In the early 90s, electronic music was still in it’s infancy. House and techno had been around for roughly six years with little variation coming out of it. While house saw it’s heyday out in Chicago with Frankie Knuckles as it’s pioneer, his former disco buddy from the Continental Baths, Larry Levan, was the head of the garage (sometimes referred to as Garage House or US Garage (as not to be confused with Garage Rock or UK Garage)) movement in New York City. Techno was born in Detroit but didn’t stay stateside for long after the Roland TB-303 was found to be an essential weapon eventually bringing acid house to the UK. Out of these eventually came styles of rave music for the kids with smiley faces on their shirts and vacant looks in their eyes. With all the influence of electronic music, as well as ragga, hip hop, and hardcore the genre of drum & bass (or Jungle depending on who you ask) was born, seemingly out of one sample.
In 2013 drum & bass came back in a big way. After electronic music had it’s flirts with pop culture (mainly big beat back in the late 90s, the short lived electroclash of the mid-aughts, and more recently dubstep’s claim to king) drum & bass made a big name for itself without sacrificing integrity. Not only has drum & bass come back as a force to reckon with, it brought the ghettohouse offshoots of juke and footwork with it. Not only have all these genres worked well separately, they flirted with each other in an unprecedented matter.
dBridge (one half of Instra:mental) curates on of the best drum & bass labels with it’s eye towards the future in Exit Records. While the first Mosaic comp is something of legend (featuring dubsteppers Scuba and Skream getting a little more loose with the drums) Mosaic Vol. 2 is the vision of what’s to come. Featuring the likes of Machinedrum, Synkro, Dub Phizix, J:Kenzo, Fracture and more, the comp takes the traditional ideas of drum & bass and breaks them down. The above song from Om Unit & Sam Binga is a strong highlight from a deep compilation.
Special Request is the not so secret alias of Paul Woolford and he definitely turns an ear to the past while pushing himself forward. This white label cut is almost so definitively old school it hurts, but Woolford’s debut full length under his Special Request alias, Soul Music, is something of beauty. It adds the old school appeal of jungle and even touches of hardcore and techno, but always moves forward with sound design. Although Woolford has also been keeping busy under his own name with more house oriented releases, Special Request truly owes a bit to the warehouse.
While being most often billed as a producer of dubstep or the ever ambiguous “UK bass”, Addison Groove has made his name on hyperactive drums and a crushing low end. While a move into drum & bass proper hasn’t happened yet, Addison Groove marries many genres together to act more as a transitional in between piece rather than anything that can be easily labeled. “Footcrab” makes all the more sense now days.
You can’t talk about drum & bass without talking about juke and footwork. And you definitely can’t talk about footwork and juke without talking about DJ Rashad. Rashad has released two EPs and one LP on the always forward thinking Hyperdub Records. Where most footwork and juke suffers from a fairly repetitive lifeless structure, Rashad blows life and soul into it. “Let It Go” acts as a perfect piece to bring you from D&B to the world of juke.
Speaking of Hyperdub, the boss himself, Kode9, has recently become infatuated with the Chicago sound of footwork and juke (check out his Rinse 22 mix CD where he plays no less than eight DJ Rashad songs). The man known for championing the weirder side of dubstep and Burial has really found himself in this new sound. Kode9’s creates something hectic and crazy, giving a distinctly new voice to footwork. Between running a label, using his PhD in philosophy to teach at the University of East London, and touring, Kode9 has still found time to turn out a proper banger.
This conversation wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Machinedrum. After finally finding his groove in 2011 with his album Room(s) and his work in the group Sepalcure, Machinedrum made one of 2013’s definitive 160bpm tunes. Although my initial impressions led me to believe this album, Vapor City, was nothing more than “what if Burial made footwork” the sound of this album is tightly coiled and well put together, there really is no equal for Machinedrum. The Berlin based American producer is definitely top dog these days.