While I had some difficulty choosing which Mouly and Lucida tune to select for this week’s classic track, I ultimately let the vibes guide me. The smooth glide through the cool cosmos that is Chilled ended up being my choice, but don’t let that in any way discourage you from giving the amazing Inertia a listen as well; both are equally quintessential examples of the Intelligent Drum & Bass sound that has aged like a fine wine.
Who could deny this 1995 charmer from the top-quality Timeless Recordings label? Serene synth chords underlaid with a soft, gritty texture invite the listener, followed by alluring vocal fills and snappy drums. Strings that sing as well as percussive pops melt into this blissful blast from the past. The song’s second half carries a catchy Rhodes improv that speaks to Mouly and Lucida’s skill in capturing unique sonic portraits. The overall mix here is brilliant – Chilled is an ethereal piece that sounds as if it were wrapped in silk.
In times of hardship such as what we’re currently seeing in the world, a respite, an escape, is sorely needed. Today we dig deep to find a 1997 Drum & Bass gem by Parallax that can offer a breath of fresh air. This delightfully mellow A-Side comes from the archives of Urban Flavour Records, the brainchild of Tricksta, that would eventually evolve into Nu-Directions – a label that featured notable artists including ASC, Need for Mirrors, and BCee, among others.
Watercolours paints a picture of rich tones filled with pleasing, even pensive, auras. Gentle stabs punctuate phrases that emanate vibrant, ambient acuity. This song glides about with an elegant air, aided by tasteful piano and synth runs. A pure bassline and smart breaks congeal into a jazzy groove that breathes a dynamic spirit into the track. And that switch-up in the latter half? A stroke of genius. A much needed escape, indeed!
In the mid-90’s, the sound of Jungle/Drum & Bass was forever changed with the arrival of the Techstep style, showcased brilliantly by Spider Net’s Awake. Spider Net was an alias used only once — for this particular release — by none other than No U-Turn label boss and collaborator, Nicholas “Nico” Sykes.
A fat B side by any standard, Awake is a 1996 jolt of Techstep that stomps heavy and hard. The rough and rude bass here is characteristic of the No U-Turn sound for the time, and is quite honestly one of my favourite sounds in the world. Protean drum sampling establishes a decisively wicked groove comprised of three break flavors. Sparse samplings of complementary sounds provide just enough atmosphere to round out this monster of a classic.
No U-Turn’s catalogue boasts a heap of bangers like these, making it easy to see how the label’s trademark style indelibly marked the scene.
Jazz Juice (previously known as Unit 1) was the ephemeral two-piece collaboration between Alex Reece and Wax Doctor, featured on the equally ephemeral Precious Material label formed by the steadfast Phil Wells, better known as Basement Phil (side note – an excellent account of the Precious Material label can be found over on God Is No Longer a DJ).
Jazz Juice’s self-titled song on their 1995 self-titled EP is a beauty of a tune beloved by those who are enchanted by its soothing vibes. This ramble through a languidly lush soundscape is speckled with the unmistakable Do This My Way break from Kid ’N Play that cleverly captures a cadence marked by 90s techno influence. Alex Reece and Wax Doctor employ an impeccable palette of colourful sounds, each one tastefully complementary to the last. Perhaps my favourite aspect of this tune is its clever phrasing, highlighted by alternations between just beats to beats with melodic backing. No doubt a unique track, give Jazz Juice a listen below to discover (or remember) what makes it so special.
The recent passing of the venerable Edward Holmes, better known as Optiv, has been a time to celebrate his body of work. A stalwart in the pantheon of Drum & Bass luminaries, Optiv’s impact will live on forever. One such work by Nomis and Optiv sticks out indelibly for me in a lineup of classics from the Cause 4 Concern camp, released on Optiv’s Red Light Records.
Piston is an underrated 2002 track that can stand with the best bass bangers in the genre. I love to crank the dial on this tune to get the full effect of its behemoth bass…yet, I always end up having to bring it down a notch or two just because of its sheer force. Intensity is further mounted by the frantic cacophony of howls and shrieks that ensnare the atmosphere. And what’s a song in the C4C domain without slick drum sequencing? This track has it in spades. Sonorous grooves beat away in this brute force classic. Long live Optiv!
Dev Pandya broke onto the scene under his Paradox moniker in 1996 wielding solid amen smashers. The formidable energy and complexity of Pandya’s deft cuttage made him a staple of the Jungle/Drumfunk style. Remaining true to his sound, Paradox rocks his breaks-heavy style to this day.
Paradox’s breaks are relentless and stone cold on the early Renegade Hardware release A Certain Sound, with bass straight from the depths of an abyss. The 1996 heater employs a quote from the iconic film Dune to psychedelic effect, as Paul’s voice bounces along in hypnotic cadence, and is ultimately complemented by eerie atmospherics. This classic track is not to be missed – a considerable weapon of sound in any Jungle/Drumfunk DJ’s arsenal!