The iconic and pivotal Valley of the Shadows…where do I start? Produced by none other than Origin Unknown, a duo consisting of Andy C and Ant Miles, this track played a significant role in shifting the paradigm of hardcore toward a darker motif. Heralded as one of the best songs in the Drum & Bass sphere, this iconic tune rolled onto the scene in 1993 (and re-released in 1996 as a stand-alone) from Andy C’s very own RAM Records.
The first edition of Future Music Magazine’s sample CD provided many of the track’s sounds, and likewise provided a bevy of other recognizable samples found across a broad spectrum of electronic and dance music during the same era. From the hypnotizing melody to the entrancing spoken samples, the hardy break to the bold bassline, Valley of the Shadows proves itself a time-tested masterpiece.
I’m excited to have recently stumbled upon Nebula, whose works capture the magic of the 90’s drum & bass sound to an exceptional degree. While there are many amazing songs to choose from in Nebula’s repertoire, Chords of Sorrow, released on Subtle Audio Recordings in 2008, is a beauty.
Drumfunk panache is provided here on a silver platter, and so elegantly at that; glossy harmonies wind around wispy choir tones that eventually swell into a poignant choral crescendo. Nebula paints us a picture of dreamlike ambience brushed with strokes of melancholy – all animated by dynamic, adeptly arranged drum patterns. Enjoy the dive into this deep vibe, and if you’re enjoying it you can grab the digital re-release direct here.
Better known as a DJ than a producer, Mace was a staple in the UK club scene after claiming the title of best up and coming drum & bass DJ in Kiss FM’s 1997 DJ competitions. Around the same time, Mace put production onto his resume. Mace’s standout release came along in 2003 on one of the premier imprints of Intelligent and liquid D&B: Creative Source.
Inside Your Soul’s sound resides in smooth and mellow expression with a rolling bassline and dynamic percussion exuding unabated exuberance. Here, a subtle-yet-powerful influence from jazz and funk can be felt – a demonstration of eclectic class. This tune is a perfect companion for enjoying the last of the summer vibes!
The illustrious R&S Records has played host to a wonderfully varied discography over the years, mainly catering to the techno and house crowds, yet has also delivered on some outstanding drum & bass tracks—one of which is a 1996 Intelligent gem that we bring to you today: Wind Dancer (Remix) by Shogun.
An airy melody congeals with lush strings and effervescent pads to form an ethereal vibe. Sparse congas lend an atmospheric curiosity in addition to ambient guitar and vocals. With a robustness spoken through the potent bass and precisely detailed percussive arrangement, the song rolls through apexes where both breaks intermingle into unified cadences of infectious grooviness. An all-time favourite that I’ll always appreciate, Wind Dancer (Remix) is a vibrant tune that continues to shine today.
No classic drum & bass fan should miss out on Twisted Anger, a duo whose tunes I continually find captivating. An off-the-wall slice of techstep wickedness from Dread Recordings sub-label Penny Black, Society is among the darkest of 1997 drops.
Twisted Anger are experts at creating sinister soundscapes in their tracks (especially in their earlier works), with Society being possibly their finest specimen. Ominous and gritty, heavy atmosphere fills the space amidst filtered break cuts that crash with aggression against an askew, unworldly bass. Conjuring images of sci-fi noir (or where ever your imagination takes you), brace yourself for this monstrosity.
Source Direct are often heralded as a top notch act in the history of Drum & Bass, having garnered critical acclaim as well as massive respect from Drum & Bass listeners across the board. To this day, their sound has gone largely unmatched.
We are reminded of the one-of-a-kind Source Direct sound (unless you keep their music in your usual rotation like I do) by the eclectic offering of their illustrious catalogue that has been recently remastered and released on the Odysee Recordings Bandcamp page in the last two weeks.
For this week’s classic track, we present to you the aptly named Rollidge by DJ SS, AKA Leroy Small (who has amassed an abundance of aliases to his production credits). Released on SS’s own Formation Records imprint, this track encapsulates the unbridled nature of the drum & bass sound especially during its nascent stage.
Rollidge is a jungle tour de force, bouncing in a bustling frenzy that will transport your mind to the dancefloor. Filled to the brim with delightfully deft amen edits and rude bass, this 1995 smash is as ripe for rinsing now as it was the day it dropped. A strong attribute here is the phrasing that lends to a fresh and varied flow through each section of this tune. If songs are like stories, Rollidge is quite the wild one.
Something different, you say? Look no further: we’ve got forward-thinking innovation meets cool finesse on Lemon D’s What’s Up, from Metalheadz’s 1997 Metalheadz Boxset 1, a noticeably leftfield album from the iconic label. Lemon D has shown a knack for crafting unconventional works for much of his career, and this track is an impressive example of his originality.
This classic features an onslaught of percussive hits at all the right times and tones, demonstrating the brilliance of an experimental approach over the backdrop of techstep proficiency. Lemon D’s blending of avant-garde arrangement with jazz sounds in What’s Up produces a distinctive feel and expression; timeless and refreshing.
When I think of my favourite jungle artists, Just Jungle (also known by his Genotype alias) easily etches out a spot in my mind thanks to his repertoire of solid tunes. One of his very best? Double Crisp, from 1994’s The Gold EP released by Trouble on Vinyl. D&B history sidenote; Trouble on Vinyl was run by Clayton Hines & Mark Hill, the same duo behind the legendary Renegade Hardware. It’s now owned and operated by fellow D&B originator DJ Kane.
Beginning with a radiant pad that cascades into a sensational flurry of amenism and genius programming, Double Crisp is a hallmark of Just Jungle’s production prowess. It cannot be understated how striking the drum cuts are on this classic. You also get a sense dub and dancehall’s momentous influence on jungle through the flavorful sampling that serves as a proper homage to part of the genre’s roots.
While legendary MC Stevie Hyper D left us way too soon in 1998, his legacy thankfully lives on in both the memories of those who witnessed him live and through recordings of his lyrics adeptly MC’d over multiple Drum & Bass tracks and mixes. One of the most revered MCs to have graced sound waves with his words, you can read more about the man in this great retrospective article.
The anthemic Junglist Soldier, which happens to be De-Stress Records’ only release, is a quintessential jungle track that offers a sense of the dynamism dispensed by MCs, especially one so talented as Stevie Hyper D himself. Powerfully performed verses are delivered over a clean break accentuated by fitting Jungle fare. The bass consists of a thick reese that’s easily one of the best basslines in Drum & Bass history.
Junglist Soldier exudes a spirit that can bring together all junglists while serving as a reminder of how lucky we were to have Stevie Hyper D in the scene. A documentary that will reflect on Stevie Hyper D’s life and influence on music culture is slated for release this year; head over here to for more information on that.