Junglists Rejoice?

Laura Bailey —  May 21, 2018 — 4 Comments

Disclaimer: The opinions divulged in this article are not necessarily representative of all junglists and are in no way a criticism of the fabulous Movement Festival that I have been happily attending since 2006. Please note that the author (that’s me) was in elementary school in the 90’s and all historical reference to the early years of jungle and drum n’ bass is based off of musical taste, research, and the insight of my older friends. You may find discrepancies or errors in my writing. Don’t be shy to comment and tell me I’m wrong!

Our prayers have been answered: Paxahau is bringing drum n’ bass headliners to Movement 2018! After a year hiatus, this is a welcome reprieve. Though should we be so relieved? Modern DNB has diverged from the path of the hardcore junglist, creating a new “wompy-er” sound that some of us call “drumstep”. It is because of this new style that DNB DJs are often paired on stages with dubstep, trap, and ghetto-tech acts. Have no fear, the jungle is near! A hearty lineup of jungle producers and local talent is a short walk from the festival at the Ital Vibes after party on Bagley. Plus the king of intelligent DNB, LTJ Bukem, will be performing at the House of Efunk after party. The Movement lineup also has a diverse mix of techno, house, electro, hip hop, and other such electronic and electronic-influenced artists (see the schedule here –> http://movement.us/schedule), which is really what everyone is coming to the festival for anyway… right??

Ed Rush & Optical are returning to Movement this year to headline the Red Bull Music Stage Saturday night. Ed Rush was a b-boy who learned to love the break. He began producing with a hardcore, industrial sound. “Bludclot Artattack” (’93) and “Guncheck” (’95) are jungle classics, invoking the gangsta attitude of the time. He manipulated bass sounds by running synths through a guitar distortion pedal, like in his ’96 release “Killimanjaro”. Optical was the engineer of choice for popular jungle producers and Metal Headz artists. He engineered Ed Rush’s “Skylab” EP in ’96 and in ’98 they released “Wormhole” together. Optical is known for his obsession with precise percussion. The duo performs after Too Short, so expect a modern influence and potential for a more “drumstep” sound, though I do hope to hear some of their early work.

DJ Hype and Hazard will be closing the Red Bull Stage Saturday night. DJ Hype won the DMC mixing championship in 1989, was a stunner from the legendary Shut Up & Dance crew in the early 90s, and a member of The Kicksquad. His style draws heavily from hip hop and he helped to bring the art of scratch DJing and turntablism into the jungle scene. His ’94 hit “Rrroll the Beats” is a classic. That same year, he released “You Must Think First” under the pseudonym Dope Style. In ’96, his single “We Must Unite”, sampled Malcolm X, and his remix of The Fugees “Ready or Not” infiltrated the scene. He started the Ganja record label and later the Ganja Kru on his own Tru Playaz Records. DJ Hazard is on the Ganja and Tru Playaz labels, having been noticed by Hype while producing under DJ SS’s label Formation Records. Both DJs have been playing more to suit a younger audience recently. This junglist will be dancing her socks off, old school jungle or not. Let me see that footwork, babies!

LTJ Bukem is an innovator of the jungle sound, using his Fender Rhodes keyboard to create warm melodies that would contrast the dark cold cuts of the harder hits of early jungle. He is attributed to having started the sub-genres jazzstep, artcore, and intelligent drum n’ bass, turning down the heaviness of the breakbeat and supplementing with the easy listening of jazz instrumentality. His releases from ’91 and ’92 “Demon’s Theme” and “Atlantis” on his label Good Looking Records were smash hits. James Brown drum breaks and a Maya Angelou sample in his ’95 release, “Horizons”, would pave the way for the atmospheric drum n’ bass style that has encouraged many electronic music lovers to branch out from techno and house. This acceptability is why he has been booked at a major festival after party alongside popular deep house, techno, and electro artists. This is bitter sweet for me. I am very excited to see LTJ Bukem again. To be honest, he is the first jungle DJ I liked. Though this event is the same night as an all-around solid jungle after party that I have been looking forward to attending all spring. I’ll tell you one thing, I will be rushing from one event to the other. My only hope is that LTJ’s set time does not interfere with me seeing Spinscott, or a careful compromise will need to be made.

Ital Vibes is an all jungle/DNB event brought to us by a Detroit jungle crew that will never surrender the true sound, 2nd Nature, and an old favorite, DubAtomic. Headlining the event is Spinscott, a lifelong drummer who plays jungle rhythms in real time on his drum machine, mixing the rhythms with tracks on CDJs for a impressively interactive set. He has been at it since the mid 90s and it will be a real treat for musicians and music aficionados to see him this year. The event is probably the cheapest after party you will find, at only $15 a ticket, yet the music will be as high quality as any stage you will visit at the festival. Also on the lineup are DJ Slinky (representing Konkrete Jungle Nashville, a crew that is still kicking out the jams), Mark “8en” Moss (Detroit original nuttah and former Movement performer), Augustus Williams (aka DJ Gusto, performing a live set), and others. Full lineup and event details here —> https://www.facebook.com/events/187049028751538/

Why I am dissatisfied with modern drum n’bass? Pioneers of jungle, such as Aphrodite and Hype, have been playing drumstep to attract younger listeners. The scrunching of rhythm and increased sub volume is, for some reason, easier for people who didn’t come to age with the syncopated percussive loops of jungle to hear. The “womp” note is prominent in this style of music, along with other robotic and mechanical sounds that, I am guessing, remind listeners of the computer-generated, cybernetic nature of modern video. Though the full, rich instrumental storyline of the classic drum n’ bass track has been diluted for a less sophisticated and overly synthesized sound. Drumstep likes to speed up tempo and “drop the bass”, with an end goal of “melting your face”.

“Evolution is a main ingredient of drum n’ bass.” said the old school junglist, Doc Scott. Back in the early 90s, jungle was described as sonic malice, unpleasant, punishing, gruesome, and brutal. In fact, one of its first names after it split from mainstream electronic music was darkcore. The light and airy sounds that once epitomized the Ecstacy experience were transformed into rougher ganja-infused breaks. Reggae, jazz, and hip hop inspired tracks used samples from old funk and soul songs. This was done primarily by black artists who had been a minority in the techno rave scenes in Europe. Jungle opened electronic music to more diversity and provided black youth in the UK an outlet for musical expression where they were recognized as the innovators. Are new genres like drumstep and dubstep evolutionary? Or have these genres prompted a degeneration of diversity in electronic music?

To really evolve, we need to diversify the genre again. We need to see more of the early black innovators who created the scene, the masterminds who we have to thank for musical evolution. We need to see more females, who are vastly unrepresented in the jungle scene. Promoters need to get back to the roots of jungle. Let’s see DJ Storm give a tribute to her work with the female co-creator of Metal Headz, Kemistry (RIP Kemi). Or let’s see what DJ Rap is up to. Book new female jungle talents such as Mollie Collins or Kyrist who are finally getting recognition in the UK. Bring back originators such as Goldie and Roni Size, or bring us Bailey, Fabio & Grooverider, or Shy FX & UK Apache. Better yet, why not devote an entire stage to jungle and DNB again? Or maybe (just throwing this out there) desegregate the music and intersperse the different styles of our genre with all the techno and house that’s booked every year, unifying the people and connecting the flow.

Regardless of genre or style, electronic music must be accessible to the dance floor – a DJ watches faces and feet in the crowd, looking for emotion and movement. Likewise, a musical movement must represent the times, both socially and culturally, feeding off the strengths and struggles of the people. Drum n’ bass can be dark, gritty, and sinister, representative of the disillusioned masses. It can be strongly influenced by jazz and hip hop, building off the groundwork masters laid before us. Jungle sprung from dub reggae basslines and hip hop breakbeats, creating multi-layered soundscapes that tell a story reflected in the enterprising city of Detroit: we are here and we want to be heard! We are fighting, we are dying, we are living, we are flying. We must unite! Listen and respect the beat, wherever it takes us.

 

A Brief History of Jungle and Drum N’ Bass at DEMF & Movement

DEMF

  • 2000 – local Ronin Selecta, Lauren Flax, A Guy Called Gerald, Dego from 4-Hero
    • Influencers: DJ Spooky (trip hop), The Roots
  • 2001 – LTJ Bukem with MC Conrad
    • Ayro (jazz, trip hop), Kid Koala (turntablism, trip hop), De La Soul, Saul Williams (poet), Mix Master Mike, Binary Star (hip hop)
  • 2002 – DJ Krust, Roni Size
    • DJ Shadow (turntablism, trip hop)
  • 2003 – local Matt Clark
    • Ayro live, DJ Milo (trip hop)
  • 2004 – locals MD! with MC Bombscare
    • Madlib & Peanut Butter Wolf ft Jay Dee, Amp Fiddler live, Fat Freddy’s Drop
  • Fuse-In 2005 – proper hip hop representation with Slum Village and Onebelo

MOVEMENT

  • 2006 – locals Ronin Selecta and Matt Clark, the Planet of the Drums Tour (AK 1200, Dara, Dieselboy)
    • Noteworthy: a tribute to J Dilla (who passed away earlier that year)
  • 2007 – locals MD! ft Bombscare and Matt Clark ft Marcus Flow, Gridlok, Evol Intent
  • 2008 – Dieselboy & MC Messinian, Soundmurderer
    • Influencer: Peanut Butter Wolf
  • 2009 – local Mark “8en” Moss
  • 2010 – locals Sinistarr with Teddy MC & MC Bombscare, DJ Hype
    • Mr. Scruff (trip hop)
  • 2011 – Goldie, local Matt Clark
  • 2012 – Roni Size, Photek
  • 2013 – Andy C, Break Science, locals Ronin Selecta ft MC Bombscare, Sinistarr, and Sandoz ft Marcus Flow, Squarepusher live
  • 2014 – DJ Marky, Ed Rush & Optical, Konkrete Jungle Detroit Showcase
  • 2015 – Konkrete Jungle Detroit stage (with all the local heavy hitters)
  • 2016 – Konkrete Jungle Detroit stage with locals and Dub Phizix ft MC Strategy
  • 2017 – null
  • 2018 – Ed Rush & Optical, DJ Hype b2b Hazard
  • 2019 – everyone

Laura Bailey

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Laura Bailey Brandon dabbles in many things, but writing is something she takes seriously. As a student and professional of the trade, her writing style comes from years of hard work and a need to express. You can expect her pieces to be raw, personal, and passionate.
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4 responses to Junglists Rejoice?

  1. Nice article! The timeline at the end is a nice touch too. It seems like it might be missing a few things in the earliest years. A Guy called Gerald was there in 2000, but i believe he played acid house. DJ Spooky played hip-hop and drum n bass. Year 2 included an old local favorite, DJ Legal Alien. On the 2002 program (year 3) I do not see Roni Size or DJ Shadow, I would not have wanted to miss either of them. Matt Clarke was also there in 2005… but he was djing in a Taco trailer looking thing from what i can recall. It was right at the gates facing toward the street.

    I referred to my original DEMF programs to verify. Program schedules for each year can also be found online with a google image search.

  2. Johnny, thank you so much for the comment! I apologize for the oversights. I saw Legal Alien on the 2001 lineup, though I didn’t realize he played DNB. And I kinda figured A Guy Called Gerald may have played house instead of jungle, but I decided to mention him anyway. Big ups for the clarifications! It’s hard to do an accurate history when I wasn’t there. Hope to see you this year at the fest! 😀

  3. Is the 2nd Thursday Jungle night still going on at Trixies? I can’t find any mention of it? I appreciated the article.

  4. Hey Shelf! Sorry for the late reply. Unfortunately, the jungle show at Trixies (“Good Vibes, Heavy Breaks” by Steve Drones) is no longer running. Fortunately, Steve is doing a monthly called Junglist Corner (and I believe he has retained the fitting title, Good Vibes, Heavy Breaks) at Coaches Corner on Bagley, downtown Detroit.

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