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Eastern Promise

Article
Dermot Linden
eastern head

Following from his collaboration 12" with Quantum Soul, Linden takes us on a trip through the eastern influences on drum & bass...

1. Photek - Ni Ten Ichi Ryu (Virgin) [ATMOSPHERE/CONTEXT]

Ni ten Ichi Ryu, translated as "two swords technique", sees Photek showcasing some of the most incredible drum programming our scene has witnessed. Drum & bass has often referenced the samurai theme and on this occasion the juxtaposition of sparse swordfight samples with flourishes of intricate percussion conjures imagery of an epic showdown. In terms of texture many of the breaks have a metallic quality and despite the complexity of the drum patterns there is still a sense that they could actually be played by a drummer. Subsequently the percussion sounds ‘human’ and Photek’s use of a warm, organic bass ensures that the key elements of this track do not sound out of place against the backdrop of the ancient Eastern setting that the atmospheric samples imply. Overall Photek conveys a controlled aggression providing an apt similarity with the essence of the samurai code.

2.Teebee - Dynasty Warriors (Subtitles) [INSTRUMENTS]

Teebee has previously been likened to a ninja in his approach to production albeit lightheartedly. Incidentally he remixed the above track and arguably bettered it. This is a mellower affair than the title would have you believe and sees the master of tech funk opting for a more restrained bassline than his usual. What makes this tune stand out from much of the tech drum and bass of its time is Teebee's use of the Zither along with washes of eastern ambience. Its fascinating that everything sounds so cohesive here especially when you consider that these instruments are many centuries old but somehow work within the sound palette of a classic techstep track.

3. Morphy - Turn The Tablas (Cylon) [PERCUSSION]

From Taiko to Kodo Asian music offers us an array of interesting percussion and these and these instruments are frequently interwoven with more traditional breakbeats in order to enhance the rhythmic components of a track. On this occasion Morphy brings ethno percussion to the fore with devastating effect proving that these percussion instruments are more than capable of acting as a standalone rhythm section. Acoustically Turn The Tablas is far removed from the typical production aesthetic of modern drum & bass making this tune all the more appealing but no less effective within the context of a dj set.

4. Naibu ft Kiyomi - Fireflies (Horizons) [VOCALS]

Fireflies exemplifies how effective the use of asian vocals within drum & bass can be. Kiyomi complements Naibu’s ethereal soundscapes perfectly here as opposed to assuming centre stage and because the language is foreign this only adds to the mysticism by allowing the listener to make their own interpretation of what the tune means to them.

5. Nitin Sawhney – Breathing Light

I thought it would be good to finish with a tune not so closely tied to “our scene" and offer an example of an asian musician who has been influenced by drum & bass. The results here are inspiring and its great that such an acclaimed producer has incorporated drum & bass into his work so often during his career. The amen break here is subtle and lets the musical elements breath and develop as the track progresses.

I can only really speak for myself but I think there is a tradition in drum & bass of starting new projects by making the beats first, probably to improve workflow/"get the ball rolling" as it where. Clearly I’m not the first to make this point but I think the take home message from this tune is that focusing greater attention on the musical elements of a tune, perhaps by writing them first, could be a rewarding approach and that we (producers) are perhaps limiting ourselves by focusing so much attention and effort on technical/engineering aspects of music making.

Quantum Soul & Linden
A.Tradition B.Mindstates

So with the release Guy (Quantum Soul) and I wanted to try and encompass as much as possible within the one 12”. Having written about the five tracks above I think a lot of these elements (atmosphere/context, instruments, percussion and vocals) are incorporated in at least one of the tunes at some point or other . 'Tradition' has a more tribal feel and incorporates loads of different ethno percussion into the main rhythm track. Both tracks have a cinematic hits, eastern vocals, instruments and atmospheric samples which hopefully give the tracks a context. 'Mindstates' is a bit more contemplative, opening with flutes, taiko drums and spoken word vocal which develops before the drop. The track also contains a lot of 'found sounds' which are made from field recordings and layered with the percussion. I think these "found sounds" really help to give the track a sense of identity and have an organic texture, a bit like what I was saying with the Photek tune, these are textures that could conceivably have existed centuries ago and so tend to work with the aastern theme.

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