Drum N Bass: 20 Years On

Breakbeat music has always been seen as a kind of rebellious alternative to the ever-present “four-on-the-floor” bangers that have been raiding both the pop and underground charts way back since Disco. Ironically DNB was actually created by some very clever British DJs mixing a bit everything from Techno to Dub in their sets until some kind of a genre was born. This was aided by the wider use of breaks in Hip-Hop production, serving as a basis for the ‘jerking-yet-smooth’ nature of this new, exciting style. To avoid confusion, Breakbeat came about first in the rave scene of the early 90s (think The Prodigy and Moby), but this was all but forgotten when the faster, more Reggae and Hip-Hop influenced Jungle/DNB took to the mainstream (Goldie and LTJ Bukem etc…).

Typically, Jungle of the mid 1990s was slightly slower than it is now (at about 165 BPM) with a greater focus on the chopping of breakbeats, subby 808s and the ability to throw in any Ragga-sounding sample that you could get your hands on. Since the turn of the century, DNB has predominantly become faster (174-180 BPM) with growling basslines, huge leading saw synths and a greater use of vocalists instead of spitting MCs. Modern producers mainly use one-shots to create their drum sounds instead of break samples, providing a more clean and calculated aesthetic, aiding in its huge chart success in the UK and Europe. However, since the global emergence of American Dubstep and the massive popularity of Gabber in the Netherlands, producers like Dutch natives Noisia have taken these harder styles and morphed them into a new, heavier, more experimental form of DNB, moving away from the more commercially accessible ‘liquid’ sound.

Despite all of this, there is still a great demand for Bass music, especially in its native UK, helping to preserve it’s undeniable cultural crater. Perhaps it’s because it never seems to age like House does, or maybe because its such an effective melting-pot for other styles? Aided by these characteristics, the “ugly sister” of dance has now become something of the British club scene’s driving force. It’s not often that you find a genre that is as soothing as it is energetic. Drum N Bass definitely has something about it that keeps the listener hooked for hours on end. No matter what you are into, whether it be Rock, Hip-Hop or Thrash Metal, there is always something for everyone in DNB, and that’s the sheer beauty of it. It’s not that the genre point-blank refuses to die, it’s more that it just can’t.


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