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|Drum and bass|
|Stylistic origins||Jungle, breakbeat hardcore, darkcore, hip hop, dub, dancehall, ragga, industrial, techno|
|Cultural origins||Early/Mid-1990s; Bristol and London, United Kingdom|
|Typical instruments||Synthesizer, drum machine, sequencer, keyboard, sampler, personal computer, DAW|
|Darkstep - Hardstep - Atmospheric Drum & Bass (Drumfunk) - Jazzstep - Jump-Up (Drumstep) (Clownstep) - Liquid Funk - Neurofunk - Techstep|
|Breakcore - Digital hardcore - Raggacore - Technoid|
|Drum and bass artists
Drum and bass record labels
History of drum and bass
Drum and bass (/ /) (also written as drum 'n' bass, drum an' bass and commonly abbreviated to D&B, D+B, DnB or D'n'B) is a type of electronic music which emerged in the mid-1990s. The genre is characterized by fast breakbeats (typically between 160–180 beats per minute, occasional variation is noted in older compositions), with heavy bass and sub-bass lines. Drum and bass began as an offshoot of the United Kingdom rave scene of the early 1990s. Over the first decade of its existence, the incorporation of elements from various musical genres led to many permutations in its overall style.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2012)|
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a growing nightclub and overnight outdoor event culture gave birth to a new electronic music style called rave music, which, much like hip-hop, combined sampled syncopated beats or breakbeats, other samples from a wide range of different musical genres and, occasionally, samples of music, dialogue and effects from films and television programmes. But rave music tended to feature stronger bass sounds and a faster tempo (127 to over 140) beats per minute (BPM) than that of early house music. This subgenre was known as "hardcore" rave but from as early as 1991, some musical tracks made up of these high-tempo break beats, with heavy basslines and samples of older Jamaican music, were referred to as "jungle techno" and later just "jungle", which became recognised as a separate musical genre popular at raves and on pirate radio in Britain. It is important to note when discussing the history of Drum n Bass that prior to Jungle, rave music was getting faster and more experimental. Professional DJ & producer C.K. states, "There was a progression as far as the speed of music is concerned. Anyone buying vinyl every week from 1989 to 1992 noticed this."
By 1994 jungle had begun to gain mainstream popularity and fans of the music (often referred to as junglists) became a more recognisable part of British youth subculture. The genre further developed, incorporating and fusing elements from a wide range of existing musical genres, including the raggamuffin sound, dancehall, MC chants, dub basslines, and increasingly complex, heavily edited breakbeat percussion. Despite the affiliation with the ecstasy-fuelled rave scene, Jungle also inherited some associations with violence and criminal activity, both from the gang culture that had affected the UK's hip-hop scene and as a consequence of jungle's often aggressive or menacing sound and themes of violence (usually reflected in the choice of samples). However, this developed in tandem with the often positive reputation of the music as part of the wider rave scene and dancehall-based Jamaican music culture prevalent in London. By 1995, whether as a reaction to, or independently of this cultural schism, some jungle producers began to move away from the ragga-influenced style and create what would become collectively labelled, for convenience, as drum and bass.
As the genre became generally more polished and sophisticated technically, it began to expand its reach from pirate radio to commercial stations and gain widespread acceptance (circa 1995–1997). It also began to split into recognizable subgenres such as jump-up and Hardstep. As a lighter and often jazz-influenced style of drum and bass gained mainstream appeal, additional subgenres emerged including techstep (circa 1996–1997) which drew greater influence from techno music and the soundscapes of science fiction and anime films.
The popularity of drum and bass at its commercial peak ran parallel to several other homegrown dance styles in the UK including big beat and hard house. But towards the turn of the millennium its popularity was deemed to have dwindled as the UK garage style known as speed garage yielded several hit singles. Speed garage shared high tempos and heavy basslines with drum and bass but otherwise followed the established conventions of "house music", with this and its freshness giving it an advantage commercially. London DJ/producer C.K. says, "It is often forgotten by my students that a type of music called "Garage House" existed in the late 1980s alongside Hip House, Acid House and other forms of House music." He continues, "This new Garage of the mid 90s was not a form of House or a progression of Garage House. The beats and tempo that define House are entirely different. This did cause further confusion in the presence of new House music of the mid-1990s being played alongside what was now being called Garage." Despite this, the emergence of further subgenres and related styles such as liquid funk brought a wave of new artists incorporating new ideas and techniques, supporting continual evolution of the genre. To this day drum and bass makes frequent appearances in mainstream media and popular culture including in television, as well as being a major reference point for subsequent genres such as grime and dubstep and successful artists including Chase & Status and Australia's Pendulum.
Opinions vary on what constitutes "real" drum and bass as it incorporates a number of scenes and styles, from the highly electronic, industrial sounds of techstep through to the use of conventional, acoustic instrumentation that characterise the more jazz-influenced end of the spectrum. The sounds of drum and bass are extremely varied due to the range of influences behind the music.
Drum and bass could at one time be defined as a strictly electronic musical genre with the only "live" element being the DJ's selection and mixing of records during a set. "Live" drum and bass using electric, electronic and acoustic instruments played by musicians on stage emerged over the ensuing years of the genre's development.
A very obvious and strong influence on junglefever and drum and bass, thanks to the British African-Caribbean sound system scene, is the original Jamaican dub and reggae sound, with pioneers like King Tubby, Peter Tosh, Sly & Robbie, Bill Laswell, Lee Perry, Mad Professor, Roots Radics, Bob Marley and Buju Banton heavily influencing the music. This influence has lessened with time but is still evident with many tracks containing ragga vocals.
As a musical style built around funk or syncopated rock and roll breaks, James Brown, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Ella Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, the Supremes, the Commodores, Jerry Lee Lewis and even Michael Jackson, are funky influences on the music. One of the most influential tracks in drum and bass history was "Amen Brother" by The Winstons which contains a drum solo that has since become known as the "Amen break", which after being extensively used in early hip hop music, went on to become the basis for the rhythms used in drum and bass.
By the late 1980s and early 1990s the tradition of breakbeat use in hip hop production had influenced the sound of breakbeat hardcore which in turn lead to the emergence of jungle, drum and bass, and other genres that shared the same use of broken beats. Drum and bass shares many musical characteristics with hip-hop, though it is nowadays mostly stripped of lyrics. Grandmaster Flash, Roger Troutman, Afrika Bambaata, Run DMC, Mac Dre, Public Enemy, Schooly D, N.W.A, Tupac Shakur, Kid Frost, Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Dre, Mos Def, Beastie Boys and the Pharcyde are very often directly sampled, regardless of their general influence.
Jazz pioneer Miles Davis has been named as a possible influence. Blues artists like Lead Belly, Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Muddy Waters and B.B King have also been cited by producers as inspirations. Even modern avant-garde composers such as Henryk Gorecki have received mention.
Clearly drum and bass has been influenced by other music genres, though influences from sources external to the electronic dance music scene perhaps lessened following the shifts from jungle to drum and bass, and through to so-called "intelligent drum and bass" and techstep. It still remains a fusion music style.
Many tracks belonging to other genres are 'remixed' into drum and bass versions. The quality of these remixes varies from the simple and primitive adding of broken beats to a vocal track or to complete reworkings that may exceed the original in quality and effort put into them. Original artists will often ask for drum and bass remixes of their tracks to be made in order to spark further interest in their tracks (for example, Aphrodite's remix of Jungle Brothers' "Jungle Brother").
Some tracks are illegally remixed and released on white label (technically bootleg), often to acclaim. For example, DJ Zinc's remix of The Fugees' "Ready or Not", also known as "Fugee Or Not", was eventually released with the Fugees' permission after talk of legal action, though coincidentally the Fugees' version infringed Enya's copyright to an earlier song. White labels along with dubplates play an important part in drum and bass musical culture.
Kevin Saunderson released a series of bass-heavy, minimal techno cuts as Reese/The Reese Project in the late '80s which were hugely influential in drum and bass terms. One of his more famous basslines (Reese – "Just Want Another Chance", Incognito Records, 1988) was indeed sampled on Renegade's Terrorist and countless others since, being known simply as the 'Reese' bassline. He followed these up with equally influential (and bassline-heavy) tracks in the UK hardcore style as Tronik House in 1991–1992. Another Detroit artist who was important for the scene is Carl Craig. The sampled-up jazz break on Carl Craig's Bug in the Bassbin was also influential on the newly emerging sound, DJs at the Rage club used to play it pitched up (increased speed) as far as their Technics record decks would go.
Both the New York breakbeat and the Miami Bass scenes were strongly influenced by the 'freestyle' sound of New York City, Chicago and Miami in the 1980s which incorporated electro, disco and Latin flavours, and which was in turn a key influence on the UK's acid house/hardcore/rave scene.
The genre places great importance on the "bass line", a deep sub-bass musical pattern which can be felt physically through powerful sound systems due to the low-range frequencies favoured. There has been considerable exploration of different timbres in the bass line region, particularly within techstep. The bass lines most notably originate from sampled sources or synthesizers. Bass lines performed with a bass instrument, whether it is electric, acoustic or a double bass, are less common but examples can be found in the work of bands such as Shapeshifter (band), Squarepusher, Roni Size and STS9.
Of equal importance is the TR-808 kick drum, an artificially pitch-downed or elongated bass drum sound sampled from Roland's classic TR-808 drum machine, and a sound which has been subject to an enormous amount of experimentation over the years.
The complex syncopation of the drum tracks' breakbeat, is another facet of production on which producers can spend a very large amount of time. The Amen break is generally acknowledged to have been the most-used (and often considered the most powerful) break in drum and bass.
The Amen break was synonymous with early drum and bass productions but other samples have had a significant impact, including the Apache, Funky Drummer, "Soul Pride", "Scorpio" and "Think (About It)" breaks.
Many drum and bass tracks have featured more than one sampled breakbeat in them and a technique of switching between two breaks after each bar developed. Examples of this can be heard on mid-90s releases such as J Majik's "Your Sound". A more recent commonly used break is the Tramen, which combines the Amen break, a James Brown funk breakbeat ("Tighten Up" or "Samurai" break) and an Alex Reece drum and bass breakbeat.
The relatively fast drum beat forms a canvas on which a producer can create tracks to appeal to almost any taste and often will form only a background to the other elements of the music. Syncopated breakbeats remain the most distinctive element as without these a high-tempo 4/4 dance track could be classified as techno or gabber.
Drum and bass is usually between 160–180 BPM, in contrast to other breakbeat-based dance styles such as nu skool breaks, which maintain a slower pace at around 130–140 BPM. A general upward trend in tempo has been observed during the evolution of drum and bass. The earliest forms of drum and bass clocked in at around 130 bpm in 1990/1991, speeding up to around 155–165 BPM by 1993. Since around 1996, drum and bass tempos have predominantly stayed in the 170–180 range. Recently some producers have started to once again produce tracks with slower tempos (that is, in the 150s and 160s), but the mid-170 tempo is still the hallmark of the drum and bass sound.
A track combining the same elements (broken beat, bass, production techniques) as a drum and bass track, but with a slower tempo (say 140 BPM), might not be drum and bass but a drum and bass-influenced breakbeat track.
Drum and bass exhibits a full frequency response which can only be appreciated on sound systems which can handle very low frequencies. As befits its name, the bass element of the music is particularly pronounced, with the comparatively sparse arrangements of drum and bass tracks allowing room for basslines that are deeper than most other forms of dance music. Consequently, drum and bass parties are often advertised as featuring uncommonly loud and bass-heavy sound systems.
There are however many albums specifically designed for personal listening. The mix CD is a particularly popular form of release, with a big name DJ/producer mixing live, or on a computer, a variety of tracks for personal listening. Additionally, there are many albums containing unmixed tracks, suited for home or car listening.
Many mixing points begin or end with the "drop". The drop is the point in a track where a switch of rhythm or bassline occurs and usually follows a recognizable build section and "breakdown". Sometimes the drop is used to switch between tracks, layering components of different tracks, though as the two records may be simply ambient breakdowns at this point, though some DJs prefer to combine breakbeats, a more difficult exercise. Some drops are so popular that the DJ will "rewind" or "reload" or "lift up" by spinning the record back and restarting it at the build. "The drop" is often a key point from the point of view of the dancefloor, since the drumbreaks often fade out to leave an ambient intro playing. When the beats re-commence they are often more complex and accompanied by a heavier bassline, encouraging the crowd to dance.
MCs do not generally receive the same level of recognition as producer/DJs and some events are specifically marketed as being MC free. There are relatively few well-known drum and bass MCs, Stevie Hyper D (deceased), MC GQ, Dynamite MC, MC Fats, MC Conrad, Shabba D, Skibadee, Bassman, MC Stamina, MC Fun, Evil B, Trigga, Harry Shotta and MC Infinity as examples.
Many music groups and musicians have taken drum and bass to live performances, which features an acoustic drum kit, synthesizers, bass (upright or electric), and other instruments. Samplers have also been taken live by playing samples on drum pads or synthesizers, assigning samples to a specific drum pad or key. MCs are frequently featured in live performances. Acts to take note of on the live drum and bass scene include Dirtyphonics, Modestep, Roni Size, Salmonella Dub, Shapeshifter (band), Pendulum, La Phaze, Netsky and Chase & Status, who perform their tracks live. The DnB scene is still thriving in many urban areas, with a particularly strong showing in LA among such dedicated clubs as The Dragonfly. This has given both of these bands a way to access the mainstream, giving drum and bass a more commercial edge. Some bands have even taken the term somewhat literally, such as Lightning Bolt, The White Mice, Comparative Anatomy (band) and Death From Above 1979.
Smaller scenes within the drum and bass community have developed and the scene as a whole has become much more fractured into specific sub-genres, including:
Born around the same time as jungle, breakcore and digital hardcore share many of the elements of drum and bass and to the uninitiated, tracks from the extreme end of drum and bass, may sound identical to breakcore thanks to speed, complexity, impact and maximum sonic density combined with musical experimentation. German Drum and Bass DJ The Panacea is also one of the leading Digital Hardcore artists. Raggacore resembles a faster version of the ragga influenced jungle music of the 1990s, similar to breakcore but with more friendly dancehall beats (dancehall itself being a very important influence on drum and bass). Darkcore, a direct influence on drum and bass, was combined with influences of drum and bass itself leading to the creation of darkstep. There is considerable crossover from the extreme edges of drum and bass, breakcore, darkcore, digital hardcore and raggacore with fluid boundaries.
The genre has influenced many other genres like hip hop, big beat, house music, trip hop, ambient music, techno, and pop, with artists such as Bill Laswell, Incubus, Pitchshifter, Linkin Park, The Roots, Talvin Singh, MIDIval Punditz, Missy Elliott, The Freestylers, Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie (the last two both using elements of Goldie's "Timeless") and others quoting drum and bass and using drum and bass techniques and elements. The USA has adopted the sound with a genre called Ghettotech which have synth and basslines similar to drum & bass.
Drum and Bass as a whole is dominated by a small group of "hardcore" record labels. These are run mainly by some of the scene's most prominent DJ–producers, such as London Elektricity's Hospital Records, Andy C's Ram, Goldie's Metalheadz, Basement Records (Jack Smooth), Chris Renegade's Lifted Music, DJ Friction's Shogun Audio, DJ Fresh's Breakbeat Kaos and DJ Hype, Pascal and formerly DJ Zinc's True Playaz (now known as Real Playaz as of 2006).
The major international music labels such as Sony Music and Universal have shown very little interest in the drum and bass scene though there has been a few signings, most recently Pendulum's In Silico LP to Warner. Roni Size's Full Cycle Records played a big, if not the biggest, part in the creation of Drum and Bass with their dark, baseline sounds. V Recordings also played a large part of the development of Drum and Bass. Roni Size, Krust and DJ Die produced some of the first tracks to be considered mainstream Drum and Bass tracks.
In recent times, Andy C's Ram Records have been pushing the boundaries of drum and bass further into the mainstream with artists such as Chase and Status and Sub Focus releasing many tracks on RAM Chase & Status as well as Pendulum are already hovering in the mainstream and singles like "DJ Marky and XRS – LK" have in the past topped the UK charts. Bringing back UK Jungle Music legends from LTJ Bukem's label Good Looking artists Bay B Kane Breakbeat Hardcore heavyweight Nebula II and Original Junglist Gappa G who had a big hit with Information Center after remix's from DJ Zinc and Ray Keith. Other Bristol labels such as Cafe Bass have also helped to push through a sound categorised as 'Bass Music' with the help of influential artists such as Lone Ranger.
Originally drum and bass was mostly sold in 12-inch vinyl single format. With the emergence of drum and bass into mainstream music markets, more albums, compilations and DJ mixes are sold on CDs. In addition there are a wide variety of online outlets where one can purchase Drum & Bass MP3's, Wav's etc.
The bulk of drum and bass vinyl records and CDs are distributed globally and regionally by a relatively small number of companies such as SRD (Southern Record Distributors), ST Holdings, & Nu Urban.
As of 11 September 2012, Nu Urban Music Limited ceased trading and RSM Tenon were instructed to assist in convening statutory meetings of members and creditors to appoint a liquidator. This left many labels short on sales as Nu Urban were one of the main Distributors for the vinyl market in the drum and bass scene.
Despite its roots in the UK, which can still be treated as the "home" of drum and bass, the style has firmly established itself around the world. There are strong scenes in other English-speaking countries including Australia, Canada, South Africa, the United States and, New Zealand. It is popular throughout continental Europe, and in South America. São Paulo is sometimes called the drum and bass Ibiza. Brazilian drum and bass is sometimes referred to as "sambass", with its specific style and sound. In Venezuela and Mexico, artists have created their own forms of drum and bass combining it with experimental musical forms.
Drum and Bass is widely promoted throughout the world using different methods such as: video sharing services (YouTube, Dailymotion), blogs, radio and television, the latter being the most uncommon method. More recently the importance of the internet in promotion is increasing. Music networking websites such as SoundCloud and MixCloud have become powerful tools for artist recognition, providing a vast platform that enables quick responses to new tracks. Record labels have adopted the use of Podcasts.
The two highest profile radio stations playing drum and bass shows are The Drum and Bass Show with Friction on BBC Radio 1, simulcast in the US and Canada on Sirius XM, and DJ Hype on Kiss 100 in London. The BBC's "urban" station BBC Radio 1Xtra also features the genre heavily, with DJ Bailey (show axed as of 29/08/2012) and Crissy Criss as its advocates. The network also organises a week-long tour of the UK each year called Xtra Bass. London pirate radio stations have been instrumental in the development of Drum and Bass, with stations such as Kool FM (which continues to broadcast today having done so since 1991), Don FM (the only Drum and Bass pirate to have gained a temporary legal license), Rude FM, Origin FM, Wax Fm and Eruption among the most influential.
Internet radio stations, acting in same light as pirate stations, have also been an instrumental part in promoting drum and bass music; the majority of them funded by listener and artist donations. Sites such as junglist.com (which no longer exists) was very popular in the early years of the 2000s. Other popular forums are Bassdrive (est. 1999), JungleTrain (est. 2001), DnbRadio (est. 2002), and EverydayJunglist.com (2001). Digitally Imported (est. 1999), known as di.fm, has three channels (dark, liquid, and regular drum and bass). Other well known sites include RenegadeRadio.co.uk (est. 2005), drum and bass lounge (est. 2012). Runningtingz.com (2001) was among the first of the stations and is still operating.
In North America, XM Satellite, 89.5 CIUT (Toronto), Album 88.5 (Atlanta) and C89.5fm (Seattle) have shows showcasing drum and bass. Seattle also has a long standing electronica show known as Expansions on 90.3 FM KEXP. The rotating DJs include Kid Hops, whose shows are made up mostly of drum and bass. In Columbus, Ohio WCBE 90.5 has a two-hour electronic only showcase, "All Mixed Up," Saturday nights at 10pm. At the same time WUFM 88.7 plays its "Electronic Playground." Also, Tulsa, Oklahoma's rock station, 104.5 The Edge, has a two-hour show starting at 10:00PM Saturday nights called Edge Essential Mix mixed by DJ Demko showcasing electronic and drum and bass style. While the aforemention shows in Ohio rarely play drum and bass the latter plays the genre with some frequency. In Tucson, Arizona, 91.3 FM KXCI has a two-hour electronic show known as "Digital Empire", Friday nights at 10pm (MST). Resident DJ Trinidad showcases various styles of electronica, with the main focus being drum and bass, jungle & dubstep.
The best known drum and bass publication was Kmag magazine (formerly called Knowledge Magazine) before it went completely online in August 2009. Other publications include the longest running drum and bass magazine worldwide, ATM Magazine, and Austrian-based Resident. London-based DJ magazine has also been running a widely respected drum and bass reviews page since 1993, written by Alex Constantinides, which many followers refer to when seeking out new releases to investigate.
Drum and bass has a very strong, important and vocal online presence with many dedicated portals, forums, communities and internet radio stations – the internet has to much degree superseded the role of pirate radio stations in spreading and popularising the genre, as the stations have switched to newer genres. Internet sites are a source of the latest mixes (professional or amateur) and tracks by unsigned producers. The dominant and most popular websites are Dogs On Acid and Drum and Bass Arena. YouTube has played a major role for Drum and Bass on the internet with the appearance of Pandadnb in 2006 and DnBrevolution in 2007, these were later followed by the hugely successful UKF which to date has reached over 1 billion views.
30 second sample. One of the few drum and bass tracks regularly played on commercial popular radio. Notice the vocal element and the track's similarity to the first sample on this page, Rebel Mc's "Wickedest Sound". The tracks share a vocalist, Tenor Fly.
|Problems listening to these files? See media help.|
Certain drum and bass releases have found mainstream popularity in their own right, almost always material prominently featuring vocals.
Perhaps the earliest example was Goldie's Timeless album of 1995, along with Reprazent's Mercury Music Prize-winning New Forms in 1997, 4hero's Mercury nominated Two Pages in 1998, and Pendulum (band) 's Hold Your Colour in 2005 (the biggest selling Drum And Bass album of all time.)
Video games such as Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto series have contained drum and bass tracks. The MSX/MSX 98 radio station by DJ Timecode in Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, played drum and bass exclusively.
The genre has some popularity in soundtracks, for instance Hive's "Ultrasonic Sound" was used in the Matrix's soundtrack and the E-Z Rollers' song "Walk This Land" appeared in the film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". Ganja Kru's "Super Sharp Shooter" is heard in the 2006 film Johnny Was.
The Channel 4 show Skins uses the genre in some episodes. Notably in Series 1 – Episode 3 (Jal) Shy-Fx and UK Apache – Original Nuttah is played in Fazers club.
Drum and bass often makes an appearance as background music, especially in Top Gear and television commercials thanks to its aggressive and energetic beats. Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block also employs it for television spots and show intros,like the relaunch of SCI FI Channel (1997) segue music by Jungle Sky label.
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