“A song for a life I left behind”
Calibre – Hypnotise (SOULR016, 2004)
When I started the ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series six years ago, I had an abstract vision in mind: to hand-pick, document and present sentimental music from my collection in an endeavor to unlock something magical, to capture that moment in time and that beautiful place, which are both tantalizingly at your fingertips, but seem always out of reach. The blog is mainly d&b-oriented, as is my record collection, so intuitively most installments feature drum & tracks, or to be more precise tracks loosely or directly related to the drum & bass template and aesthetic.
The next edition of the ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ was in fact pencilled to feature at the start of the series, but somehow I didn’t feel confident enough or emotionally detached to talk about it, until now. It’s a track that gracefully reflects the arrogance and naivety of an earlier life, which I wasn’t quite ready to leave behind. Quoting Johnny Lee Miller’s character ‘Sickboy’ in Trainspotting 2: “Nostalgia. That’s why you’re here. You’re a tourist in your own youth”.
“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.
“… the track had a very heavy nostalgic feeling to it, like you were looking at an old photo album with the faded film of childhood memories, simpler times. We are both massive fans of video and with ‘Photograph’ it’s like we envisioned it to be scene of a film …” – Damon Kirkham reflects on the track’s conception
“… ‘Photograph’ takes the deep, emotive route of previous releases ‘Pacific Heights’ and ‘Sakura’ into the most beatific, blissful and evocative music they have yet conspired to create… in short, a modern masterpiece” – Triple Vision Distribution, Press Release, May 2009
Leaving the mid-90s drum & bass golden era and fast forward to 2009, the 8th installment of the blog’s ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series is about a distinctive and quintessential track of the ‘Autonomic’ era, written and produced by Instra:mental, the masters of electronic reverie. Introducing a wide palette of sound sources and analogue production techniques, profoundly influenced by a variety of musical styles from years past, Instra:mental re-imagined the drum & bass blueprint, applying a cinematic vision with a cross-genre appeal to their production output.
A mini-interview with 22 short questions (some personal, some tricky) looking for equally short answers, addressed to artists, producers, promoters, djs, friends and affiliates of the blog in general.
Today Nymfo Jumps the Q
Let’s get started:
A prolific drum and bass artist and a dexterous dj, with bookings all around the globe, Nymfo is the recording alias of Bardo Camp. Hailing from Netherlands and currently based in Amsterdam, Nymfo has been creating serious waves in the international drum and bass scene, since his inaugural release in 2007. Fast forward to 2013, Nymfo has cemented his reputation as an innovative and versatile producer, covering a wide range in the drum and bass spectrum. With numerous production outputs under his belt, on some of the most prominent drum and bass labels, as well as dj sets at the world’s most prestigious venues, the future seems ever brighter.
A veteran producer and one of the most experienced artists in drum & bass, Darren White aka dBridge is an artist whose multiple transformations and evolutions glide through a staggering list of achievements. Over the course of a long and distinguished career, he has been at the heart of some the most exciting collaborative partnerships drum & bass has ever seen from Future Forces to Bad Company and most recently Club Autonomic. Forging a strong bond with Instra:mental, they showcased their Autonomic sound with an award-winning Fabriclive mix CD, worldwide tour and residencies for Fabric and Rinse FM. In 2011, dBridge returned the focus to his label Exit Records with the Mosaic Vol. 1 compilation and more artist LPs as he continues to be a mentor to the new breed of producers inspired by his career. As a solo artist, dBridge remains versatile with his own productions for Exit, Metalheadz, Reinforced, Hotflush and many more.
Although his love of music dates back much farther, Darren’s career began in earnest in 1992 when he moved to London to make music with and produce for his brother Steve (himself a successful solo artist and front-man for the group “Spacek”). Catching the buzz of the nascent rave scene along with his brother, he ventured out to club nights such as Roast and the Astoria and drew inspiration from the deep dubby tones of the Jah Shaka Soundsystem. Darren soon found himself working with UK hardcore group Armshouse Crew, the production posse responsible for Lennie De Ice’s proto-jungle anthem “We are I.E.” and began to master the synths and samplers that were the source of this new sound. Continue reading
The last few years, drum and bass has achieved an unprecedented popular expansion, appealing to wider audiences and receiving support and radio airplay by many non-drum and bass djs and radio producers as well as hitting top spots in the music charts. Going in circles, from the early hardcore/breakbeat days to contemporary drum and bass, it has been one of the most interesting electronic music genres to follow. Influenced by a plethora of music genres, whether it is hip-hop, techno, soul or jazz, drum and bass covers a wide spectrum to satisfy everyone’s taste and preference. The drum and bass road however, hasn’t been always paved with roses. Every now and then a new injection of fresh sounds and production techniques has been pivotal to refresh people’s interest, as it has happened several times during the 90s. Fast Forward to 2009…
Minimal drum & bass and the Autonomic initiative
For several years in the second half of the past decade, drum and bass had been fairly stagnant, focusing on dance floor smashers. Minimal drum and bass, as the term suggests, is a sub-genre (one of too many nowadays) of drum and bass, stripping down the sound, diverting from the traditional forms without however ceasing to be drum and bass. The tempo remains generally close to the average drum and bass speed (around 170 bpm), however many other aspects of the music contrast highly with contemporary trends in drum and bass. One of the main attributes is a half-time drum rhythm, reducing the perceived speed, while staying to the same bpm. The drum production versatility is retained; quiet percussions, deep sub-bass, eerie synths, subdued melodies and unusual beats are often used, similar to dubstep and future garage productions, hence the confusion that inevitably takes place due to the human need to pigeonhole. Continue reading