What the sleeve notes never tell you
It’s been 16 months since the original post , which was meant to be a one-off feature; however I always felt that it’s been somehow incomplete. The constructive feedback I received, occasionally bordering on debate over a matter de facto subjective, convinced me to revisit the topic; paraphrasing Nick Hornby “a sneer at the bad choices, an understated but supportive raise of the eyebrow for the good ones”. So, instead of updating the list, I decided to compile a new one containing record artwork I had intentionally omitted for a variety of reasons, as well as couple of recent entries.
The second part of the blog’s mini-series covers the period 1997-99. What may have started timidly for artistic purposes or exclusive dj promotional use, by 1997 it became almost de rigueur for record labels to commission drum & bass versions for selected singles and various remix compilations. The niche underground genre infiltrated the mainstream and many d&b producers signed with major labels to curate collections or record personal albums. On reflection, it turned out to be a double-edged sword.
On one hand, d&b found its well-deserved place on the electronic music map. Artists were finally rewarded and vindicated for their efforts and their work was introduced from a limited connoisseur circle to a wider audience, providing them with a vital and creative space for experimentation. Commercial success and critic appreciation motivated accomplished, as well as up-and-coming producers to master their craft, pushing the musical boundaries beyond genre confines. On the other hand, the roller coaster of media exposure, politics, cloudy distribution and licensing agreements, self-indulgence and the drama that inevitably occurs when money and temporary fame enter the equation, terminated careers and friendships untimely and ingloriously. Effectively, drum & bass re-entered a phase of introversion, darkness and belligerence marking the end of the romance. An injection of fresh air was desperately needed and a new breed of producers and record labels emerged to fill in the gap created by those who helped the scene flourish, but sadly realized that they no longer fitted in the d&b reality of the new millennium.
This is the first part of a mini-series focusing on cross-genre drum & bass remixes; from subtle re-interpretations to complete re-constructions. The burgeoning d&b popularity in the mid-90s attracted media attention and interest from independent, as well as major record labels, which commissioned d&b remixes for their artists across the music spectrum; from post-punk and progressive rock, to indie-pop and acid jazz. The syncopated, sample-based drum & bass template accommodated for experimentation and fostered an adventurous environment to introduce innovative production techniques and sonic landscapes.
In hindsight, efficient promotional, publishing, licensing and distribution models exposed UK drum & bass to the large emerging markets of Japan and USA and the genre has been effectively embraced by a wider audience. Many artists seized the opportunity to explore new musical paths. However, what started with bona fide artistic and creative intentions came with a price. In certain cases, it was no more than a sly scheme to cash in on the niche genre emerging from the underground. As a counter-measure, a few years later, the d&b scene retreated back to introversion, inaccessibility and darkness with many struggling to find their place in the new bleak reality (more on part 2).
“I don’t feel I was trying to be anyone else, I was drawing from my influences when I was younger, a bit of reggae, hip-hop … It was coming straight from the heart and I think that’s important” – Digital on his first production steps calling for individuality – Red Bull Music Academy, Rome, 2004
The next international guest of the blog’s “Jump the Q” series is Digital; one of the most prolific, influential, consistent and widely respected drum & bass artists. Two decades after his inaugural solo release, with an enviable and extensive back catalogue under his belt, as well as a plethora of classics for the genre’s most prestigious record labels, Digital celebrates the 20 years milestone of his recording career with the re-launch of his own imprint Function Records.
“We’re trying to push the sounds that were around in the mid-1990s, but update them … We’re keen to bring back experimentation. I think it’s something that has been lost over the past ten years. You’ve got more and more dance-floor fodder coming out. Drum and bass became about the same people for too long. We’re well aware that in two years it won’t be our stuff that’s being played, it’ll be someone else’s. That’s what makes it healthy” – Guy Brewer, prior to a Commix set at Aperture, June 2008
This is the second installment of the blog’s new series “Tracks I Wish I’d Written”.
Every track that will be presented in the series has been hand-picked from my personal record collection and has had a profound impact on my musical taste. Featuring a variety of tracks across the electronic music spectrum, emphasizing mainly on drum and bass, from undisputed classics to underrated gems – all tracks I wish I’d written, as the title of the series clearly states.
Commix – Be True
The first feature of the series has been about a Photek production released in 1996. Making a leap in time and fast forward to 2007, the second issue is about a modern drum and bass classic; perhaps the most celebrated track from one of the most fascinating and talented drum and bass outfits of the last decade, Commix.
This is the first installment (an updated version in terms of content and structure) of the blog’s “Whatever happened to …?” article series, inspired by the eponymous Hidden Agenda album, released on the Swiss label Straight Ahead in 2000.
“They’re talented boys! Fusing old-skool jazz, with a touch of the Miles stylez. They deal with a genre which was previously missing from Metalheadz. Our Urban Break-beat representatives up north”. – Goldie on Hidden Agenda
“Metalheadz gives us the freedom to try out new things and to develop our music without the usual constraints alongside like-minded artists”. – Hidden Agenda
(Notes taken from the inner sleeve of the first Platinum Breakz volume, released in 1996)
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.
The next international guest featuring in the Jump The Q series of the blog is Dj Law; an old school specialist, the mastermind and curator of drumtrip.co.uk, sharing some personal trivia with the blog. A short bio, information about Drumtrip and respective links can be found below the Q&A.
Law Jumps The Q
Let’s get started: