Archives For

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 Please note that the author (that’s me) was in elementary school in the 90’s and all historical reference to the early years of jungle and drum n’ bass is based off of musical taste, research, and the insight of my older friends.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

Where’s the Jungle?

Laura Bailey —  May 16, 2017 — 2 Comments

“Where’s the jungle?” has been a question on my mind since my last jungle write-ups in 2014 (links at the end). Many have accused us junglists of being a dying breed – loving a form of electronic music that is not liked by enough people to be played… though I beg to differ. Drum N Bass has been making a comeback along with its amen-driven predecessor, jungle. Sure it will never be “popular”, but the underground scenes are where my heart lies (and I know yours does too if you’re reading this). This year, I am delighted to write, jungle has found its place close to home again. For those of you who are wondering where to find good jungle & DNB this festival season, you’ll be pleased to learn what our fair city has to offer for Movement goers and Detroiters alike. Detroit may be the birthplace of techno, and I am all about supporting our homegrown talent, but I assure you, fellow junglists and DNB-heads, your prayers have been recognized and will be answered in the coming years. Starting now!

Thursday, May 11th, at a neighborhood bar in Hamtramck called Trixie’s. Formally a place called Turtle & Inky’s, an old house turned bar/restaurant. A fat man, possibly German, stands on top of the building holding a mug that reads “City Club”. A mural depicting downtown Hamtown decorates the large wooden fence that separates the sidewalk from the backyard of the bar. A green light gleams above the front door to welcome customers. Walking inside, a foosball table is to my left, the bar ahead, and the stage is to my right. Four men and five turntables are set up and a crowd watches them in awe. This is what I came for – a monthly thrown by Steve Drones, producer, mixer, artist, and promoter. Steve is a junglist at heart, though one might catch him playing breaks, trip hop or hip hop just as often. Trixie’s is the perfect place for him. It is intimate and interesting. People I know and don’t know move about the bar – conversations, laughter, dancing, smoking out back. Everyone either there for the music, the vibes, or both, like myself – I watch the turntablists intently, then dance a bit, hear a flawless cut and my attention turns to the performers again. I get distracted by the lovely scenic slideshow on the TVs around the venue, the string of colored lights held up by coat hooks along the far wall, and the old obscure vinyl records resting on a shelf above them.

“Good Vibes & Heavy Breaks” is the name of this breakbeat show and it’s held at Trixie’s the second Thursday of every month. You can expect to hear all of the aforementioned genres with the mastery of turntables that only scratch DJs know. And that is what Steve is showcasing tonight – a scratch cypher (cypher meaning artists jamming together). He mixes beats in the background, upper stage right. Jacoby Cataclysmic is to his left with a deck, mixer, and a scratch record. Down front are Joey P and Dave Petty Cash, both with a deck, mixer, and a record each. All three take turns scratching over Steve’s mix – stabs, scribbles, and stutters. I won’t bore you with my lack of scratch terminology, though if you’re interested to learn more about their techniques, YouTube DMC World Championship videos and educate yourself. The film “Wave Twisters” with Q-Bert’s score turned me on to scratch DJing when I was younger. And I’ve been a fan since I watched my first scratch video from ’96 of the X-Men battling the Invisibl Skratch Picklz at the International Turntablist Federation world finals. They make it look easy (and incredibly fun), but believe me, it’s a skill that takes a lot of time and patience to hone and it helps to be musically trained.

Cataclysmic, Petty Cash, and Joey P rock it one after another. I can’t say who played best, but it’s all about the play anyway. Drones jumped in for a bit as his special guests had breaks on the break. After Steve’s turn, Joey P took upper right and started to mix some jungle tracks. Cataclysmic returned to his post on stage and scratched a bit over Joey P’s mix. Then, like a true music nerd, he sat down behind the drum set that is always on stage at Trixie’s. He quietly began to tap in beat, finding patterns to sync with the mix. I wanted to yell to Jacoby to play louder, but he was playing for himself, immersed in his own world where only he and the music could reside. I live for these moments – improvised, live music that will never be replicated, the artist in a world of his or her own, the crowd enjoying the hell out of it, feeling good and loving life. I watched the drummer till he stepped down, then I danced to jungle till I broke a sweat. Good Vibes & Heavy Breaks will never disappoint a junglist. I’m certain that anyone who truly loves the rhythmic complexity of this style of music loves anything Drones will play and promote. Turntablism is an art that all us junglists appreciate, not to mention percussive elements like the old school drum patterns we hear on top of heavy bass lines (drums and bass).

Drones is keeping the jungle alive this festival season by featuring Michigan jungle and DNB DJs at Trixie’s on Memorial Day for a Junglist Throwdown featuring artists from Labelless Records out of Columbus, OH. Here’s a link to the show: http://www.2ndnaturerecords.com/blog/2017/05/13/2ndnatures-junglist-throwdown-featuring-labelless-records/. Steve Drones will also be performing at a DNB show on Sunday the 28th, downtown at Checker Bar. This event will be MASSIVE! Here’s a link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dnbid-presents-dom-and-roland-uk-jamal-jaybee-chrissy-tee-renan-tickets-33758258861. Headlining is Dom & Roland, a long-time DNB producer from the UK on Moving Shadow and Metalheadz records. Jamal from San Francisco and Jaybee from Tampa are also headlining. When I saw that Dom & his Roland were coming to Detroit, I danced around my living room. This will be a treat for all junglists and I have to thank the DnBid crew from Chicago for making it happen. Plus they added two legit producers (Jamal & Jaybee) to the lineup with a handful of Detroit & Chicago talent.  For those of you who don’t know the headliners, check them out (see below). They are staples. Recognize!

My favorite Dom & Roland track, “Deckard’s Theme”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3GoakO9yLw

Dom’s classic ’98 album “Industry”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vk1IIR-Z8ic

Jamal’s “Jungle Music” off DJ SS’s “Back to Jungle” album, released in 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsjlCxieBBg

Jaybee’s “No Need to Worry”, released this year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kk2vjQBYDQ

Back to that question, where’s the jungle? It’s here, downtown, uptown, in my head and hopefully in yours now too. Love what you love and hopefully others will love it soon. Author Anais Nin wrote, “Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.” She’s right. We all love music whether it be jungle or techno, rock or hip hop. The genres that seemingly separate us actually bring us closer together. We are all parts of the same magic. If you see me this festival season, come melt with me and let’s make magic. \(^.^)/

Interested in reading more about the Detroit jungle scene? Check out these articles about Konkrete Jungle Detroit, a collective consisting of Detroit DNB/jungle DJs who had played Movement 2014-2016.

“An Evening with Konkrete Jungle Detroit”: https://www.detroittechnohouse.com/2014/05/19/an-evening-with-konkrete-jungle-detroit/

“Konkrete Jungle Detroit’s “Rewind!” with Soundmurder & SK-1”: https://www.detroittechnohouse.com/2014/04/16/konkrete-jungle-detroits-rewind-with-soundmurderer-sk-1/

Photo taken of Steve Drones spinnin’ at Trixie’s courtesy of Chelsi “Sonic Femme”.

It was my first time at the Whiskey Disco the night of Thursday, September 25th, 2014. I took the discreet side entrance off John R, downstairs, beneath a new bar on Woodward called the Cornerstone Barrel House. It had been a year (give or take) since I had been in the basement of the former Oslo, a sushi restaurant and popular Detroit electronic music venue which had met a gritty end and closed permanently in November, 2011. Familiar feelings came to me suddenly – those memories, emotions and sensations of dancing in a chill, underground, dark and acoustically superb setting. I was struck by a feeling of surreal-ity: I was entering this place that appeared the same as how I’d seen it last, though I knew it had changed. And I, seemingly the same as I had been, was there as a changed person.

“We are not the same person this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.” – W. Somerset Maugham

It’s hard to imagine how different we become over time – we change so slowly and our changing is slight. We experience life on a small scale. Those slight variations in character and being are nearly invisible. One may never notice the difference between the past and present self… until one night in an old place with a new name, with old friends and a new brain. That Thursday night at the Whiskey Disco, I was surrounded by those friends (and plenty of strangers) and the sound that brought us there. We were gradually changing people in a gradually changing place.

I did a B-line to the small stage in the back corner of the venue, sandwiched by tall stacks of speakers. Resident artist, DJ Form, was on deck spinning heavy trip-hop, beats and breaks. My craving for quality electronic was immediately soothed as I made my space on the dance floor. I hadn’t been on many since Movement, perhaps just one or two. I missed the all-encompassing rhythm and bass of electronic music, rattling my body, pushing my heart to pound faster, pulling me blindly into a dance trance. I was a rippling surface absorbed by the porous speakers in that room.

Soon other energies gathered and began to flow and disperse in the pool of sound around me. This liquid broth of vibe and pleasure and laughter, swelling and shaking into droplets and circles over the floor and walls of this place we could feel was still alive with the same feelings we had left in it. We were supported by that place. Loud and low music supported by speakers and wires, sound equipment fed by a needle vibrating over grooves in a record, fingers nudging one track into the next. This supported by soul, by passion for the music that makes one hungry to hear it again – a desire supported by energy, vibe, smiles, dancing and booze. All this cyclic, supported by one another, like an arch, curves pressed inward and holding tall pillars against a solid keystone of sound.

I went to the Whiskey Disco to support my friends, Jyarsch and Teej, former members and founders (2/3) of Comfort Food. The two have this insatiable, uncontainable need to share the music they love with the people they love and they do so by throwing shows at the Whiskey Disco. I went to the show that night to support my friends and the quality music they brought: DJ Form, SuperDre, and the talented producer, Michna. Though as soon as I was overcome by the music and the atmosphere, I realized that what I wanted most was the support it gave me. Each friendly social reunion reminds me that we, as changed people, still love a particular kind of music. And that music will always be there for us – whether it’s in a venue or in our headphones, we always have that foundation to stand on.

DJ Form handed the reins to SuperDre, a former Grand Rapids icon turned Detroiter. I’ve admired this woman for years. I first met her while working with the Wub Tribe in GR, late 2009. Months later, I grabbed a copy of Revue when her picture on the cover caught my eye – big curly hair and a fist raised high in her Superwoman costume. She’s been all over the map, playing countless shows and festivals throughout Michigan. Early this year, I began to notice her unmistakable face around the city of Detroit. At the Whiskey Disco, I saw that face fixed and lit by a laptop in the back corner of the venue, bass-infused minimal breaking the air between us.

Check out SuperDre’s mix “Detroitosphere” on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/superdre/sets/superdre-detroitosphere-ep

On the dance floor, bodies, rocking and bouncing to deep house beats, leaked a liquid energy. In that pool of energy, like little waves lapping at the shore, I danced against my boyfriend’s side. Our hips locked against and supporting one another, least we fall to the floor together. Movement ebbed and flowed from me to mine, from note to body, shifting – this shifting, an act of change, yet held upright we remained. The spell was broken when SuperDre turned our ears over to the headliner, Michna. Much to my surprise, Michna, who I’ve known for mostly playing electronic hip-hop, pulled out the booty. This was the club DJ from NYC I had never seen nor heard before. You’d probably recognize this one:

Michna “Swiss Glide”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5ss2mPH2Cw

The Ghostly International producer’s latest release, an EP called “Moving Mountains,” is a sort of dark instrumental hip hop meets happy house-y jam. The word “futuristic” has been used accurately to describe it (http://www.ghostly.com/releases/moving-mountains), though I’d make the argument that most electronic music sounds “futuristic”. I believe the impression that Ghostly is trying to make with that message can be taken in the form of an image (also a web reference): “soundtracking a ride through a city in some distant unknowable future”.

The show ended around two, though I didn’t want it to. My friends and I collected our senses and left our good-byes, leisurely returning to our personal realities. Riding through dark city streets towards some distant unknowable future, I felt, for once, that I would always have the ground beneath my feet.  That one night at the Whiskey Disco, I was reminded that one thing would never change: the human urge to hold on tight to whatever feels right.