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).
“… when I refer to the music now as d&b, I never really considered it much then. I know that may sound strange, but I think we always operated as outsiders; I personally always felt on the outside looking in, which is why our Glider-State track was called so…”
“… I hadn’t done anything on Modern Urban Jazz since the ‘Emotions With Intellect’ LP, so to keep the ethos going, we decided that this would be an ideal collaboration by using the Modern Urban Jazz tag on the Creative Wax label. I don’t think either of our labels had been ones to follow trends and certainly at the time we were ripe for a more experimental sound…”
Modern Urban Jazz front cover (CWLP001, 1997)
Modern Urban Jazz 01 is a seminal compilation album, curated by Tony Justice Bowes and published by Creative Wax. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the official release, this is a retrospective account of the series of events that culminated in the realization of a brilliant project, which transcends genres and time. Titled after Justice’s eponymous record label, the compilation shares similar aesthetics and musical direction. An amalgamation of sounds with allusions to musique concrete; jazz noir, hip hop, funk, techno and electro instilled into drum & bass, with all contributing artists showcasing their musical backgrounds and creative influences, free of formulas, dancefloor reaction and genre constraints. Walking down a long, nostalgic and captivating trip down memory lane, this is a colourful and emotionally charged narrative, through the protagonists’ looking glass, filled with fond and distant memories that capture vividly the atmosphere of the mid-90s drum & bass scene.
“Until My Dying Day was a tune UB40 had written, which was touted to be the theme for the latest Bond film at the time (GoldenEye) …”
Until My Dying Day (Icons remix)
By the first half of the 90s, UB40’s constant touring had taken its toll and the band was ready for a well-earned rest. During their sabbatical, several of the band’s members worked on their own musical projects. Earl Falconer, the group’s bassist, would follow his passion outside UB40, engaging into jungle/drum and bass production and promotion activities with remarkable success.
“… At Basement Records we also wanted the artists to sample as little as possible, to create pioneering and original material, hence the label title ‘Precious Material’. Some of the releases are produced in the studio and some are recorded live performances…”- Phil Wells reflects on the label’s ethos and purpose
After a long hiatus, the blog’s “Whatever happened to …?” series return with the 9th installment. This time into the limelight is Precious Material; one of the most exhilarating and pioneering drum & bass labels of the mid-90s. Though short-lived, Precious Material has been one of the finest outlets of experimental drum and bass, integrating elements from various musical genres into the drum & bass template, defying stereotypes, constraints and agendas.
Established by Phil Wells in 1994 as a Basement Records’ subsidiary, during a time when drum & bass was still in its infancy, the main driver had been to foster a creative environment for established, as well as up-and-coming artists, free from dance-floor reactions and limitations. Following the huge success of the parent label Basement Records during the early rave years and the jungle/drum & bass evolution, Phil’s aspiration and incentive had always been to spearhead a new musical direction and introduce drum & bass to wider audiences.
UB40 – Until My Dying Day (Icons remix)
UB40 – Until My Dying Day (Icons remix) – Dep International (DEPDJX4512, 1996)
This is my second contribution to the oldschool specialist blog Drumtrip; a review and the background story behind the classic Icons remix of UB40‘s Until My Dying Day. You can view the original post, as well the previous installments of the TOTD series here:
By the first half of the 90s, UB40’s constant touring had taken its toll and the band was ready for a well-earned rest. During their sabbatical, several of the band’s members worked on their own musical projects. Earl Falconer, the group’s bassist, would follow his passion outside UB40, engaging in jungle/drum and bass production and promotion activities with remarkable success.
The Modernists vol 1-4
The Modernists is a highly acclaimed, collectible, limited edition, compilation series project released by the forward-thinking Modern Urban Jazz (MJAZZ) label. To the time of writing The Modernists series consists of four volumes (official release date of the 4th volume is the 22nd of July, 2013), featuring mainly artists and affiliates of the MJAZZ collective. An eclectic cross-genre selection, covering a wide palette of electronic bass music, from techno to deep drum and bass, with clear electro, house and hip-hop influences, every volume seems to be pushing the music boundaries even further.
Limited to strictly 100 copies per installment, with hand finished artwork and stickers or badges included, every release is a collectible; an approach that seems to be becoming more popular within drum and bass, rendering every physical copy unique and individual.
With a history that goes hand in glove with that of the development of drum & bass and jungle itself, Tony Bowes, aka Justice, has consistently spearheaded new musical forms. He is very much instrumental in the birth of drum & bass and is heralded as one of the true pioneers.
Raised in Luton, Justice began producing at the age of 17 with friend Conrad Shafie (aka Blame). The two met while studying media at college in Dunstable, and went into the studio in 1991 to try their hand at producing hip-hop tracks. Instead, they emerged with Death Row – one of the earliest examples of hardcore breakbeat – on Chill Records, a UK bass, bleeps and breakbeat label which was based in his home town of Luton.
While the rave scene progressed into a self-parodic fluff, Blame and Justice continued producing, both together and on their own. Pushed into new directions by the emergence of a mellower, atmospheric sound in the drum and bass spectrum, the duo formed Modern Urban Jazz Records. Continue reading