Music is in many ways an artistic representation of culture and expression. It is also a record of heritage, a translation of influence and that which came before. A musical debt.
Musical themes have a funny way of coming round. Almost like a cycle, themes and motifs will fade away and reappear. Often splintered across generations of musicians, certain sounds find their place at the fore, amongst the contemporary outside of their own time, outside of their own place.
Listening to today’s innovators within 170 BPM music it is not always easy to find a musical predecessor. Stray, Synkro, Indigo, Synth Sense, Sam KDC… ASC, Consequence, Silent Dust… It would not be unimaginable to believe that these artists are of a style unto their own.
But look back. Hidden in a lost and almost forgotten cavern of drum & bass history, in the period between 1996 and 1999. Poised beats, emotive pads, ethereal synth work and expression of self. Sound familiar? Is today’s cutting edge an echo of the then mighty Good Looking Records?
I know what you are thinking… Good Looking Records? Maybe you are more familiar with the earlier classics of the jungle period? “Music”? “Horizons”? “The Piano Tune”? “19.5”? “Travelling Pt 2”? It may be true that Bukem et al broke the mould when they took jungle into new levels of jazzy sophistication, but it certainly didn’t stop there. Good Looking and it’s various subsidiaries bridged the gap between ambient, techno and drum & bass creating something altogether more refined.
When you consider modern labels like R&S’ Apollo Records, there is a recognizable aesthetic and ethos, stylistically akin to the GLR of 1998. Had the likes of Stray, Indigo and Synkro been making music in these years would they have naturally gravitated towards this sound?
The Blu Mar Ten, Pariah, Blame, PHD, PFM, Intense and Odyssey’s of yesteryear are the Sam KDC, Synkro and ASC’s of now. The agenda isn’t dissimilar and the level of creativity is enduring.
I’ve recently found myself revisiting this corner of my record collection. I remember maybe 7 or 8 years ago remarking that it was hard to see this sound making a return given the then dance floor intensive nature of drum & bass. But I am happy to say I have been proved wrong. Labels like Auxiliary, Mjazz, Non Plus and Exit have cultivated a fertile breeding ground where almost anything can occur. The genre if you believe it to be drum & bass or not is alive. It breathes and it has a soul.
It does however have a debt to that which came before. In today’s disposable culture it is easy to forget what came before. It isn’t always regressive to look back and acknowledge the past, so long as we are still moving forward.
Blame - Binary Sunset
Seba & Lotek - So Long
PHD - Contrast
Voyager - Apollo
Pariah - The Arrival
Big Bud - State Of Mind
Artemis - Sun Stars
Motiv One - Cosmik
Odyssey - Object
PFM - For All Of Us