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Essential Listening - The Sounds of DnB/Jungle

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This post is part of a series called Essential Listening.
Essential Listening - The Sound of Rock Drums
Essential Listening - The Sound of the Blues

Welcome back for another round of Essential Listening. Last time we took a look at some of the most famous Jazz musicians to grace the musical world. Today we are going to take a step in a different direction, directly into the heart of the jungle.

Jungle, or Drum and Bass, is a genre that grew out of the underground electronic music scene in London during the late 80s and 90s. As a mash up of high speed rave, rhythmically complex beats, Jamaican music, hip-hop, and dub, DnB became the pinnacle of artistically complex electronic music for nearly a decade.

While many artists have shaped the ever evolving landscape of Jungle and DnB, there are those both past and present who truly stand out for one reason or another. From the founders of DnB to the modern day movers and shakers, the number of possible names are too high! But hopefully for the uninitiated, this list can provide some starting points.

So, if you are ready to see what the jungle has to offer, step in!


Goldie

Goldie (image: public domain)
Goldie (image: public domain)

One of the biggest names to play the game, Clifford Price, or Goldie, has also been one of the most successful Junglists in the history of DnB. Originally a graffiti artist, Goldie reached mainstream success as a producer/DJ of Jungle and Drum N Bass music.

As one of the founders of Jungle, Goldie, along with Roni Size, Andy C and others, had a massive influence on the evolution of the genre during the early years. His debut studio album Timeless changed the game, and DnB was never quite the same.

A dense and expressive layering of samples, synths, and sliced up drum breaks, Goldie's music showcases the artistic beauty in the dirt and underground.

Here are some points to listen for and take away.

  • The rhythmic complexity and choppiness to the drums, a very characteristic sound of the style.
  • Depth of the bass lines and their tonal purity. Very little harmonic content is present and the bass lines enter and leave at opportune moments never over staying their welcome.
  • The dirty grungy tone of the drums and how they contrast the bass and ambient sound effects.

DJ Rap

DJ Rap by Revata
DJ Rap (photo by Revata)

As one of the top female DJs in the world, Charissa Saverio, or DJ Rap, is the queen of DnB, if not DJing in general. With her classical upbringing combined with an unrelenting personality, DJ Rap helped evolve jungle music beyond the dark and dirty sound.

It was Rap's contribution to the genre that helped DnB add an ambient and uplifting quality to its arsenal of sound. Along with acts such as LTJ Bukem, Rap helped usher in the Intelligent or Atmospheric DnB subgenre. Additionally, Rap was also at the forefront of the genre as it moved out of the underground and into mainstream music and began to incorporate other styles into her palette as well.

Here are some points to listen for and take away.

  • While still having some of the dirtier jungle sound, Rap offers a cleaner tone to her drums.
  • Uplifting atmospheric pad sounds that have a slow motion that contrasts the speed of the percussion.
  • Despite having a more atmospherically complex mix, the drums and bass still take precedence.

Pendulum

pendulumband

Pendulum (photo by wonker)

While still very much newcomers to the Drum and Bass scene, Pendulum present themselves not simply has a electronic project, but live act as well. A successful mainstream combination of alternative rock and DnB, Pendulum is responsible for bringing DnB to a large modern audience and is one of the most successful DnB acts to date.

Unfortunately, with many more mainstream acts, Pendulum is also suffers the brunt anger of traditionalists who have a distaste for their more mainstream approach. While they do not hold true to the ideals of older acts such as Goldie, Roni Size, and Andy C, Pendulum instead pushes ahead with a more modern sound.

Here are some points to listen for and take away.

  • Modern and mainstream sound of the mix. However the drums still cut the most as they always do in DnB.
  • Use of guitars and acoustic drums mixed with electronic beats.
  • Chord progression is more prominent and less ambient - very reminiscent of rock music.

London Elektricity

London Elektricity (photo by Tom Godber)
London Elektricity (photo by Tom Godber)

Another large name in the modern DnB scene is Tony Colman, or London Elektricity. While originally a duo between Colman and Chris Gross, the act has largely become the project of Colman.

Unlike many of the other acts, London presents a highly intelligent and almost quirky style to Drum N Bass. Sometimes referred to as urban or coffee shop DnB, London's tracks stand very much alone and can easily be listened to outside of a club mix.

Many tracks have very tight clean drum beats that are not overly kick drum heavy which allows the bass to really stand out. London is also found of adding soul singers, horns, and string sections, to give the music greater contrast and sometimes a classical or big band feel.

Here are some points to listen for and take away.

  • A clean tight drum sound that still pays homage to the older tone in contrast to Pendulum's modern rock sound.
  • The drums stand on more even ground with the rest of the music, and do not always slam down on the rest of the mix as with other acts.
  • None of the tracks stay stagnant - they are always changing things to add motion to the music.

Conclusion for Now

As stated before, there are countless DJs and producers who helped shape the Jungle and Drum N Bass genre, but not all of them can be covered in one article. For those of you new to DnB and looking to experiment with the style these are great acts and contributors to start with.

For the audio engineers out there, pay close attention to the old tracks and how they compare to the new tracks. There is a clear evolution from the older dirty sound to the modern crisp styles.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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