Monday, 24 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 24

Dread & The Bald Head - Twenty Four Seven (Slam! Records, 1995)

The price of second hand vinyl for collectors of 90s DnB and Jungle has rapidly escalated over the last few years with sellers sometimes demanding amounts several times the original value. The original of this 12", with 'Wicked Piece A Tune' on the A-Side, is one example of this trend with prices reaching over £150. In fact back in 2015 it was included in a list of the ten most expensive Jungle records on the planet by Drum&BassArena.

Fortunately earlier this year Bizzy B AKA one half of Dread & The Bald Head launched a Kickstarter campaign to repress these two much sought after Jungle classics and received enough backers to go ahead with the project. The other half of the duo is TDK AKA The Urban Dread, who has frequently collaborated with Bizzy B while also acting as his MC. 'Twenty Four Seven' prominently features the smooth grooves and vocals of 'You Can't Turn Me Away' by Sylvia Striplin, a much sampled track in Hip-Hop/RnB with examples including 'Get Money' by Junior M.A.F.I.A. feat. The Notorious B.I.G. and a cover entitled 'Turn Me Away (Get Munny)' by Erykah Badu. Here it appears with slowed down drums in the intro along with the Think break before the drop brings in crashing Amen and a muscular bassline. Various soundclash style vocals adorn the tune including the title giving "Twenty four seven...". A proper slice of rudeboy Jungle that is a must have for the collection.

At the time of writing you can still purchase the vinyl over at Bizzy B's Bandcamp, as well as the digital, while a VIP is available over at his Junglist Download site. Do yourself a favour and get yourself a little Christmas present. I hope you've enjoyed checking the DnB Advent Calendar, we will be taking a well earned break and will hopefully be back in 2019. DnB three sixty five, twenty four seven! Merry Christmas!

Discogs link

Sunday, 23 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 23

Project 23 - Pleasure And The Pain (Peshay Remix) (Dorado, 1996)

Cleveland Watkiss is a name familiar to DnB fans for his performances as an MC, particularly for his appearances at Goldie's Sunday Sessions at the Blue Note. But Watkiss is no ordinary MC as he sings rather than chats, his smooth powerful vocals always elevating the vibe. As Peshay put it "he always complemented the music, never got in the way". His main background is in jazz, being part of the influential Jazz Warriors big band with Courtney Pine back in the eighties and winning multiple awards in the field including Best Vocalist at the London Jazz Awards in 2010. In the New Years Honours in 2018 he was awarded an MBE.

After appearing on Goldie's Timeless LP it was inevitable he'd feel the urge to make drum & bass himself and Project 23 was a group he formed with renowned jazz drummer Marque Gilmore "The Inna Most" and DJ La Rouge. They would get back from nights at Speed and be inspired to create their own take on the sound and the album 23 was the result. It was critically acclaimed with Mixmag stating "this is Drum n’ Bass that will progress, that will access new audiences. This is the future". What really set them apart though was being the first act to play Drum & Bass live. Neil Spencer writing in The Observer commented: "Seeking to reproduce the results [of 23] live would be impossible without the awesome talents of jazz drummer Marque Gilmore". Unfortunately Project 23 was short lived due to some issues Watkiss had at the time, so didn't have the impact they could've had and it was Roni Size's Reprazent who ended up winning awards as a live drum & bass act. However Project 23 recently reformed and you can check out a short video of their performance at Oslo Hackney here.

While the original of 'Pleasure And The Pain' is good I just absolutely love the Peshay Remix that featured on a 12" single from the album. Over sweeping pads and saxophone Peshay overlays Watkiss' soulful vocals along with the Hot Pants break and warm bass. Midway through he changes the drums up for an extended workout that just glides blissfully along. You can hear Peshay and Watkiss together at the Blue Note from January 1997 below:

Discogs link

Saturday, 22 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 22

Uncle 22 - Your Love (Strictly Underground Records, 1994)

I nearly posted about Uncle 22 AKA Desmond Fearon back on day six of the DnB Advent Calendar with probably his best known track, '6 Million Ways To Die - Choose One', but then thought I'd save featuring him for today. Fearon was co-owner of the De Underground record store in Forest Gate and also resident engineer in the studio upstairs along with Cool Hand Flex, who he recorded with as Flex & Uncle and Dubwise II. He had a track on the original EP that featured Lennie De Ice's proto-jungle anthem 'We Are i.e.' so was there right at beginning of jungle. In fact he'd already had an album of acid house released back in 1989.

'Your Love' came out on Mark "Ruff" Ryder's Strictly Underground imprint. The mix of the tune above is actually Ryder's Funky Jungle Mix on the flip as I couldn't find the other mix on YouTube but you can hear audio of it over at Rolldabeats. The mixes aren't significantly different though with both featuring a vocal sample from Michael Prophet & Ricky Tuffy's 'Your Love': "Your love is all I want baby, your love is all I need... phenomenon one" while Ryder's mix also adds Mad P's exclamations of "Jungle" from Top Buzz's set at Amnesia House's The Book Of Love event in June '92, sampled more extensively on DJ Taktix's 'The Way'. The vocals are combined with tearing Amen, a tough bassline, rapid fire hardcore synth stabs and sinister pads for an absolutely slamming tune.

Strictly Underground were a label who put out loads of compilations and you can find Ryder's mix of 'Your Love' on Hardcore Junglistic Fever Vol. 2. As well as the unmixed tune on the first disc it also leads off the first Megamix on the second disc from Randall with GQ on the mic. You can check that out below:

Discogs link

Friday, 21 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 21

DJ Trace - 21st And South (Sm:)e Communications, 1997)

Although DnB and Jungle came out of the musical melting pots that are London and Bristol it quickly spread across the globe. In America one of the labels pushing the sound was Sm:)e Communications, a subsidiary of the Hip-Hop imprint Profile Records. They licensed tracks from UK labels including Moving Shadow and Reinforced as well as putting out material from US producers. One of the guys involved in running Sm:)e was DJ DB AKA DB Burkeman, a British DJ who had moved to New York in 1989. He mixed The History Of Our World LP which was the first DnB album released stateside.

Another guy who played a large role in bringing DnB to the USA was DJ Trace. He went over to Philadelphia as early as '93 with Ryme Tyme and played at a rave in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This led to a invitation to play at NASA, a New York club which was co-run by DJ DB. Trace recently recalled to UKF:
"We came down and played this set pretty much all jungle, lots of dubplates. They’d never heard anything like it. It went off. Anyway, the owners were DB and Scotto. DB had a label called Smile and asked if I wanted to do a track for it. I thought no problem"
That release was Have You Know / West Coast Flavor and then in 1996, just as Techstep was blowing up, Trace moved to Philadelphia and this relocation inspired his second 12" for Sm:)e.

'21st And South' refers to a location in Philly, the intersection of South Street and 21st Street. Like most vinyl releases on Sm:)e it came on a coloured 10", in this case white, and the sticker included a shout out reading: MAD RESPECT TO THE PHILLY HARD STEP INC. As you might expect for a Trace tune in '97, this is a techstep in style but unlike many of his other productions this is not an all out assault. It opens with ominous echoed synth before crunchy drums enter. While the Trace staple Tramen break is deployed it is fairly low-key in the mix and there's no distorted Reese bassline either as he opts for square wave bass reminiscent of Dope Dragon releases of the time. But this certainly isn't a jump-up tune as that menacing undertone is always there.

You can hear ninety minutes of Trace on the Bassquake radio show broadcast on Princeton University's 103.3 WPRB in May 1997, around the time '21st And South' was released. Presented by Michelle Sainte, the show was one of the few places to hear DnB on FM radio in the US and this set was full of yet to be released material:

Discogs link

Thursday, 20 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 20

Future Cut - 20/20 (Trouble On Vinyl, 1999)

Darren Lewis and Iyiola Babalola AKA D-Cutz and 2D first met on the Manchester DnB scene in the mid-nineties after Lewis handed out flyers for one of Babalola's club nights. When some studio time together was offered in return, Future Cut was born. By 1998 they had their first release with the funky The Chase / Fresh Step 12" on Renegade Recordings. But they really made an impact when they switched to a harder, darker sound on sister label Renegade Hardware: 'Whiplash', 'Horns 2000' and 'Stealth (Domination)' all caused huge damage.

They made a side-step to Trouble On Vinyl for a rare appearance on the parent label for the Mission Control LP. It was the second compilation on the imprint following Code Of The Streets two years previously and like that album, which included a tune from Future Forces Inc, producers from Hardware were also featured. '20/20' has an unusual intro with an almost 4/4 thump, sci-fi sound effects and interjections of Killa Bee-esque bass. When it drops it brings in a proper wobble of a bassline with crisp, punchy drums for a tune that sounds right at home on TOV.

Future Cut moved away from the DnB following their Un-Cut album with Jenna G in 2002 and found huge success writing and producing for big names such as Lily Allen, Olly Murs, Shakira, Rihanna and more. But last year they announced their return and a collaborative EP with Ulterior Motive followed in May. They have also remastered a number of their classic tunes in the 168-174 Series including the '20/20 Remix' which originally appeared on the Here Comes Trouble Vol. 9 EP. It was a favourite of Brockie and you can hear it in his set at World Dance Phase 1 on 20th April 2000:

Discogs link

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 19

Trinity - Chapter 19 (V Recordings, 1994)

This 12" from the mighty Dillinja under his Trinity alias could have served as the entry for both Day 19 and 20 of the DnB Advent Calendar as the flipside is entitled 'Chapter 20', but that would be a bit lazy of me so I've got something else lined up for tomorrow! Trinity was a moniker he reserved for releases on the V Recordings group of labels, also using it on Philly Blunt and Chronic, and this was his first outing under the name.

While 'Chapter 20' sounds a bit more refined, 'Chapter 19' is more of a late hardcore tune. Although released in '94 it had been on dubplate since around mid-'93 which explains the style. It opens with a pitched up "I can't wait for loooovvvvveeee" vocal and quivering synth pads before clattering Amen and a weighty bassline arrive. The track often sounds a bit off kilter, such as the bleeps that come in later that are barely in time with the rest of tune, but this all adds to its disorientating charm. Although Dillinja's productions would get more technically advanced, never again would they sound this off the wall.

If you are thinking of getting this from V Retrospect Vol. 2, a word of warning: they've got it mixed up with 'Chapter 20' and this track is yet to appear elsewhere digitally. You can hear V Recordings boss Jumping Jack Frost dropping it as his opening tune at Pandemonium Andromeda VII on New Year's Eve '93 below:

Discogs link

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 18

Sounds Of Life - Hidden Rooms (Certificate 18, 1995)

Certificate 18 may not have been the most well known label in the mid-nineties, but they played a vital role in the development of Drum & Bass. The Ipswich-based label was founded in 1993 by Paul Arnold and the local connection helped him sign Photek (as Studio Pressure), Digital (with Danny C as Authorised Riddim) and Klute, all before the likes of Metalheadz and Good Looking came calling. Arnold ran local record stores and he recalls:
"Hardcore was just kicking off, and some of the demos coming into the shop were so new and exciting – completely different to anything else. Rupert [Photek] was one of them. He was playing me stuff that just completely blew me away"
It was through Photek that Arnold came to sign two 15 year olds from St Albans, Jim Baker and Phil Aslett AKA Source Direct. Photek was also originally from St Albans and was introduced to the duo by his sister Georgina. He engineered tunes for them and their first material was released on Certificate 18 under the Sounds Of Life guise. 'Hidden Rooms' was actually on the last of their three 12"s for the label (four including a remix 12") but I've selected this tune as it lent its name to a series of compilations on the imprint. Jim explains the title:
"'Hidden Rooms' was the idea of having people in different hiding places all over the country... Nobody knows where they are, they’re just making music, that’s what it’s all about"
It's a tearing tune that opens with a Basic Channel style synth gurgle along with the Hot Pants break and soothing synth. But this is just the calm before the storm as crashing Amen and deep hits of bass soon arrive, along with a fizzing metallic whoosh sampled from 'Le Voie Le Soleil' by Subliminal Cuts. Midway through shimmering synths give some brief respite but it's really all about the fierce Amen edits and bass. Fabio, writing about the track in the first edition of Muzik magazine in June 1995 called it a "frenzied, Jah Shaka-style workout. The bassline is monstrous. These boys are definitely ready for the big time!"

He wasn't wrong as by the following year they already had a major label deal. They were also the first Drum & Bass act to do a Peel Session which aired on 7th July 1995 with 'Hidden Rooms' as the lead track - a download of the entire show is available over at the Peel Wiki. Talking to Kmag in 2010 Phil commented "John Peel picked up on us quite early because of our youth, and things just escalated from there". 'Hidden Rooms' is of course readily available on the first volume of the Hidden Rooms comps and you can hear the track below in the second part of Law's History Of Source Direct mixes:

Discogs link

Monday, 17 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 17

Squarepusher - Venus No. 17 (Acid Mix) (Warp Records, 2004)

So far this blog hasn't really touched on Drill'n'Bass, a sub-genre of IDM that takes Drum & Bass and Jungle to extremes, but it's a style I've always enjoyed. Hyper-edited drum breaks are blended with anything from Jazz, Classical, Glitch, Ambient and beyond to make music that just can't sit still for a second, music for the ADHD generation. Alongside Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert and µ-Ziq (who cropped up here yesterday), Squarepusher AKA Tom Jenkinson has been one of the principal exponents of this sound. Although some consider Drill'n'Bass to be something of a parody of DnB it is clear that Jenkinson has a deep love of the genre. He told XLR8R in 2012:
"The hardcore, jungle, and drum & bass which stretched from one end of the '90s to the other has had so much impact on my work that I pretty much owe my career to it."
'Venus No. 17', a standalone single from 2004, attests to this. The original mix is good but I prefer the Acid Mix which takes things a step further. It opens with a vocal stating "So you are Americanos. Well today I build you three coffins" (possibly referencing A Fistful Of Dollars). This introduces some typically mental Amen with a junglistic bassline, dub sirens, video game bleeps and a vocal sample used in loads of tunes including The Dream Team's 'Stamina' and DJ Gunshot's 'Wheel 'N' Deal', the "Hey Hey Hey" from Capleton's 'Everybody'. As the track progresses a meandering acid line comes in with dramatic synths before the track returns to its jungle origins. Mindbending material from a maverick producer.

Check out this Squarepusher mix for FACT that pays respect to hardcore pioneers Shut Up & Dance:

Discogs link

Sunday, 16 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 16

Bizzy B - 16 Track Ting (Original Re-Edit) (Brain Records, 1996)

Bizzy B AKA Brian Johnson could have already featured on the DnB Advent Calendar a few times with tunes such as '7 Minutes Of Maddness' and '10 Inch Press' but he finally debuts with '16 Track Ting', released on his own Brain Records imprint in 1996 but originally appearing on the Jungle Renegades Vol. 1 compilation the previous year.

The track opens with piano that alternates between forward and reverse before an MC declares "... play a different style, listen, 16 track ting, listen, acapella style, listen". It's a tune that blends the rough with the smooth with a plunging bassline and raw Amen/Think balanced by mellow chimes and sensual "Oh baby" coos. Later on in the track the drums are treated to some nice timestretching. Great stuff from a prolific producer - check his Bandcamp for plenty of archive material and VIPs.

'16 Track Ting' proved to be one of the final Brain Records releases, although the label was revived a decade or so later. Bizzy B turned his attentions to Joker Records which he ran alongside Pugwash, the other half of The Dream Team. Indeed a Dream Team remix appears on the other side of this 12". A bit more recently there was a refix on the Science EP Volume III, one of a few releases from Bizzy B on µ-Ziq's Planet Mu imprint. You can hear the Dream Team remix in Jumping Jack Frost's set at Pure X's Pre-Christmas Bash from this day 23 years ago.

Discogs link

Saturday, 15 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 15

DJ Red - 15 Years (Trouble On Vinyl, Unreleased 1996)

Day 15 of the DnB Advent Calendar and we have a first for DnB 365: an unreleased tune. This track was on a 10" Trouble On Vinyl dubplate with 'Murder One' (which appeared on Here Comes Trouble Vol. 3) but for whatever reason never came out. One possible explanation for that is the samples used, as it's packed full of them.

Let's start with the sample that gives the track its title - "I snorted cocaine for about 15 years... with my dumbass". This is Richard Pryor from an infamous 1970s routine. The drug references continue with the "All I have in this world" line from Scarface, also sampled on DJ Hype's 'True Playaz Anthem'. Lastly we have some of the Eazy-E's spoken intro from NWA's 'Approach To Danger':
"What you want is an unexpected approach, that may delay a suspects awareness of your presence, until you have a chance to assist the situation you are confronted"
You also get some of the unsettling piano in 'Scorpio's View' from Lalo Schifrin's Dirty Harry soundtrack that was sampled in the NWA track. Around all of this DJ Red crafts a hard stepping track featuring a hyperactive treatment of the Think break and reese style bass before a more punchy bassline is introduced along with some rough, ferocious Amen.

Unfortunately you don't get to hear that much of '15 Years' in the YouTube clip above but you can hear a bit more of the tune in this Brockie set on Kool FM from February 1996 with MC Det on the mic. DJ Kane has recently revived the Trouble On Vinyl label so maybe this track will see the light of day at some point.

Discogs link

Friday, 14 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 14

Doc Scott - Far Away (Fourteen Flavours Of Funk) (Metalheadz, 1994)

A fortnight in to the DnB Advent Calendar and we have fourteen flavours of funk from the fourth release on Goldie's iconic label. It's a stone cold classic from Scott McIlroy and his second appearance on Metalheadz, having already had 'VIP Drumz' on their very first 12". These two tunes show the versatility of Doc Scott as a producer as they sit at opposite ends of the Drum & Bass spectrum.

While 'VIP Drumz' is paranoid and frantic, 'Far Away' is as chilled as they come. There are few producers who are so adept at both the light and the dark. The fact that he has always considered himself "a DJ who makes music, always a DJ first" is vital as he knows how tracks will work when played out. Two club nights in particular played a crucial role for Doc Scott in the mid-nineties, Bukem and Fabio's Speed and Goldie's Bluenote Sessions:
"It was through these 2 club nights that I wrote the tracks I did, 'Drumz 95' for the Blue Note, 'Far Away' for Speed, that's how it was, it was a lucky position to be in for sure"
'Far Away' was without doubt a Speed anthem and as Om Unit put it when speaking to Fabric's blog in 2014, "the epitome of the cool-out vibe... just a classic mellow roller". Wah wah guitar and repeated "Far away..." vocals open the track before you're are enveloped by some soft pillowy synth. The Think break gets things going before warm hits of bass and the Sesame Street break enter and a chord change sends shivers down your spine. Absolute bliss.

You can check Doc Scott's studio setup back in the mid-nineties over at FACT, while 'Far Away' appears in Eazyflow's 1994 Mellow DnB Mix which is available to download from A Bass Chronicle.

Discogs link

Thursday, 13 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 13

Sonar's Ghost - Exit 13 (Rupture LDN, 2017)

In 2009, Dominic Stanton AKA Domu and myriad other aliases announced his retirement from the music industry. After many years of producing, DJing, remixing and managing labels he was tired of the whole thing. As he put it at the time "my creative light has dimmed". A few years later though and the upsurge in new music influenced by vintage Drum & Bass and Jungle reignited the flame, with the Two Hungry Ghosts blog being of particular importance.

Back in the nineties he had made Drum & Bass as Sonar Circle alongside Jaimie Norman on the pivotal Reinforced Records. His new project reflected his previous incarnation and his more recent inspiration, taking the name Sonar's Ghost. Stanton initially stayed in the shadows, not explicitly stating he was behind it or promoting anything himself. Although he still avoids the limelight now, he has at least come out from behind the curtain and a 12" on the crucial Rupture LDN imprint last year was his most prominent release since his retirement.

'Exit 13' is a tribute to the mighty Source Direct, re-imagining their vicious 'Exit 9', a '95 release on their own imprint (presumably taking its renumbered title from being the 13th release on Rupture). Unsettling synths glimmer while unidentifiable sounds scurry behind the Sesame Street break before Stanton shows off his incredible razor sharp Amen edits. He even throws in an appropriate sample of dialogue from Back To The Future III:
"I can assure you sir, is that you never know what the future might bring
The future? Oh I can tell you about the future"
In a similar fashion 'Praise 'Em' on the other side is a homage to Dillinja. You can hear both sides of the 12", plus VIP versions and Source Direct's original 'Exit 9' in this Sonar's Ghost In Session Mix for Rupture LDN from August 2017:

Discogs link

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 12

Swift & Zinc - 12 O'Clock Drop (Sophisticated Underground Sounds, 1995)

After posting about a track yesterday where the time was 11:55 it's only right that today we take a look at this tune in which we've reached the midnight hour. Swift & Zinc put out most of their material on Bizzy B's Brain Progression imprint but this tune appeared on a 12" that was both one of their final releases together and the first on a new label, Sophisticated Underground Sounds (SUS), founded by promoters Phil Hickin & Mick from Desire/2000AD Productions.

The intro features some chilled keys, drums using the hot pants break and sensual vocals, including "You are the only one who makes me feel this way" sampled from the swingapella version of 'Forever' by Key To Life feat. Sabrina Johnston. Preceding the drop the duo introduce two new vocal samples. The first "We lead double lives. We deal in sex and beautiful women" is taken from an episode of the American detective series Burke's Law entitled Who Killed Alex Debbs? Co-incidentally this sample also appeared in 'Kelly's Heroes' by British rock group Black Grape, released the same year.

The second gives the track its title and appropriately brings in a change of pace as Amen drums smash up the place accompanied by a kinetic Reese bassline for a stomping tune that certainly has a proper drop. Swift & Zinc set up a Bandcamp page recently and '12 O'Clock Drop' is one of the tracks available to download, newly remastered. Zinc comments "made in '94 released in '95 as far as i remember. big up phil and mick and all the desire massive... written produced engineered and mixed by swift and zinc. but i think it was just swift actually."

You can hear '12 O'Clock Drop' in this Fabriclive promo mix by Nanny Banton Vs Danny Drive Thru from 2014:

Discogs link

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 11

Roni Size & DJ Die - 11:55 (Roll Out Mix) (Full Cycle, 1995)

A few times when selecting tracks for the DnB Advent Calendar I've thought of something only to realise I've already posted about it. That's the case here but Roni Size & DJ Die included an alternative mix of this tune on the 12" release, which is fortunate for me as there aren't exactly loads of tunes featuring the number eleven! It's also fortunate for everyone because two versions of this tune can't be a bad thing. Despite the FCY001 catalogue number, this wasn't the first release on Full Cycle but the fourth - FC 004 is even crossed out on the run-out. The label was originally called Full Circle but was renamed after just one release, though they kept the same numbering system until '11:55'.

Both versions of the tune are on YouTube but I think the mixes are the wrong way round, based on my copy and the titles of the mixes. The Roll Out Mix featured today is a more stripped down version of the track, which makes sense given the name. The Gangsta Mix features a lot more of the vocal sample from Lightnin' Rod's 'Hamhock's Hall Was Big' which gives the track its title. It's taken from the 1973 Hustlers Convention LP, a lost classic Chuck D has called "a verbal roadmap for people trying to understand the ghetto they were in".

The Roll Out Mix opens with a cut-up of the Scorpio break before bringing in the Sesame Street break with a meaty 808 bassline. The central vocal sample is limited to just "the time is 11:55" while the other elements of the track float in and out sparingly. While the other side opened with the Sport break, also taken from the Hustlers Convention LP, here it pops up briefly towards the end. Overall I prefer the Gangsta Mix (which is the one included on the Music Box LP) but there's not much in it. You can hear the Roll Out Mix in this set from Ratty at The Edge Presents The Awakening from 1995:

Discogs link

Monday, 10 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 10

Axis - One In Ten (Good Looking Records, 1996)

We reach double figures for the DnB Advent Calendar with a tune that really should be played on hot summer's day rather than in the middle of winter. This was only the second ever release I bought from LTJ Bukem's Good Looking Records stable, following the 12" that immediately preceded it, PFM's 'For All Of Us'. I'd just started buying records seriously in 1996 though and I've added a few from the GLR catalogue since!

Axis was an alias of Illian Walker which he used only for Bukem's labels. He is best known simply as Ils and made several drum & bass tunes alongside DJ Solo before switching to the UK Breaks scene in 1998 where he found more success with tunes such as 'Next Level'. A sad loss for our scene and a decision he recently suggested he regretted:
"I would make an album if the I knew a large enough audience wanted it. Breaks has always been a very specialised field. I sometimes wonder what I would be doing if I had kept on making drum & bass with LTJ Bukem".
'One In Ten' is a great example of Bukem's style of DnB. Shimmering pads and rhodes are accompanied by bursts of flute and horn while lively drums that occasionally use the Apache and Think breaks provide plenty of energy. It's a tune that both moves your feet and warms your soul and it made a perfect start to Bukem's second Essential Mix appearance back in March 1996, with MC Conrad on the mic:

Discogs link

Sunday, 9 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 9

Total Science - Nine Numbers (C.I.A, 2000)

The duo of Quiff and Spinback were on an incredible run of form around the turn of the millennium. Although they had produced separately and together since '93 they had originally gone under the name Funky Technicians when working as a duo. While they still continued to use that name, in '96 they started the Total Science project and also formed a new imprint, Computer Integrated Audio (C.I.A.) to release material. By 2000 they found a sound that fused an old skool feel with a modern touch and went to new heights in popularity.

With releases on a multitude of labels including Hardleaders, Reinforced, Timeless and 31 Records they felt the time was right to put out the debut album, Advance. Talking to Drum&BassArena last year Spinback said:
"Our first album Advanced (sic) is another record that summed up what we were about too. The dancefloor elements, the downtempo stuff, soulful stuff. Everything we love about this music. I’m still really happy with that album now to be honest"
'Nine Numbers' definitely comes under the "dancefloor elements" of the LP. Over impeccably produced multi-layered drums and an indecipherable vocal ("Future?") they introduce a knocking style bassline for a tune that bumps hard. It received an excellent remix from Phantom Audio on the Make Me Feel EP because as Quiff says "Digital & Spirit have always been with us".

You can hear the original mix early on in the 21 Years of Total Science mix below from 2017 that accompanied the Drum&BassArena article:

Discogs link

Saturday, 8 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 8

Essence Of Aura - Northern Lights (Moving Shadow, 1994)

We've got to Day 8 of the DnB Advent Calendar and for the first time during this project it may not be clear why this track has been chosen. There were a few others that more obviously fit the bill but they weren't tunes I was overly keen on and I try to write about stuff I really like. 'Northern Lights' appeared on a a series of nine 12"s on Moving Shadow released over nine months called Two On One, each with a guest artist on one side and an in-house artist on the other. If you haven't guessed already, this was on Issue 8.

I've already covered the in-house side of Issue 8, 'Cuttin' Loose' by Moving Shadow regulars Foul Play, so this would make Essence Of Aura the guest artist but of course they did go on to have a few releases on the esteemed label, including their most well known tune 'So This Is Love'. The trio of Ian Scott, Tim Grantham and James Mitton-Wade were big in the Midlands scene and were highly regarded for their live PAs. They mainly released music on their own Outstanding Productions label from the early to mid-nineties before making their debut on Shadow with 'Northern Lights' in '94.

This tune showcases their transition from breakbeat hardcore to becoming trailblazers of the Ambient or "Intelligent" style of DnB/Jungle. Drums anchored by the Soul Pride break are joined by warm hits of bass, soothing pads and extended diva-ish "Oooooooohs" sampled from house anthem 'It's All Right' by Sterling Void & Paris Brightledge. As the track develops, rising arpeggios of keys reach for the heavens. The perfect tune to drift away to while looking up at a beautiful night sky and wondering what's out there.

Unfortunately Essence Of Aura split acrimoniously in '96, cutting short a brilliant career. While the other two retired from the music industry, James Mitton-Wade went on to form Guardians Of Dalliance who had an album and several singles on Moving Shadow from the mid to late nineties while also releasing material as Carlito, both solo and with DJ Addiction. He also compiled two Trans-Central Connection compilations for Moving Shadow that featured tracks from Midlands based artists, the first of which included the final Essence Of Aura tune, 'So This Is Love '96'.

A remix of 'Northern Lights' appeared on their first full Moving Shadow 12" and you can give that a listen below:

Discogs link

Friday, 7 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 7

Photek - Seven Samurai (Photek, 1995)

Rupert Parkes AKA Photek has a well documented obsession with martial arts, one that carried over into his music production in the mid-nineties. I've already covered two tracks, 'The Water Margin' and 'Ni-Ten-Ichi-Ryu', that show the far eastern influence in his sound but my DnB Advent Calendar gives me a great excuse to take a look at 'Seven Samurai'.

It is named after the Akira Kurosawa film about seven rōnin who are hired to protect a village of farmers from bandits. It opens with the sounds of a gong and tension-building metallic clangs while a multitude of other sinister sounds swirl around. The intricate drum production features reverse hits that resemble the swishing of swords. Talking to FACT back in 2011 Photek said:
“Some of the sounds, I made, some of them were different noises misrepresented. Like a weird texture running through a delay and then re-sampled, that to my mind sounded like in a [legendary Japanese film director] Akira Kurosawa movie when hundreds of samurai are moving in wooden armour and you’ve got that rattling and shuffling, and I’d make that out of something else to imitate that sound. Like what blues players used to do, to imitate a chugging train, play a riff that sounds like that."
The bassline is deep and dark and adds to the paranoid feel. The track is also well known for its use of the cymbal-heavy 'Tighten Up' break, so much so that the break is also known by the name Samurai. Photek's chopping of the break is exquisite, showing him to be a true master of his craft - check the section from around 4:45. Andy Skopes told Urban Essence about the first time he heard the track: "I wasn’t at all into DnB, but this totally changed my mind, the atmospherics, bassline and drums just slayed me".

The far eastern influence extends to the artwork by Mark Standere, who designed a number of sleeves for Photek and Source Direct. It features a grey misty scene influenced by Japanese impressionist printmaking while all the writing on the release is in Japanese script. The track featured on the first Form & Function compilation alongside a remix from Photek which you can check below:

Discogs link

Thursday, 6 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 6

Dom & Optical - Quadrant 6 (Moving Shadow, 1997)

When two heavyweight techstep giants get together you know the results are going to be good. Dominic Angas AKA Dom & Roland and Matt Quinn AKA Optical both have quality and substantial catalogues but released collaborations between them are very few - this 12" with 'Concrete Shoes' on the other side and 'Rage Roll' on the Quadrant 6 Remix 12" are all as far as I'm aware. There are a few unreleased bits though, including their stunning VIP of Boymerang's 'Still'.

Let's appreciate what we do have though and 'Quadrant 6' is a hell of a track. Desolate synths and plaintive horns open proceedings before some nasty distorted bass rises from the depths. The savage bassline is joined by unchanging and unrefined two-step drums but what really makes the track is the way the bass mutates throughout the track; I particularly like the way it starts to stutter around the four minute mark. The mid-track breakdown features what sounds like some dialogue from a sci-fi movie, although according to Dom it is supposedly him using a pair of Sennheiser HD-25 headphones as a mic: "Monotone frequency overload... transfer from sector 4-3... quadrant 6 6 6 6 6"

But why so little output from these two? Optical is perhaps best known for his partnership with Ed Rush and it is through Dom that the duo met after he worked on a few Ed Rush tracks including 'Subway' on Prototype and the Skylab EP on Metalheadz. However Dom was never credited for his work on the latter and wasn't happy about it. When asked by Drum&BassArena in 2016 around the time of his Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel LP about the pressure of having a release on Goldie's label he said: "I felt I already had my work on Metalheadz having co-written and mixed Ed Rush’s Skylab EP". I'm speculating, but some bad blood between those two combined with the success Optical had with Ed Rush from '97 as they pioneered the neurofunk sound probably stymied any further collaborations.

At least there have been a few remixes of 'Quadrant 6', with Fierce's version dropping later in '97 and an E-Sassin VIP on the Reborn In The USA EP in 2003. However my favourite remixes are two VIPs that Optical has shared on Soundcloud - one arranged live before the final version and the awesome Fierce VIP below:

Discogs link

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 5

Undercover Agent - Five Tones (Juice Records, 1997)

For Day 5 of my DnB Advent Calendar I thought I'd go for this well rinsed banger of a tune from Undercover Agent AKA Daz Ellis, the producer of classics such as 'Dub Plate Circles' 'Oh Gosh' and 'Babylon' (as Splash). Ellis and the Juice label were in a rich vein of form around this time with other big tunes including 'Hypnosis' and 'Hard Disk' (as M.T.S. with Darren Hickey AKA Fellowship).

'Five Tones' appeared on the B-Side (or Z-Side as Juice Records labelled them) to 'Hypnosis Remix' but could easily have been the lead cut. It opens with drums using the Hot Pants break and spacey synths before a nice squelchy bassline comes in. The vocal sample "Play the Five Tones" originates from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind but is sampled from Gene Page's cheesy disco take on the theme tune where a few lines of dialogue are redone at the beginning.

The tune was hammered by Brockie so he was the logical choice for the remix (alongside his Undiluted partner Ed Solo) which appeared on the double pack Cyndicut EP in 1999 on lovely red vinyl (the other plate was yellow). The EP shares its name with the radio station Daz Ellis setup with some friends way back in 1989, so I'm guessing marked a decade in the game. Brockie's version doesn't differ vastly from the original but is a worthwhile update of the tune. You can hear it around half way through his set at One Nation's Millennium NYE bash with regular accomplices Skibadee and Det on the mic. Also worth checking is this unreleased VIP.

Discogs link

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 4

Bad Company - 4 Days (BC Recordings, 1999)

For Day 4 of the DnB Advent Calendar I couldn't not have '4 Days' from the 4 man crew of Dbridge, Fresh, Maldini and Vegas. They made an instant impact on the scene with 'The Nine' and quickly followed with The Fear EP which showed that juggernaut was no fluke. '4 Days' was the lead cut and provides more of that face melting bass combined with thumping drums for a kinetic tune that I never tire of. When the group reformed in 2016 UKF asked each of them what their favourite BC tunes were and Vegas' answer says everything you need to know about it:
"Four Days does it for me. We’ve told this story before but the moment we dropped it at The End and this dude went totally wonky. Me and Darren had to carry him out of the club! Seeing a man collapse from a tune you’ve made is a very strange feeling. His eyes rolled back, his tongue went to the back of his mouth and he just fell. Me and Darren looked at each other and went ‘fucking hell!’ and caught him before he fell to the floor. It was like a movie. It obliterated him"

Andy C absolutely caned the track so it's appropriate that his Ram Records signees Moving Fusion remixed '4 Days' which appeared on a limited edition sampler for Bad Company's debut album Inside The Machine. You can hear both that remix and the original in this Bad Company set below which features plenty of other BC material alongside Dillinja, Kraken, Ed Rush & Optical and more.

Discogs link

Monday, 3 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 3

Spirit - Three In One (Phantom Audio, 2001)

Yesterday I covered a remix that the late, great Marcus Intalex was involved in and today it seems only appropriate that I can write about a tune from Spirit AKA Duncan Busto, another DJ and producer whose time came far too soon. It was only back in August that he was taken from us and the loss is still raw. Much like Marcus, it was striking how practically every tribute mentions how nice a guy he was. The two had collaborated on a few tunes only weeks before Marcus passed and the Untitled MCR / Acid Monday 12" came out in November 2017 on Spirit's Inneractive imprint, with Spirit taking great care to make sure everybody approved of the release and the timing was right. He commented to UKF:
"A lot of people I’ve spoken too have said that one of the saddest days is yet to come, when there’ll be no more of Marcus’ music left to release. For now at least the world will still get to experience a little more of what he had to give and that is precious"
Spirit was one of a few heralded DnB producers to grow up in Ipswich, with Photek, Digital and Klute also hailing from the area. He said to UKF last year regarding the scene "it was quite healthy for a farmer’s town wasn't it". Spirit worked at Redeye Records which is how he got to know Tom Withers AKA Klute, with whom he got his first taste of producing back in 1994. After a few well received solo releases, on labels such as Timeless and C.I.A., it was his project with another one of the local heads that really got people's attention. 'Phantom Force' with Digital was a monster of a tune and led to the duo forming the Phantom Audio label. Fast forward a couple of years and 'Three In One' appeared on the imprint.

It was the third part of a series of Special Edition 12" releases on the label which saw the duo working separately with one tune (or remix) each. Appearing on the flipside to Digital's 'Quickdraw', 'Three In One' is a beast of a tune that steadily builds up the layers. It's a great example of Spirit's harder side, opening with haunting drones over which militant drums using the Humpty Dump break enter. A three note dubby bassline rumbles along underneath and is joined by corroded metallic stabs and racing hi-hats. The track is completed with the introduction of a high-pitched electronic squeal sampled from Dr. Baker's 'Kaos', a 1990 house tune. Hypnotic, persistent, fiendish stuff with tons of energy which balances old skool influences with the colder, minimal sound of the time.

The following year Spirit started his Inneractive label and kept up a remarkable release rate, with tunes also appearing on Metalheadz, Commmercial Suicide, Horizons and Shogun Audio amongst many others. As he remarked to UKF just last year "I’m a lifer… What else am I going to do?" RIP Duncan

Inneractive Music re-released 'Three In One' digitally with 'Phoenix' in 2010 and you can download it over at the label's Bandcamp page. Check out this tribute mix from Subvert HQ:

Discogs link

Sunday, 2 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 2

2 Sinners - Second Thoughts (Marcus Intalex & ST Files Remix) (Mechanoise Records, 2000)

This tune ticks the box for Day 2 of the DnB Advent calendar twice with both an appropriate artist and title. It also gives me the opportunity to pay a belated tribute to Marcus Kaye AKA Marcus Intalex, whose unexpected passing last year left a huge hole in the Drum & Bass world. His productions were always impeccable and he was an incredible DJ, while he also helmed the excellent Soul:R and Revolve:r labels. Tracks such as 'How You Make Me Feel' and 'Universe' (both with ST Files) will forever remain close to my heart. But to truly understand his legacy you have to hear from those who knew him and were inspired by him. Check this piece in Mixmag published one year on from his death which features interviews with DRS, Calibre and Martyn amongst others. It leaves the final word though to his Mum, Pat:

“Marcus’s legacy to the world is his music and also his humanity. His legacy to me is his amazing friends whose love and support are ongoing, and you are all now part of my family. Marcus was simply loved and respected by everyone. As a proud but sad mum, I could not ask for more. Please keep enjoying his music, and I love and thank you all.”

Marcus Intalex & ST Files produced several high profile remixes back around the turn of the century, with tracks such as MJ Cole’s ‘Sincere’, 4hero’s ‘9 By 9’ and Un-Cut’s ‘Midnight' all receiving the M.I.S.T. treatment. Their remix of 2 Sinners’ ‘Second Thoughts’ wasn't as well known though, probably thanks to it being a fairly low key release on a UK Breaks label. It’s a little gem of a tune though and one that deserves a bit more recognition.

2 Sinners were the duo of Carl Hovland and Klaus Hill, the former being better known to drum and bass heads as one third of Usual Suspects. The pair put out several UK Breaks releases between 2000 and 2003 with ‘Second Thoughts’ being one of their first productions together. Released on the Mechanoise Records label in 2000, the original mix isn't my sort of thing, but Marcus Intalex & ST Files provide a typically sleek and sexy remix on the flip. It opens with the original’s spacey synth arpeggios and sensual “Inside my soul…” vocal over a light bongo loop before meatier drums that sound like they use a couple of hits from the Humpty Dump break really get things going. The duo then introduce a knocking two note bassline that combines nicely with the drums for a remix that shows their ability to produce smooth tunes that still bump. What’s more the 12″ is currently available on discogs for next to nothing, making it a great little Christmas present to yourself. RIP Marcus

Discogs link

Saturday, 1 December 2018

DnB Advent Calendar: Day 1

Mampi Swift - The 1 (Charge, 1997)

Welcome back to DnB 365 and a new feature that should hopefully see me write about 24 tunes in the run-up to Christmas - the DnB Advent Calendar. The idea is that every track will in some way relate to the date - easy enough for the first few posts but I may have to get creative as we go through the month - if you have any ideas for posts please leave a message in the comments or email me at 365dnb at gmail dot com, cheers!

Mampi Swift's 'The 1' was a huge tune back in the late nineties, to the extent that it got overplayed and a bit tired. But coming back to it now it's easy to see the appeal - it's all about that bass. The tune just rolls along with the gargantuan, guttural bassline pummeling you relentlessly. This made it a perfect candidate for double dropping, a signature technique in Swift's DJ sets. It's also the perfect time to feature this track at DnB 365 as it's been remixed this year by InsideInfo with the remastered original on the flipside - it's available to download now at Beatport, iTunes and Juno Download amongst others.

Check out the original in the excellent set below from Randall & Mampi Swift B2B at One Nation & Heat 6th Birthday from 1999 with G.Q., Foxy, Riddla, Skibadee, & Fatman D on the mic. Stay tuned throughout December for more advent surprises!

Discogs link

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Lennie De Ice - We Are i.e.

Lennie De Ice - We Are i.e. (i.e. Records, 1991)

"What we're going to do here is go back, way back, back into time"

For the first track breakdown here in a while I thought I'd go back to the beginning with a look at 'We Are i.e.' by Lennie De Ice, arguably the first proto-jungle tune. It was released in 1991 on i.e. Records, an imprint that was part of a stable of labels based out of De Underground Records, a store in London's Forest Gate area that was run by Mike De Underground alongside Uncle 22 and Randall. The shop had a studio upstairs where Mike's brother Cool Hand Flex and Uncle 22 were resident engineers, each having a track on the original 12" release of 'We Are i.e.' along with A-Sides. The EP was the first release put out by the collective.

It famously features the Amen break that would become one of the primary building blocks of jungle. When it was released there were already other hardcore tracks that had used the Amen but the way 'We Are i.e.' combined the break with the vocal samples, a ragga style bassline, vinyl spinbacks and gun shots (another jungle staple) made it really stand out as something different. What is incredible is that Lennie De Ice actually made 'We Are i.e'. back in 1988 in a home studio.

The Amen break originates in six seconds of solo drumming by Gregory C. Coleman during the middle of  The Winstons’ 'Amen, Brother', the b-side of their biggest hit 'Color Him Father' in 1969. The track is an instrumental cover of 'Amen', the gospel-tinged theme to the 1963 film Lillies of the Field composed by Jester Hairston and later popularised by The Impressions. The break became widely used in hip-hop and electronic music following the track’s appearance on Breakbeat Lenny’s Ultimate Breaks and Beats series in 1986 where the break was pitched down to 33 1/3 so it was at a hip-hop tempo. Early tracks to sample it include 2 Live Crew’s 'Feel Alright Y’All' (1987) and Mantronix’s 'King Of The Beats' (1988). Lennie De Ice commented:
"I was listening to a lot of Mantronix for the futuristic beats, the way he used to sandwich stuff. A lot of people were using breaks combined with the progressive feel of the house music and drum machines. We started merging things. From there it progressed."
In fact it was from 'King Of The Beats' that he sampled the Amen break, which explains it's lo-fi quality. According to Lennie "We Are IE" means we are an example to everyone, black, white, Indian, Chinese" so it's appropriate that the central vocal sample is from Chaba Fadela and Cheb Sahraoui's 'N’Sel Fik', an Algerian Raï song that was an international hit in 1986/87, although Lennie may have taken it from 'On The Cut' (1988) by Bomb The Bass where that exact portion of the vocal appears clean during the intro. The “Let me hear you scream” vocal comes from 'The Bugger Groove' by The Buggers, a much sampled electro track from 1984, while the gunshots and vinyl spinbacks are off Beats, Breaks & Scratches Volume 1, a collection of samples put together by Simon Harris in 1987.

Mike De Underground has said it was made on a Roland 106 Keyboard, Akai S900 Sampler and a four track: "The clarity wasn’t there but the essence still stung". After pressing an initial run of 500 copies, the crew had to drive around the country selling them directly to record shops, who weren't always willing to pay upfront as Mike recalls:
"We went all the way up to Manchester, Reading, Swindon, Bristol. Spent three weeks out there travelling England... I got rid of the five hundred and must have got cash in my pocket for a hundred. I had to leave them in the shops...We were out there and had to break the sound."
This DIY ethos was partly born out of passion for the music but also necessity. The tune had been taken to Outer Rhythm, a sublabel of Rhythm King that was run by future V Recordings boss Bryan Gee. The imprint had broken the careers of Moby and Leftfield but turned down the chance to sign 'We Are i.e.'. Fortunately the self funded effort eventually paid off and demand was so high that the 12" got repressed and went on to sell 15000 copies. All the top DJs were playing it but the first was Randall who told Spinzcycle in 2012:
"I always remember taking down promo’s to a Living Dream event that i was lucky to play at. Ten thousand people in a tent and giving Fabio, Grooverider and Colin Dale a copy of it, then hearing the response over the next few weeks how it went down in the clubs. Then the UK started to make more music with breakbeats in most of their tunes and before we knew it Drum and Bass Jungle was forming. It was a real moment!"
Since then the tune has been re-released and remixed numerous times and influenced countless producers. Pinpointing the first jungle track is impossible but you can really hear the elements of the style coming together in this tune, although the artist himself considers it to be a “hybrid acid track”. Whatever it is, back in 1991 this sounded like the future.

Discogs link

This post is based on a piece I wrote for the now defunct DnB Blog back in 2013. Thanks to Rich Malton for allowing me to reuse parts of that article here. Check out his A Bass Chronicle site.