“Love and other tragedies are recurring themes in the series. Whoever thought that d&b is cold, emotionless and monotonous music, clearly haven’t been paying attention…”
I realize that the series read like another generic countdown list, however there are deeper connotations to me. It’s a retrospective musical diary; a timeline that reflects and documents what I’ve been listening to in various periods of my life. Over time, my militant musical views have – thankfully – attenuated and I’ve come to embrace and appreciate a broader musical spectrum. Hence, all the producers who feature on the series are artists that have resonated with me and have steered away from rigid, formulaic corners.
The third part of the mini-series covers the period 2000-09. At the dawn of the new millennium the majors had turned their backs to drum & bass and adopted a more chart-friendly policy. The halcyon days seemed abruptly over, artists turned almost overnight from media darlings to pariahs and the music press headlines proclaimed the death of the genre. But drum & bass was too cool for that. After a short period of introspection and re-invention, d&b returned stronger than ever. A new wave of artists and record labels pushed the musical boundaries beyond genre confines and soon d&b regained its well-deserved place in the electronic music map; from a limited connoisseur circle to a global audience, from sweaty basements and midweek slots to headlining club main stages and festivals.
“The Luke Skywalker of Breakbeat. He is unbelievable, he is so talented. I’ve been watching him grow up in the last two years. I’ve seen him grow from this inquisitive street kid to that age where he’s humorous and simply enjoying life. I do feel like a big brother to him.” – Goldie on J Majik, Platinum Breakz inner sleeve notes, 1996
This week is the blog’s 7th year anniversary. Traditionally, the anniversary features are retrospective accounts. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve taken a nostalgic trip back to 1997; the pinnacle of drum & bass’ golden era and a seminal year for full-length albums and various artists compilations*. Drum & bass had already attracted the media spotlight, which in turn exposed the niche genre from a limited connoisseur circle to a wider audience, providing artists with a vital and creative space for experimentation. However, what started with bona fide artistic intentions came with a price, but this is a story for another day.
As manifested in previous posts, over the years I have developed an affinity for albums. Immersing in the underlying atmosphere, I am intrigued by the influences, the samples, the lyrical motifs, the artwork, the concept, the evident or cryptic messages they convey; everything eventually culminates in a narrative with a purpose and a profound personal touch. I prefer conventional structure: an opening track foreshadowing the main theme, which is divided perhaps into multiple sections with interludes or vignettes and a closing track that concludes the musical journey. Some artists get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot midway and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, gradually unveiling beauty and truth in time.
“I wanted to use a methodical, timeless word, which could have different meanings. Obviously, ‘Rotation’ for circular motion on a turntable, ‘Rotation’ in life’s cycle, ‘Rotation’ in art forms that appear, fade, reappear, ‘Rotation’ as a whole; and then ‘Audio’, because audio production is what we’re involved in”.
I have been browsing through my notes pondering about the blog’s 7th year anniversary feature (due this coming April) and couldn’t help wondering about the lengths d&b has reached after all these years. The scene seems as exciting and healthy as ever, abounding with great new music literally every week. It’s been definitely easier, almost de rigueur to establish a new record label nowadays, as opposed to the 90s, however to carve a niche in a small yet saturated market without vision, purpose and commitment is a first class ticket to disappointment.
The next installment of the blog’s ‘This Side/That Side’ label profile series, is about a brand-new, boutique independent record label based in Bournemouth UK, which has been a creative hub the last few years. The brainchild of dj/producer Joe ‘Ride’ Rideout, Rotation Audio was founded through love and dedication to electronic music. The new label will aim to showcase some of the rawest well-known and underground talent in the drum & bass and jungle scene and will focus on the darker roots of the spectrum. Their first release emphatically validated that statement.
“All our music is there to capture the imagination and we were writing tunes so they could be listened to as whole pieces or stories, rather than dj tools. The idea of people interpreting the songs in different ways and creating their own narratives is really interesting to us”.
‘A good sample is worth a thousand synths or plug-ins’
Blocks & Escher – Broken/Sagan (NARRATIVES001)
The next installment of the series is about one of my favourite tracks of recent years, which has all the qualifying attributes of an instant classic. In a previous post I had manifested the importance of a memorable, intriguing, even cryptic artist name or an appealing title/logo for a record label. Our culture of distraction and minimal attention span seems unrelenting on burying new music beneath an endless scroll. An attractive name won’t compensate for dreadful music, but it’s definitely a head-start and if there’s a chance to go down in musical history, then it’d better take place in style. I can see eyebrows raising already; however following the aforementioned maxim I have made brilliant discoveries over the years.
I stumbled upon Narratives Music, while browsing Surus, the now defunct online store managed by ST Holdings. It’s been one of those cases that I was sold, before even listening to a single clip. The austere brand logo, featuring the ‘NARRATIVES’ title enclosed in brackets, with white font superimposed on a plain black background (the logo has later appeared in various artistic coloured variations), as well as the label name itself were an overture to cast my own interpretations and visualize my own subjective account of the images, the stories and the sentiments the music conveyed.
“I think things are cyclical and in the advent of digital, people crave the physical”
“And I think record collectors will always be buying vinyl and building a collection of good music, then passing on that knowledge to others who might not collect yet, because it’s great and fun and a way of life!”
This is the second installment of the blog’s new series titled “On The Outside, Looking In”. As the title suggests, it is a retrospective sneak view into my guests’ photo albums, collections, musical diaries, hazy memories and internal monologues. The discussion timeline is non-linear, jumping back and forth in times and places, as it would probably be in a real-time conversation with friends, whose music-related work I admire and respect. The concept of interviewing my guests in pairs has been intriguing and thought-provoking, trying to find out how their paths have periodically intersected and eventually converged through music: from rented studio time in the early 90s to custom-made studios and modern production, from raves in warehouses and sweaty basements to transatlantic tours and remixing punk priestess Siouxsie (well, that’s a story for another day), from tape packs and pirate radio to record fairs, eclectic record collections, running boutique record labels in 2019 and everything in-between.
Justice & Dissect
The head title of the series has been inspired from the first Modern Urban Jazz release by Glider-State (Blame & Justice), so it is with great joy that I present the man himself Tony ‘Justice’ Bowes alongside one of the most interesting figures of the new generation of producers Michael ‘Dissect’ Walsh.
“Sacrificing time, energy and money to keep an independent record label afloat in a niche and saturated market is a reality we often ignore or overlook, especially when it comes to investing on the vinyl format. So, I take the opportunity to thank all artists and record labels for gracing this year with their beautiful music and safeguarding the art, the passion and the romance”.
The last blog post of the year is traditionally a retrospective countdown. Though our culture of distraction and minimal attention span seems unrelenting on burying new releases beneath an endless scroll, 2018 has been exceptional for important things like new, fascinating music. From the establishment of new boutique record labels and classic album re-issues, to much-anticipated debuts, spectacular or dramatic comebacks, this year abounded with great music. My penchant for LPs was more than clear in the previous post, however I feel the urge to express it once again: Album writing has always been and still remains an art form. When you want to make a statement in music, you write an album and at the moment those statements are more exciting, varied and relevant than ever before.
“No? Who am I then? – A puppet. – And you’re not? Or maybe, you’re my puppet. But like all puppets you think you’re actually human. It’s the puppet’s dream, being human.”
Silent Dust is the musical project of Andy Hobbs (Hobzee) and Daniel Blishen (Zyon Base). They have been producing music under their respective solo monikers for more than a decade and made their discography debut as a duo in 2008. Hobzee & Zyon Base forged their unique career path from the prevalent post-liquid drum & bass sound to the outskirts of Autonomic with releases on some of the genre’s renowned labels including SGN:LTD, Fokuz, Influenza Media and Samurai Music (‘1000 Paper Cranes’ is a firm favourite), which garnered wide support and praise by the genre’s most prolific djs and taste-makers.