What is in a number? When it comes the magic number 170, apparently quite alot. But there is a whole other world outside of 170 BPM drum & bass even if the junglists don't want you to go there...
As I write this article, I ask myself, am I covering old ground here? Am I expanding on what everyone already knows? Am I wasting your time by asking you to read this and my time by writing it? Still there seems to be a knee jerk reaction to drum & bass artists moving into over tempo ranges, both from their peers and listeners. How come?
Listening to Consequence’s forthcoming lower tempo single “Atrium”/ “Box Rituals” on Pushing Red, I am immediately struck by the departure from his usual output, both stylistically and in tempo. Also the existence of an obvious melody is something I would never have expected. Public perception of an artist’s work is often exactly that– perception. What makes it into the public domain is the selected works, a condensed version of everything that is made. Where an artist may make a much wider range of music, only that which meets a desired aesthetic, furthering the modern need for musical consistency makes the cut.
In the past, genre has been a fairly rigid criteria for classifying music, especially when separating music by tempo or BPM. Now more than ever, this system of cataloguing seems redundant. More ambiguous characteristics seem to be appropriate. From consistent sound palettes, to a musical ideology, to something as vague and clichéd as vibe. Drum & bass is and always has been a magpie genre, borrowing and reappropriating source material as well as structural and musical concepts. Surely with such an apparently open attitude to creativity, departure from tempo is natural?
One of our writers recently told me about a conversation they had read on Facebook about the lack of good drum & bass being made at the moment, and we both agreed that maybe those concerned had completely missed the point… The criteria for the genre is all wrong. Having to limit a genre to a BPM with no room to manoeuvre is massively restrictive. Artists like ASC, Breakage, dBridge, and the previously mentioned Consequence have opted to maintain dynamic, style and ideology while exploring potentially less restrictive tempos.
The question needs to be asked, moving forward, is drum & bass a legitimate genre? Does our existing system for classification of genre by tempo need to be rethought?