: jungle and drum’n’bass have certain similarities in their sound; the first one is the predecessor of the second one yet through it all drum’n’bass cannot be considered jungle’s subgenre. It is an independent genre of electronic music that have its own life and its own ways of developing. Yet, when people try to classify tracks of one of these genres they sometimes label them as Jungle / Drum’n’bass. It is almost like the first part of the name hints on the first phase of the evolution of the genre and the second part refers to what came to replace jungle. This is that stumbling point that still confuses jungle and drum’n’bass fans forever debating on the similarities and differences.


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