Drum and Bass (A Music as a System Companion)

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This article is intended as a companion piece to W.’s most recent Music as a System article, and should be read as a supplementary exploration of concepts introduced therein.

In the previous Music as a System article, our esteemed ex-prez-in-res W. brought to your attention a small sample of music called “The Amen Break.” His discussion dealt primarily on its profound influence within heavy metal music, but this 6-second audio clip is more often known for spawning an entire subgenre of electronic music, which in turn has produced dubstep, a genre of music that has become incredibly popular.

If you’re interested in reading a history of the development of D&B, it can be found here, and I recommend doing so. However, my intentions in this article are not to give a history lesson, but rather to shed some light on the multi-faceted genre of music that is Drum & Bass.

D&B (initially known as “Jungle”) first emerged in the underground UK rave culture in the early 1990’s, heavily dependent on the layering of samples and the skill of disk jockeys. Before the digital age had taken over and the manipulation of low frequency oscillators became a staple of the D&B genre, live mixing and sampling reigned supreme, and few producers were as influential in this format as the Jungle pioneer Goldie, with his “time-stretching” techniques:

The genre quickly gained popularity in the underground, and a plethora of producers rose to prominence, generating a great number of D&B records (that, if you’re anywhere near a decent record store, you can probably still find). The Amen Break remained a staple, but different producers meant different styles and influence, and new subgenres began to take shape. One of the best fusions of genre came from the Bristol-born Roni Size on his album New Forms, which commandeered hip-hop and jazz artists and samples:

As the subgenres progressed, certain producers latched onto the smoother, more pop oriented relaxing vibes of the jazz-influenced D&B, and used it as a springboard to create a new subgenre, one that became quite popular (the label Hospital Records releases this style exclusively). Known as Liquid Drum & Bass, it featured a chill atmosphere on top of what had originally been a “frantic” beat, creating an enjoyable new form of music:

Some producers saw the marketability of electronic dance music and pop music fusing together, and began to create a new form of D&B, one designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of people and bring D&B out of the underground to the mainstream. Many different D&B groups latched onto this watered-down sound — Dirtyphonics, Chase & Status, Camo & Krooked, Sub Focus, Tantrum Desire (to name only a very few) — but the (arguably) biggest band ever to come out of this extremely popular version of D&B is the Australian/British rock fusion group, Pendulum, taking the D&B world by storm with each successive album, summiting on their third (and possibly final) album, Immersion.

On the other side of the D&B arm were the producers who shunned the jazz and eventual pop influence for more cacophonic, noise-influenced samples. This manifested itself in a form of D&B called Techstep, which relied on eerie samples, more aggressive breaks and chops in the beat, and heavier bass sounds:

As technology improved, so did the artists’ ability to manipulate sounds, especially low frequencies, to create an aggressive and oppressive atmosphere, known as Darkstep:

The hard chopping of the beat became a prominent feature in certain Techstep/Darkstep derivatives, such as Breakcore:

From both Darkstep and Techstep arose a particularly brutal, noise-influenced subgenre that became known as Skullstep due to its peculiar use of harsh noise and over the top aggression:

As technology improved, so did producers’ ability to create new and interesting sounds. Stemming off of the Techstep tree was a new style, refining the production of earlier D&B without losing the intricacy of the rhythm–rather, this new Neurofunk (as it came to be known) intensified the complexity of the simple amen break, with apparent disregard for conventional tonality. In this subgenre no artists have matched the prowess of Noisia:

Clearly Drum & Bass is a widely varied genre of music, ranging from the simple to the pop to the extreme. To delve into all the different styles and incredible artists would take far too much time and effort;  I merely wanted to give those interested a glimpse into the myriad worlds of D&B. Metalheads in particular could appreciate the heavier and more obtuse subgenres of D&B, as we tend to appreciate that which is dark, aggressive, and not conventionally listenable.

However, the influence of The Amen Break, though unparalleled, was not the point of W.’s original article. In my next installment of this companion piece, I will attempt (possibly very poorly) a philosophical discourse on The Amen Break, electronic music, triggers, and transhumanism, which will hopefully link together all these concepts.

Stay tuned for part 2. . .

(Image via)

  • VV.

    You the man, chip dip.

  • GL

    Although electronic music is not my favorite. I do own Glitch Mob’s Drink the Sea LP. I enjoy listening to it because it has a chill kinda post-rock/metal feel without too much WOBWOBWOBBURRRRRJOBDURPZIPPERBUTTZ sounds. Here it is if you want to listen. I recommend: How to Be Eaten by a Woman.

    Nice write up!

    GL

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVqPx5mUj0g

    • VV.

      Halcyon and on and on

    • BLVKKBEVRD DVRKWORK

      GL’s Hair >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      • Edward #negrod4eva

        co-signed.

    • ALSO! I am a fan of Ronald Jenkees. Total lifelover tunes. What do you think Papa Joe?

      GL

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeIAXlwVlZc

      • This is groovy. Kinda reminds me of Ratatat!

        • Ratatat, nice. Sounds decent! I wish someone would remix Jenkees material with some drop tuned geetars. It would be slamming then.

          GL

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    underworld – you bring light in

    http://youtu.be/KsE9iXoXB6s

  • Tom Waits For Better Days

    Let me be the first to actually commend you on this article well done. Looking forward yo numbazwei. Some of the stuff here ain’t all bad.

    • Edward #negrod4eva

      I used to get into drum & bass (and techno, what people now call EDM) back in the day. I spent a couple years going to raves all the time.

      • It’s all very confusing to me. I imagine it’s similar to a non-metal listener trying to decipher the differences between all of our crazy genres.

        • GL

          voidstep™

          GL

        • Tom Waits For Better Days

          I was gonna say something like: “ain’t all these genres too close to each other to be called different genres, but then you went and posted this.
          (Though I sometimes feel similarly about metal genres too)

        • Edward #negrod4eva

          Well, and remember I’m years out of touch with this stuff, but it used all be techno music. Then in subgenres, you had techno, house, trance, D&B, jungle, hardcore, happy hardcore, dubstep being big is kind of new thing but it seems somewhat related to D&B to me, mash up guys, hip hop scratching guys like DJ QBert, and so forth. It is similar to metal in that way.

          • I know so little about it. I picked up this album randomly years ago and I still love it. What is this even called? Where can I get more things like it?
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wobxiik9z2s

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            I’m going to have to check back on this after work, I am in my office and not doing A/V.

            I used to really dig this dude Green Velvet peep this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLN3fVT6Bms

          • VV.

            I went through a weird techno phase and listened to a lot of Orbital.

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            I’m not familiar with Orbital to the best of my knowledge…

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            I love you. This is one of the greatest songs ever.

          • Tom Waits For Better Days

            He’s known for hard classification. I’ve seen him pulled as athmospheric minimal techno with a big trance influence.

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            Oh, haha, that is totally some heavy metal shit. Black/death/thrash with a prog and sludge influence.

          • Tom Waits For Better Days

            Good to know it’s not just a metal problem. 😀

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            Hip hop used to get pretty broken up and split amongst genre classifications, too.

          • Tom Waits For Better Days

            I like hip hop more or less, but I can’t honestly tell more classes than horrorcore and trip hop from the basic.

          • BLVKKBEVRD DVRKWORK

            Still is

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            On the Stretch & Bobbito show, New York, circa 1997, it was not uncommon for acts like Mobb Deep to be followed up with acts like Company Flow. Company Flow were also co-signed by none other than the legendary DJ Premier.

          • BLVKKBEVRD DVRKWORK

            I’m fairly certain every genre gets broken up by its enthusiasts (like ours). Especially with the advent of the internet/nerds.

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            I think you hit the nail on the head there, BB.

            I think, without knowing for sure cause I dunno, that jazz fans are even worse than metal fans in that regard.

            Nerds on the internet >>>>>>

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            Jazz isn’t to my knowledge “officially” broken into a million subgenres, and I love a good jazz. But the fans are worse in this regard than any other I’ve ever met

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            Karhu, you have returned as Karhu!

          • Nordling Rites ov Karhu

            I decided to stop confusing everyone and make two accounts. Tom Waits and Karhu.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            I have a Company Flow album somewhere in my vinyl pile. I got it as well as a ton of other rap albums from my dad who got it from his office.

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            Company Flow >>>>>>

          • Gvacamole Jim

            It’s not identical, but if you’re looking for some chill vibes type stuff, Boards of Canada is really fucking good. They’re a little darker and more on the hip-hop side of things.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQEmaj9C6ko&spfreload=10

        • Lacertilian

          Acid-skronk-step?

      • Tom Waits For Better Days

        I never done no ravin’, but a friend o’ mine listens to a lot of more electronic music and hanging with him I’ve learnt to appreciate some of it.

  • I think this is a fitting video, given our topic.

    GL

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUu3gRHku2Q

    • BLVKKBEVRD DVRKWORK

      One of the greatest memes of our time.

    • VV.

      Yes, the Techno Viking. Thank you for this nostalgia chub.

    • Tyree

      I wish SMOHLG was in this video.

      • VV.

        He’s not?

      • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

        SMOHLG can sell anything to anyone.

        #SMOHLGFax

        • Edward #negrod4eva

          SMOHLG could sell a drowning man a bottle of water.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            SMOHLG has a beard that makes Chuck Norris say “Damn!” whenever he sees it.

          • GL’s hair is >>>>>>>>> than SMOHLG’s hair.

            GL

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            But SMOHLG is a better guitar player than the current Dokken guitarist whoever that is.

          • Death

            Chuck Norris’ beard is not a good beard.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            I refuse to believe you. Chuck Norris has the second best beard ever next to SMOHLG.

          • Death

            Even my cold shriveled dick has a better beard than Chuck Norris.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            You will never make me not believe in the beard of Chuck Norris!

          • pics or it didn’t happen

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            You should feel bad for Death. He’s a 76ers fan and they only just got their first win after playing 18 games.

          • Death

            I don’t even know what 76er is

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            They’re a basketball team. I’m amazed you’ve never heard of them considering the NBA is popular in all corners of Europe.

          • Death

            That may be because:
            A. I don’t like basketball
            B. I don’t care about sports
            C. All of the above
            (Hint: the answer is C)

          • Death

            Do you really want to see a pic of my cold, shriveled, severd penis that I keep in a pickle jar?

          • BLVKKBEVRD DVRKWORK

            Chuck Norris has a beard? fucking scurbs.

          • Death

            I’m on your fucking side and you call me a scrub?

          • BLVKKBEVRD DVRKWORK

            You’re on my fucking side? It’s my best side 😉

  • metal genres gives me headaches. when I see electronic music genres my head explodes ._.)

  • ..

  • Count_Breznak

    Fuck all those steps, i’ll take the elevator.

  • CT-12

    Interesting article GuacJim, I’m always willing to lend an ear to different genres when presented to me. Good read!

    • Gvacamole Jim

      Thanks man! I love D&B, especially some of the much more gnarly stuff. Current Value is really worth getting into.

  • errorcode99

    I absolutely LOVE D&B. I started listening to it right before getting into metal. Noisia and Spor are my favorite producers, by far (I recommend Noisia’s Purpose EP). Neurofunk is one hell of a subgenre!

    • Dave & Buster’s bro!!!

    • Gvacamole Jim

      Neurofunk is my favourite of the subgenres. Do you listen to Phace at all?

      • errorcode99

        I am not too familiar with him (just a few collab tracks) but I’ll check him out for sure.

  • Max

    Current Value and London Elektricity are both rad (though for different reasons, obviously)!

    Jim – in part 2, are you going to feature any acts with acoustic drummers? DNB human drummers are a thing to behold.

    • Lacertilian

      Any recommendations?
      They only real electronic music I like seems to be old-Prodigy, Pendulum (the parts without vocals), The Algorithm & of course Navene K (ex-Animosity & Felshwrought).

      https://navenek.bandcamp.com/

    • Gvacamole Jim

      You’re spot on dude. I’m going to talk about Jojo Mayer, his concept of taking electronic music and making it acoustic, plus doing some philosophical speculation. it should be fun!

  • George Clarke

    luv u