20 Years After – A Drum&Bass Top 20
Exactly 20 years ago I first saw the term “drum&bass” in reference to a remix on one my XL Recordings records. So I decided it would be a fine time for a chart, sharing my top twenty based on what I’ve played at gigs. So, the chart is by no means a declaration of an official top twenty that everybody in d&b should agree too or even debate.
This chart was definitely fun to compile, until I realised how challenging it can be squeezing two decades of one genre, which of course includes several sub-genres, down to a mere twenty. I didn’t even incorporate breakbeat, even though it eventually morphed into drum&bass and jungle. On that note, I could go back even further to 1989 when Meat Beat Manifesto released Radio Babylon, as it certainly incorporated sounds of drum&bass in its most embryonic stage.
It wasn’t easy omitting certain classics such as Bad Company’s “The Pulse”, Blame’s “Visions Of Mars”Â, Doc Scott’s “Shadowboxing”, Dom & Optical’s “Quadrant Six”, Ed Rush & Nico’s “Technology”, and Grooverider’s rework of Goldie’s “Believe”Â, all of which i played out countless times and are undeniably dancefloor anthems. I simply want to shed light on what I think are some quality cuts that I’ve played out quite a bit and that I feel deserve attention, some being anthems and others being overlooked or rare. So here’s the list:
1. Blame – “Sphere”Â (Seba remix) on 720 Degrees
An Atmospheric tune released in 1999, “Sphere” is undeniably a wonderful example of Blame’s work. It’s common knowledge that Blame is a pioneer of the drum&bass genre, and this is just one piece of evidence that his work has always been next-level. On a broader scale, it’s also solid evidence that electronic dance music isn’t void of emotion and undoubtedly does have a soul.
2. Source Direct – “Secret Liason”Â on Good Looking Records.
Atmospheric sub-genre. 1996.
Nobody does it like Source Direct, even when it came to this tune which was definitely a shift to a higher gear from their predominately dark sound. This tune was somewhat dancefloor, yet I also gave it a lot of air-play on Bassquake on 103.3 FM (Princeton, New Jersey).
3. Ed Rush – “The Raven”.
From the Techstep E.P. “Skynet” on Goldie’s Metalheadz label, this was the tune of the year for me and my live sets in 1996.
4. Dillinja – “Silver Blade”Â.
This one came out on the Prototype label and takes you on a dark journey that changes direction into an even darker cavern well into the tune. “Silver Blade” can still fill a room with some serious Techstep nostalgia.
5. Doc Scott – “Swarm”Â.
This Metalheadz release is a minimal Techstep classic with a nice slow build.
6. Blu Mar Ten – “Global Access”
An instant Atmospheric classic. Forever a classic. BMT usually excels at taking you on an emotionally stimulating escape beyond just something good to dance to. they know how to make you fall in love with a tune.
7. Plex – “New Episode” on 720 Degrees Music Ltd. 2002.
This is an incredible hard atmospheric tune with an unrelenting bassline. It has been nearly ten years since I first played this for a crowd and I probably will again. truly timeless.
8. Kosmos (a.k.a. B Kay & Dylan) – “Tighten Up”.
From the Droppin’ Science label, this is a Drumfunk tune that I’ve played out countless times upon its release and for many years to follow.
9. Roni Size – “Share The Fall”.
An instant classic from 1996.
Check the 2008 rework:
10. Elementz Of Noize – “Triiiple” on Sound Of The Underground Records. The link doesn’t do this one much justice, as the sound quality certainly could be better…but this tune sounds like no other Jazzstep tune I’ve ever heard and is despite the fact that it was realeased in 1996, certainly still sounds fresh.
11. L.T.J. Bukem – “Horizon” – Looking Good Records
– atmospheric – 1995 well, you all probably know about this one. this is one of those tunes that i never tire of…A perfect merger of bass, distinct beats, synth arrangements, and sampled dialogue compliments of Maya Angelou’s inaugural address.
12. J Majik Vs. Hatiras – “Spaced Invader”.
In 2001, someone thought this tune was worthy enough not to have to share a piece of vinyl…and its true. this single-sided pressing was a dancefloor anthem for me.
13. Psidream – “Secret Life” on Offshore Recordings – hard atmospheric – 2004.
A lot of djs missed this 10 inch in 2004. Canadian producer Jeff Malcolm definitely tapped into some magic here, layering some beautiful strings with an unforgettable synth melody.
14. The Advocate – “Deviant” on Criminal Communications.
This tune from 1996 should have been a Techstep anthem. A lot of Techstep djs seemed to have overlooked it..
15. Blame – “Spectre”Â on G.L.R. – atmospheric – 2001.
More magic from Blame.
16. Blu Mar Ten – “If I Could Tell You”Â on BMT Recordings – 2009.
A brilliant Halfstep tune I’ve used to open sets with and, well, couldnt get enough of on my own time.
17. Future Engineers – “Eden”Â.
Hailing from Scotland, F.E. has been a staple in Atmospheric D&B for quite some time and it was a challenge putting only one of their tunes on this chart. I received this tune in 2007 and not only played it out, but made music industry producers listen to it as an example of good D&B that can be dancefloor, dreamy, and song-oriented all at once.
18. Jonny L – “Viper”Â (featuring Optical)
ÃÂ Jonny L did so much amazing work throughout his career, from atmospheric to minimal techstep. So it wasn’t easy choosing just one tune from his repertoire. “Viper” isn’t necessarily his best, I just felt it was a fair representation of his distinct style.
19. Arcon 2 – “The Beckoning” on Reinforced Records
This tune was released in 1996 and seemed to be overlooked and underrated, even by techstep d&b djs at the time. I categorize this as techstep, yet it also has brilliant atmospherics along with funk and jazz elements. the intricate drum production certainly sets it apart from most of the techstep records released that year and for years to follow.
20. Elementz Of Noize – “Sightings”Â on Mindswitch Recordings – 1997
This is not only something I opened sets with quite a bit during the beginning of the Techstep era of D&B, but it also showcases E.O.N.’s diversity as producers.