What happened to Drum and Bass? The world seems to have moved on from this genre which for the most part has been driving down a creative cul de sac since the late ’90s without producing anything worthwhile. It’s still a fairly popular genre- DJs like Hype have no problems filling clubs and producers like Chase & Status are contacted when Rihanna wants to sound edgy. But finding some genuinely great D’n’B made by people who want to do something different and special can be hard. A few years ago a producer called dBridge injected new life into the genre with his fantastic album The Gemini Principle, one of the best electronic albums of the last decade. Since then his Exit label has been a refuge for Drum and Bass fans looking for something that’s a bit more than the usual crash bang wollop.
The press release which accompanies this compilation expresses the desire that this music reaches the ears of those who have forgotten about Drum and Bass to let them know that there’s life left at 140 BPM.
The majority of the tracks on this double CD anthology are stripped down and minimal; at times barely recognisable as Drum and Bass at all. The heavy beats and basslines are gone and it would almost be easier to compare them with the sort of IDM Warp Records were putting out in their heyday.
The bigger Drum and Bass names like Commix seem to be opting for a more chilled out sound than usual which works well for home listening. There’s a lot of attention given to creating and sustaining certain atmospheres which is something the producers might have learnt from their dubstep counterparts. Even some of dubsteps most recognisable figures make contributions including Skream who has always displayed a love for breakbeats on his tracks. His offering here, ‘Motorway’ is a dark roller with spooky vibes which will get your head nodding.
It’s hard not to acknowledge the influence of dubstep here. Even at an increased tempo many of the tracks chug along at a slow pace that feels like dubstep. Maybe that’s what the compilation is going for, a hybrid sound that has Drum and Bass’ momentum and dubstep’s atmospheres.
But it’s not all moody beats and dark melodies- Crom’s epic Invisible Cities could be The Knife or any number of chillwave artists while Abstract Elements adds some ’90s playfulness with ‘Essence of Time’. dBridge himself features on three of the tracks here and it’s surprising how melodic he sounds.
The opening track ‘In 2’ by Scuba has a sample of a girl singing “Into the future” and that’s the direction this genre has always tried to take. Over these two CDs the producers demonstrate that there is still creative and forward thinking musicians making Drum and Bass.