Dumb & Base - Independant Feature

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#1
End of dumb & base

The British-born genre of drum & bass set dancefloors on fire for breathless ravers in the Nineties. Soon it became one-dimensional 'clown step'. A new generation of writers and producers is changing all that, says Rahul Verma
What has happened to drum & bass? In the mid to late 1990s, the breathless fusion of rave, Jamaican sound-system culture, and samples spanning dance hall to jazz, was the most thrilling and futuristic music on the planet. The British-born genre went on to captivate dance floors around the world through icons including Goldie, Roni Size and LTJ Bukem.

Today it's part and parcel of contemporary culture, regularly adding edgy cool to TV adverts, CSI and even Girls Aloud (check single "What You Crying For"). However, save for Marky's slinky Brazilian spin on the genre, and Pendulum's populist rock & bass, new progressions have been in short supply in recent times. Drum & bass just hasn't gone anywhere.

Even its grip on dance floors is loosening as ravers, tired of brainless anthem-bashing, flirt with dubstep and funky. D&b's failure to capture hearts, and minds outside of a dark sweaty environment means it's often dismissed as rudimentary and one-dimensional and ridiculed as "dumb & bass" and "clownstep".

However, the green shoots of recovery that began peeping through the topsoil with Commix's Call To Mind LP in late 2007, have been watered by last year's Chase & Status's More Than Alot album, and are set to flower in 2009. Blame and Selah's soaring, euphoric "Because Of You" is all over Radio 1, as is Chase & Status's "Against All Odds". The juicy bongo funk jam starring rapper Kano, abetted by a slick Blaxploitation style video, is destined to chart.

Commix and Chase & Status's albums are very different, but share a vision and eclectic influences. Commix refracts electronica, deep house, techno and electro, through the prism of d&b, while Chase & Status celebrates home-grown street music (grime, UK rap, dubstep), as well as reggae, hip-hop and funk.

"Our album is a kaleidoscope of UK music right now and where we are in it. We really believe UK music is the most exciting and fast moving in the world, we set trends here," says 27-year-old Saul "Chase" Milton.

"We never thought, 'let's do an album of different sounds' – it just happened naturally because we're so into different types of music and bringing in the influences around us made sense," says Will "Status" Kennard.

Milton and Kennard couldn't be further removed from the stereotype of d&b producers holed up in bedrooms driving their parents and neighbours to despair with window-rattling frequencies. The duo's studio is in London landmark County Hall in a complex owned by pop mogul Pete Waterman. They often pop out to the South Bank to rest their ears.

Chase & Status go against the drum & bass grain of focusing on "underground" fans – and they write songs. "We've got new fans. When we DJ, there are lots of young girls who have heard our music on Radio 1 and bought the album. That's bringing new fans to d&b, who are drawn to it by songs," observes Milton.

Radio 1's Annie Mac is a fan of Chase & Staus: "Chase & Status have managed to make an album of now, it's got dubstep, breaks and hip hop and appeal beyond drum & bass, yet they're respected in the scene," she explains. Mac believes that d&b has matured. "Labels are much more professional these days, and they're putting out proper albums. Drum & bass isn't known for albums because it's been centred on singles and dubplates, but drum & bass has really pulled its socks up."

Kennard agrees: "Drum & bass has become more business-minded, it's dipped into the mainstream a few times and is established worldwide. Now there's a broader fan base, more money involved and less of an underground mentality. "

Newcomer Mistabishi, whose forthcoming LP Drop is another example of bright, inventive d&b, believes producers focused on DJs too much. "The music became very centred on what happened in the DJ booth and that clique, which meant the end product was for the DJ not for a raver or listener. It's changed now, the climate's right for my album."

Cambridge pair Commix (Guy Brewer and George Levings) also revel in flipping the d&b script. Take their sublime mix for the globally renowned London nightclub, Fabric, for example, which surprisingly isn't aimed at the dance floor. "When we were doing the Fabric mix we thought 'who are we writing it for?' People listen to these mixes at home or an iPod so we don't want to just tear this out. You go to a dance floor for that," says Levings. "We wanted to set a vibe, present an interesting cross-section of music and make sure it flows well, rather than play three minutes of the 20 big tunes of the moment," explains Brewer.

Drum & bass is on the cusp of an exciting "beyond dance floor" era led by producers including Commix, Chase & Status, Sub Focus, D Bridge, Instramental and Alex Pirez. "What we do is not just about moving kids on a dance floor but creating an interest so that people want to listen to drum & bass at home. It appeals to people interested in a broad spectrum of dance music," continues Brewer.

Commix, like Chase & Status, have prospered by looking beyond d&b. They display an impressive awareness of electronic music, commissioning their idols (Burial, Carl Craig, Claude Von Stroke, Mathew Johnson, Konrad Black) to remix Call To Mind. "You need to keep looking for interesting things and find new places to draw inspiration," says Brewer.

Chase & Status' collaborations with Brit-lyricists – Plan B, Kano, Roll Deep's Scratchy and Trim – astutely broadens d&b's appeal (and market). "We made a point of not working with singers from drum & bass and with vocalists from outside of the scene so we got that crossover between genres," says Kennard.

Commix hope that one day d&b – like techno – will develop an intellectual and conceptual dimension. "In techno you're allowed to experiment. There's so much room to breathe and it's not just about the dance floor," says Brewer. "We want d&b to be seen as credible music not just rave music."

'Against All Odds', Chase & Status featuring Kano is released on Ram Records on 23 February.
FabricLive 44, Commix is out now on Fabric.
'Drop', Mistabishi is released on Hospital on 23 February. www.anniemacpresents.com
Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/end-of-dumb--base-1626845.html

Interesting read i thought.
 

BoudiCat

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#2
Cheers for that man. Shows what some people really think of the scene. I don't think that's a true representation though, I feel that the scene is always fresh & moving on.
 

Controller

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#4
Cheers for that man. Shows what some people really think of the scene. I don't think that's a true representation though, I feel that the scene is always fresh & moving on.
I think this article supports this theory though, with what commix & chase & status say about intergrating their music with other genres, and making music for people at home as well as in the rave.
 

Nutek

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#5
interesting read but it's all a bit negative sounding if you ask me.. no-one seems to look on the bright side of d&b these days, everyone is just complaining!
 

Saint

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#9
I think its too independant for a review really. You can't summarise something if you're not involved in it. I don't think anyone who really knows drum and bass will write a review saying its been stagnant recently and is being bought to the mass market again now.

Chase and Status are classic dancefloor drum and bass, and thats what most people love. Theres loads of listenable producers like Calibre that he could have mentioned, because really Calibre should have a huge fan base outside of the scene.
 

shadow_sniper

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#11
It actually show's todays scene in quite a positive light if you read it properly.
i dont really think its showing the scene in a positive light...its shows artists are branching out into new genres away from dnb instead of improving and refreshing what we already have..i don't understand this real negativity towards the progression of dnb
 

hyperd4eva

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#12
i dont really think its showing the scene in a positive light...its shows artists are branching out into new genres away from dnb instead of improving and refreshing what we already have..i don't understand this real negativity towards the progression of dnb
also u cant compare dnb nowadays to dnb in the early/late 90's as its a different era of music plus, the facilities in which to make drum and bass have changed so much its obviously going to change in so many different styles.

Id still call that 90's era jungle
 

ScottyEightSix

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#13
Cheers man

Drum & bass is on the cusp of an exciting "beyond dance floor" era led by producers including Commix, Chase & Status, Sub Focus, D Bridge, Instramental and Alex Pirez. "What we do is not just about moving kids on a dance floor but creating an interest so that people want to listen to drum & bass at home. It appeals to people interested in a broad spectrum of dance music," continues Brewer.
This is what Drum & Bass should be seen as not just music to dance to, which is where all the Jump Producers are going wrong at the min... You should be able to listen to a Drum & Bass track from start to finish with bout being bored after about 64 bars after the drop... Its narrow minded people that think it is just music to dance that are ruining the scene. And I have heard people from this site make that comment, which imo is just shocking.
 

hyperd4eva

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#14
so true, which i why i like propa soulful tunes. tunes that make you think about good times or bad times.. not just tunes that make u wana go jump around like in a moshpit.
 

ScottyEightSix

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#15
i dont really think its showing the scene in a positive light...its shows artists are branching out into new genres away from dnb instead of improving and refreshing what we already have..i don't understand this real negativity towards the progression of dnb
OMG, Drum and bass has always taken influnces from other genres its what makes it so special... If you just stick to what it already has you get tracks like: Dont be Silly, Killers Dont Die, Machete etc... Not music bleeps and wobbles for people to bounce about to... Not music imo... If you take influences from other genres you get artists releasing albums like: More Than Alot, Call To Mind, Hold Your Colour, Colours etc... All big albums each track you can listen to from start to finish. Its ignorant comments like that that piss me off.
 

hyperd4eva

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#17
There are still some quality new tunes coming out tho, j magic and wickaman always smash quality tunes, and i reckon chase and status are just on the same path as pendulum.
 

ScottyEightSix

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#18
There are still some quality new tunes coming out tho, j magic and wickaman always smash quality tunes, and i reckon chase and status are just on the same path as pendulum.
Fair play to them, but does that not tell you something about the scene? Look at all the producers crossing over to dubstep even... They are looking for something diffrent and I dont blame them at the min... But you are right there are still some good tunes comming out.. Sub's album is going to kill it this year.. Commix Re-Call To Mind will be big, Brookes brothers new album will be big, an I'm sure theres plenty more.
 

hyperd4eva

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#19
Fair play to them, but does that not tell you something about the scene? Look at all the producers crossing over to dubstep even... They are looking for something diffrent and I dont blame them at the min... But you are right there are still some good tunes comming out.. Sub's album is going to kill it this year.. Commix Re-Call To Mind will be big, Brookes brothers new album will be big, an I'm sure theres plenty more.
yeah man, thing is they will go to dubstep, but can you really make that and diffrent, the buety of dnb is you can do so much with it. They will get bored of that aswell eventually.

pisses me off tho cause thewres millions of people that would kill to get one of there tunes out there, and you can tell the difference from a jump up tune that has been thrown together with a tune that has had some heart and soul put into it.
 

ScottyEightSix

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#20
yeah man, thing is they will go to dubstep, but can you really make that and diffrent, the buety of dnb is you can do so much with it. They will get bored of that aswell eventually.

pisses me off tho cause thewres millions of people that would kill to get one of there tunes out there, and you can tell the difference from a jump up tune that has been thrown together with a tune that has had some heart and soul put into it.
Exactly if any of the producers currently big in the jump up scene create an album like Adam F - Colours I will literally eat my shoe.
 
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