Drum and bass

Template:Genrebox Drum and bass (drum n bass, drum'n'bass, DnB, d'n'b) is an electronic music style. Originally an offshoot of the United Kingdom breakbeat hardcore and rave scene, it came into existence when people mixed reggae basslines with sped-up hip hop breakbeats. Pioneers such as Fabio, Grooverider, Andy C, Roni Size, DJ SS, Brockie, Mickey Finn, Kenny Ken, Goldie and other DJs quickly became the stars of drum and bass, then still called jungle.

There is no universally accepted semantic distinction between the terms "jungle" and "drum and bass". Some associate "jungle" with older material from the first half of the 1990s, and see drum and bass as essentially succeeding jungle with the newer, post-techstep developments. Others use jungle as a shorthand for ragga jungle, a specific sub-genre within the broader realm of drum and bass. In the USA, the combined term "Jungle Drum and Bass" (JDB) has some popularity, but is not widespread elsewhere. Probably the widest held viewpoint is that the terms are simply synonymous and interchangeable: drum and bass is jungle, and jungle is drum and bass.



Beginnings in the UK

Early jungle was an offshoot of rave (US readers may think of this as techno music but "rave" is very different from the stripped down Detroit "techno" sound) music (colloquially known as 'hardcore', as played by Spiral Tribe) that focused on the breakbeat. As stated previously it mixed basslines from dub tracks with fast hiphop breakbeats during the very late 80's as rave and ecstacy culture blossomed in the UK. As a more and more bass-heavy and uptempo sound developed, jungle began to develop its own separate identity. After being further developed by a number of pioneering producers, the sound took on a very urban, raggamuffin sound, incorporating dancehall "ragga" style mc chants, dub basslines, but also increasingly complex, high tempo rapid fire breakbeat percussion. By 1995, a counter movement to the ragga style was emerging, dubbed "intelligent" jungle, and was embodied by LTJ Bukem and his Good Looking label. Some say that the move to intelligent jungle was a conscious and concerted reaction by top DJs and producers against a culture that was becoming tinged with "gangsta" and violent elements. Intelligent jungle maintained the uptempo breakbeat percussion, but focused on more atmospheric sounds and warm, deep basslines over rough vocals or samples.

Early heroes of dnb music include A Guy Called Gerald (seminal track "28 Gun Bad Boy") and 4hero ("Mr Kirk's Nightmare") who later developed their own styles, leaving the drum and bass mainstream. However most of the early producers and djs still produce and play, a decade on, forming a jungle old guard. Another characteristic of drum and bass music is that most producers dj and most djs produce.

Jungle to drum and bass

At the same time that intelligent jungle appeared, the ragga jungle sound mutated into a more stripped down hard percussive style, Hardstep, and its more hiphop and funk influenced sister style Jump-Up (exemplified by artists like Mickey Finn and Aphrodite with their Urban Takeover label, and the Ganja Kru's True Playaz label), while other artists pushed a smoother, dubby style of tune, referred to as rollers.

Through 1996, Hardstep and JumpUp sounds were popular in the clubs, while Intelligent jungle was pushing a sound more accessible to the home listener. Stylistically things kept getting more and more diverse, as well as crossbreeding with other styles of jungle. In 1997, a funky, double-bass oriented sound came to the forefront, and gained some mainstream success with Roni Size Reprazent's New Forms album winning the UK's Mercury Prize.

The birth of techstep

On the other end of the spectrum, a new dark, technical sound in drum and bass was gaining popularity, championed by the labels Emotif and No U-Turn, and artists like Trace, Ed Rush and Optical, and Dom and Roland, and commonly referred to as techstep. Techstep took new sounds and technologies and applied them to jungle. It is characterized by sinister or science-fiction atmospherics and themes, cold and complex percussion, and dark basslines.

As the 1990s drew to a close, techstep came to dominate the drum and bass genre, with artists like Konflict and Bad Company amongst the most visible. Techstep was becoming more minimal, and increasingly dark in tone, and the funky, commercial appeal represented by Roni Size back in 1997 was waning. By 2000, there was an increasing movement to "bring the fun back into drum and bass". There was a new revival of rave-oriented sounds, as well as remixes of classic jungle tunes that brought things full circle back to the origins.

Since 2000

Since 2000, the scene has become very diverse, to the point where it is difficult to point to any one form as dominant.

In 2000, Fabio began championing a form he called Liquid funk, with a compilation release of the same name on his Creative Source label. This was characterised by influences from disco and house, and widespread use of vocals. Although slow to catch on at first, the style grew massively in popularity around 2003-2004, and by 2005 it was established as one of the biggest-selling subgenres in drumnbass, with labels like Hospital Records and Soul:R and artists including High Contrast, Calibre, Nu:Tone, Marcus Intalex and Logistics among its main proponents.

The decade also saw the revival of Jump-Up. Referred to as "Nu Jump Up", or pejoratively as Clownstep, this kept the sense of fun and the simplistic, bouncing basslines from the first generation of Jump Up, but with tougher, harder production values. Prominent Nu Jump Up artists include Twisted Individual, Generation Dub, and DJ Hazard.

Sales figures for 2004 suggest that liquid funk and Nu Jump Up combined probably account for a significant majority of the drum and bass market.

The period also saw the rise of Dubwise in popularity. Although the dub-influenced sound was not new, having long been championed by artists like Digital and Spirit, 2003-2004 saw a significant increase in its popularity and visibility, with new artists like Amit at the forefront.

Similarly, whilst there has long been a niche dedicated almost entirely to detailed drum programming and manipulation, championed by the likes of Paradox, the first half of this decade saw a revival and expansion in the subgenre known variously as Drumfunk, "Edits", or "Choppage". Major labels include Inperspective and the new wave of artists in this style include Fanu, Breakage, and Fracture and Nepture.

The new millennium also saw a fresh wave of live drum and bass bands. The likes of Reprazent and Red Snapper had performed live drum and bass during the 1990s, but the re-creation of London Elektricity as a live band focussed renewed interest on the idea, with acts like The Bays and Ultra-Violet pursuing this avenue.

The global scene in 2005

The other major development largely occurring since the turn of the millennium is geographical: from firmly UK-orientated beginnings, drum and bass has firmly established itself worldwide. There are strong scenes in other English-speaking countries including the USA (home to Dieselboy, Hive), Canada (Ben Sage, John Rolodex), Australia (Pendulum), New Zealand (Concord Dawn) and South Africa (Counterstrike). It is popular across Europe, especially in Benelux (home to Black Sun Empire, Noisia), Germany (Typecell, Simon V, Panacea), Scandinavia (Teebee, Polar, Future Prophecies, Rawthang), Hungary (Tactile) and into Poland (Ostro), Croatia (Lekke, Gekko), Ukraine (Tonika, Derrick), and Russia (Paul B, Prode, Subwave, Sunchase). It is also popular in South America, with DJ Marky and XRS hailing from Brazil. So Paulo is sometimes called the drum and bass Ibiza. Brazilian drum and bass is sometimes called Sambass.

Musicology of drum and bass

There are many views of what constitutes "real" drum and bass as it has many scenes and styles within it, from heavy pounding bass lines to the relaxed vibes of Liquid funk. It has been compared with jazz where the listener can get very different sounding music all coming under the same music genre, because like drum and bass, it is more of an approach, or a tradition, than a style. As such, therefore, it is difficult to precisely define; however, the following key features may be observed.

Defining characteristics


The breakbeat is what loosely speaking defines the music as drum and bass. A breakbeat, musically speaking, is characterised by an element of syncopation, in contrast to the straight 4-beat found in techno, trance and house.

Many breakbeats are directly sampled or are produced from drum fills found in old soul and funk records. However, since the mid-nineties, many producers use 2-step or other break beats programmed from individual drum samples that emulate the sampled funk breaks, but are often starker and heavier sounding. It is also common to create drum tracks using a combination of both techniques.

Particularly common breakbeats used within drum and bass include:


Drum and bass is usually between 160-180 BPM, in contrast to other forms of Breakbeat such as Nu skool breaks which maintain a slower pace at around 130-140 BPM. A general upward trend in tempo has been observed during the evolution of drum and bass. The earliest Old School rave and breakbeat-descended jungle was around 155-165 BPM, whilst 21st Century material rarely falls below 170BPM, and often hits 180BPM.

Supreme importance of drum and bassline elements

The name "drum and bass" should not lead to the assumption that tracks are constructed solely from these elements. Nevertheless, they are far and away the most critical features, and usually dominate the mix of a track. The genre places great importance on deep sub-bass which is felt physically as much as it is heard. There has also been considerable exploration of different timbres in the bassline region, particularly within techstep.


For the most part, drum and bass is a form of dance music, designed to be heard in clubs. It exhibits a full frequency response and physicality which often simply cannot be fully appreciated on home listening equipment. As befits its name, the bass element of the music is particularly pronounced, with the comparitively sparse arrangments of Drum and bass tracks allowing room for basslines that are deeper than most other forms of dance music. Consequently, special sound equipment is needed to fully appreciate Drum and Bass, and nights are often advertised as featuring uncommonly loud and bass-heavy systems.

Drum and bass is therefore typically heard via a DJ. Because most tracks are designed to be mixed by a DJ, their structure typically reflects this, with intro and outro sections designed for a DJ to use while beat-matching, rather than being designed to be heard in entirety by the listener. The DJ typically mixes between records so as not to lose the continuous beat. This is often referred to as the "mix and blend" style of DJing. In addition, the DJ may employ hip-hop style "scratching"," "double-drops" (where two tracks are synchronized such that both tracks drop at the same time), and "rewinds."

Most mixing points begin or end with the "drop". The drop is the point in a track where a switch of rhythm or bassline occurs and usually follows a recognisable build section and "breakdown". Frequently the drop is used to switch between tracks, layering components of different tunes. Some drops are so popular that the DJ will "rewind" or "reload" by spinning the record back and restarting it at the build. This is a technique which can easily be overused as it breaks the continuity of a set.

DJs are typically accompanied by one or more MCs, drawing on the genre's roots in Hip hop and Reggae/Ragga.

Relationship to other electronic music styles

Recently, smaller scenes within the drum and bass community have developed and the scene as a whole has become much more fractured into specific sub-genres. Some major sub-genres of drum and bass include:

As will all attempts to classify and categorize music, the above should not be treated as gospel. Many producers release albums which touch into many of the above styles.

Drill and bass, a sub-genre of Intelligent dance music (also known as "IDM"), popularized by Aphex Twin, features many of the same types of rhythms used in drum and bass and is generally focused on complexity in programming and instrumentation. Amongst its main proponents include Squarepusher, Amon Tobin, Animals on Wheels, Venetian Snares, Hrvatski and many others.

Appearances in the mainstream

Certain drum and bass releases have found mainstream popularity in their own right, almost always material prominently featuring vocals. Perhaps the earliest example was Goldie's Timeless album of 1995, along with Reprazent's New Forms in 1997. More recently, tracks such as Shy FX and T-Power's Shake Your Body gained a UK Top 40 Chart placing. Hive's "Ultrasonic Sound" was also used on the first "Matrix" soundtrack.

On the other hand, pop music has also occasionally co-opted elements of drum and bass, albeit in watered-down fashion. Examples include Puretone and Girls Aloud. Drum and bass also often appears in advertising and TV.

Key record labels

The following are some of the major labels within drumnbass:

Accessing drum and bass


Drum and bass is mostly sold in 12-inch vinyl single format, although some albums, compilations and DJ mixes are sold on CD. Purchasing drum and bass involves searching specialized record shops or using one of many online vinyl retailers. An interesting development of the last few years is online record shops specializing in drum and bass which sell MP3s and other digital formats: these include Chemical Records and Beatport. The best place to get underground drum'n'bass mp3's of all styles is www.vibrationrecords.com.


The best known drum and bass publication is Knowledge Magazine. Rivals include ATM Magazine and Canadian-based Rinse Magazine.

The highest profile drum and bass radio show is Fabio and Grooverider on BBC Radio One. The BBC's "urban" station 1Xtra also features the genre heavily, with DJs L Double and Bailey. The genre has long been supported by pirate radio stations, particularly in London; these days, they are joined by literally dozens of internet radio stations available globally.

Drum and bass has a strong online presence with many dedicated portals, forums and communities. Some of the largest of these are linked below.


External links

See also: List of jungle and drum n bass artists & List of jungle and drum n bass record labels Template:Electronic music infoboxde:Drum'n'Bass fr:Drum and bass nl:Drum and Bass ja:ドラムンベース pl:Drum and bass pt:Drum'n'Bass ru:Drum'n'Bass sk:Drum and bass fi:Drum'n'bass


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