Call it what you will, claim that it was born out of or spawned this and that, Drum and Bass (especially in the United States) is a genre that is hit or miss for most people. Sure, it had it’s moment in the late 90′s into the early 2000′s, born out of Jungle, early Dub, Breaks and Hardstyle. I’m no expert on the genre by any means. but during its prime was actually my first introduction into the genre; one of the first CDs I ever purchased was Dieselboy’s “System Upgrade” (2000), out of the used CD section of an FYE. I went home, threw it into my boom box and said “what the fuck am I listening to? This is different and I love it.” It was fast and angry, spewing throbbing bass and off beat percussion that made you move some part of your body.
I threw DnB onto the backburner as I got into middle/high school, thanks to my Biology teacher who was more into trance; whom I can also give claim to my introduction into the “4 on the floor” side of EDM. I shifted my focus to that for a while, making mix CDs for him and friends, downloading mixes like crazy and constantly streaming DI.fm back when it had maybe 8 channels to choose from.
Let’s fast forward to now, I’ll spare you the punk/hardcore days.
After meeting my girlfriend Lauren, she was able to re-kindle my interest in Drum and Bass. If you’ve seen me DJ in the past year you may have heard me play it whenever I get the chance: From the back patio of TSI, inside TSI for Crunchay Sunday guest spots, at festivals, at Byron Brown’s Phukhead events.
Drum and Bass hasn’t really gone anywhere. It hasn’t lost steam over in the UK; in fact, it’s where most of these tracks are coming from. It’s my drug, my favorite weapon, my guilty fucking pleasure. For this write up I’m going to skip most of the 2000′s and review my favorite releases over the past few years, from both sides of the Atlantic. I’ll break it down by sound, instead of artist.
Let me start by talking about my hands down favorite artist: Spor. Jon Gooch, who you may also know as Feed Me (yes, the EDM artist) has been producing and DJing for a lot longer than you think. He’s got a sound that sets him apart from every DnB producer out there. This disgustingly grungy, filthy and organic noise, along with some of the best off beat drum sequencing, makes every single release of his solid gold. There is no list of “the best” Spor tracks. There are just Spor tracks. In his recent workings with Chris Renegade they have birthed quite a few labels: Lifted Music, Renegade Hardware, Breed 12″, along with friend labels like Bad Taste UK and RAM Records, to harbor some artists that all have this eerily similar sound. A raw, disgusting, and dark sound that I will (for the sake of this article) call UK Filth. Of course there are genre specific names for these tracks, but just humor me and have a listen.
1.Ewun – “Screw Up” (The Upbeats Remix).
Who can hate on a Notorious B.I.G. sample? It works so well on this track. The percussion track is a little deviated from your standard drum and bass sound, but the extra kicks play well with that oh so nasty lead synth and sub bass. Just have a listen and see if you don’t feel just a little more gangster after. Both Ewun and The Upbeats are good on their own, together it just gets scary. Download
2. Mob Tactics – “Stick Up Kid” (Prolix Remix)
In keeping with the thug feel, I give you this. Carrying a vocal sample from Mobb Deep, it has just the right amount of anger to carry the whole track. And the pairing of the over amplified sub bass and wobbly synths make this whole track a grungy, teeth gritting gem. Download
3.Noisia & The Upbeats – “Dustup”
Ahh, Noisia. If you aren’t familiar with them in this day and age, I’m sorry. One of the most popular DnB groups as of the past few years, chances are you’ve at least heard of their tracks. This track is FRESH, off of their very recent Imperial EP release. This track also goes fucking hard. It’s driven mainly by the solid and heavy drums, and deep oscillating sub bass. It’s got such a great building intro and middle, and those little high synth and wobble compliments at the end of the bars keep the track hype. Every time this song comes on I find myself beating the shit out of my dashboard and steering wheel, or dropping a gear just so I can drive faster. Download
4. The Qemists – “Stompbox” (Spor Remix)
I can’t finish this section off without a couple Spor tracks. The original of this song had an almost Pendulum feel, with live instrument noises and guitar like leads. You can still get the feel from this track, but this mainly meant to demonstrate the Spor sound I’m talking about. You’ll hear it, trust me. The synth lead on this song is a little more hype than the rest, but it’s still dark and raw with that background organic synth and heavy percussion. Download
5. Spor – Kindgdom
Final track of this section is an original by Jon. This also exemplifies the nasty Spor sound in almost all of his songs. Listen for the crunchy noises following the kicks. It tears off into some awesome off beat breakdowns too. Paired with the multiple ominous synths and basses, this track is just scary. Download
Lets transition into a lighter feel, some vocal Drum and Bass. Normally I leave vocals to trance and electro, but in these tracks it actually works very well.
1. Dukebox ft. KT Forrester – Pressure (AMC, Mattix and Futile Remix)
Oh my god do I love this track. I was blown away when DNBA premiered it on their podcast. KT Forrester’s voice works so perfectly with the sounds of the song. This song would work just fine as a hype instrumental track with the insane blaring synth’s and long distorted bass lines, but with the vocal it seals the deal. And it goes hard. Have a listen. Download (Lower Quality, best to buy on Beatport)
2. Noisia ft. Giovanca – “My World”
I have used this track in multiple mixes and live sets, because the vocals blend so perfectly. By itself, they also make the track. Noisia has a knack for making creepy and dark sounding music, and the vocals only set the tone further. This song is a little toned down compared to the rest on this post, but the breaks styled percussion and forefront amplified bass synth still give it an edge. Download
3. Drumsound & Bassline Smith – “Close”
If you haven’t heard heard me play this before, it’s one of my favorites. It has a classic sound and builds and drops so smoothly. Drumsound & Bassline are somebody you really want to check out if you haven’t yet.
4. Sub Focus ft. Alice Gold – Out of the Blue
My buddy Gizroc actually floated me this track a few months back and I couldn’t resist. It’s definitely the most light-hearted and “dancefloor” sounding DnB song of this post, what with the super happy tuned lead synth and classic beat. Alas, those paired with Alice Gold’s vocals, the song is just CATCHY. Direct Download
5. Rusko – Somebody To Love (Sigma Remix)
If you didn’t know, Rusko is on my top 10 list of producers, up there near the top with Diplo and Jon Gooch. When the original for this track leaked, it was clear he was making some great changes. When Sigma released the official remix, I was even more excited, because Sigma hasn’t ever made a bad release or remix. He manages to speed the track up perfectly, carrying all of the best parts of the original over, especially the vocals.
On the opposite end from the dark and grungy spectrum you have tracks driven by these incredibly high energy sounds and continuously rolling synth/bass lines. Songs that make you want to jump and step wildly all over the place.
1. Chase & Status – No Problem
This track hits so many levels that I want to classify it under the “Classics” section. It’s been played by C&S and other DJs consistently since it was released and hasn’t gotten rinsed out yet. It’s got a great jungle sound, driven by the constant sub bass and those amazingly catchy synth lines. The breakdown is also probably one of the best parts of this song. Direct Download
2. Krafty Kuts – Shake Them Hips (Drumsound & Bassline Smith Remix)
I don’t recall how I stumbled upon this track, but I’m sure it was after discovering Drumsound and Bassline. I went on a huge track hunting spree and this one showed up in my library. Not only is this one of my favorite roller tracks, but it’s possibly one of my favorite drum and bass tracks of all time. The intro is a great cut from the original, the synths are hyper, whether it be the aggressive saw or the awesome arpeggiating pops, and the song just goes HARD. Still not rinsed out, still super catchy; this makes me dance every fucking time. Download
3. Pendulum – Blood Sugar
Who can hate on Pendulum? If you got lucky enough to catch them while they were still together (they broke up recently, Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen devoting their time to Knife Party), you have either seen a full band live set or a DJ set, their shows are not to be missed. Blood Sugar is one of their more underrated (but still very played) tracks from the Hold Your Coulour LP. As far as their recognized stuff, the album is their best in my opinion, second to their older singles and releases. The track has a great head bobbing synth track that breaks in all the places. The breakdown exemplifies what sound Pendulum was going for, with a rock-ish influence build. Download
4. Nero – Me & You (Dirtyphonics Remix)
While Nero isn’t on my top 10 list for producers, they’re up there. They make some great music, some stellar remixes and I’ll say that I really enjoyed “Welcome Reality”. It also spawned some amazing remixes, like this one from Dirtyphonics. Ohhhh Dirtyphonics… these guys are near the top of my top 10 producer list. And by that I mean instant erection list. You might know them from their remix of Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters”, which actually makes the track tolerable *cough*… These guys CRUSH this remix, taking the speed, energy, and all around hype to another level. They add their own subtle wobbles to the background and tweak the original foreground synth with their classic sound. It just works. Download
5. Camo & Krooked – Make The Call (Drum & Bass VIP)
It’s really hard to pick just one Camo & Krooked track, because they’re all phenomenal. Camo & Krooked are usually a little on the lighter side, with a lot of their earlier stuff pushing on liquid DnB. They save their immense energy for their remixes, all of which usually hyped as hell. This VIP is a perfect example, being aggressive and high energy at the same time. Direct Download
Ooh, this was extremely difficult to just pick 5. Shhh, no talking, just listening.
1. Noisia – Diplodocus (Kill The Noise Remix)
I like to refer to these types of tracks as half and half. Half Drumstep, half Drum and Bass. All amazing. Both the original and remixes of this song are ridiculous (check out The Upbeats’ remix, on the same special edition “Split The Atom” LP) Download
2. Dirtyphonics – Vandals
Still play this song in almost every set. Another half and half type song, this one just makes me throw down my headphones and dance. Download
3. Bassnectar ft. Amp Live – Ugly
Bassnectar isn’t really known for producing much drum and bass, but I’ve always known he was a fan. This track clearly proves that. So hype. Download
4. Pendulum ft. Freestylers – Painkiller (Noisia Remix)
I’m reaching in my cupboard for a… Download
5. Chase & Status – Hood Rat
Waaayyyyy older track from C&S: Wu Tang meets breaks meets darkstep meets neuro. Just plain nasty. Download
This section is a special thanks to “Spectrum” ( Thomas) for his consultation on this write up. He asked me to post some liquid/chill drum and bass. Nice and melodic for you people.
1. Camo & Krooked – Afterlife Direct Download
2. Sub Focus – Follow the Light Download
3. Crissy Criss – Let Go (DnB Rollers Remix) (Purchase from iTunes)
4. Blu Mar Ten ft. Kirsty Hawkshaw – Whisper Download
Vocals are so beautiful.
5. Chase & Status + Sub Focus – Flashing Lights (S.P.Y. Remix) Download
A little more hype than the rest, but still very relaxing compared to the original.
And thats all I have for you guys this time. Hope you enjoyed. Stay tuned for more.
-DJ Taylor Wells