Best of 2009: The rise of mnml dnb scene
Things I was excited about in 2009 pt.1More or less 10 years passed since I lost any interest in drum’n’bass scene after it lost any funk and becoming all boring drum loops + wobbling/howling basses attractive only for die-hard scenesters. I did checked the scene a couple of times, always getting added evidence that nothing really beats the golden era of jungle and artcore; even the best attempts sounded well-executed, sonically and rhythmically complex, but… just not fresh, stagnant.
So I was totally excited this year, when thanx to an excellent local DJ Dann I got introduced to the radically new sound of 180 bpm-based music, which AFAIK hasn’t got a new keenly designed genre name, so can be referred to as “minimal d’n’b”. This stuff, simply put, ditches everything I hate in traditional drum’n’bass: distorted basses, emphasized mid-range frequencies, pummeling or at least metronomic drums, sticking to tried formula, and hardcore “smashing you with the sound” ethos - all of which reminds me of heavy metal (although equally yawning are silky jazz licks and gentle rolling beats a-la Good Looking Records). Instead, mnml dnb is subtle, intricate, microscopic beats, inventive non-schematic programming, and a lot of space between notes and drum hits. Technically speaking, loud punching regular snares are rarely used, replaced by syncopated rimshots, fingersnaps and other fine percussive sounds. Not a party music, actually. But still with deep bass, and still in the region of 170-180 bpm. In many cases it resembles abstract hi-tech dubstep, only sped up (not surprisingly Breakage, relatively young but very talented producer is well-known on both scenes).
The flag bearers of the new sound are, surprisingly, the veterans of the scene (which in due time rocked the party hard and loud) – firstly dBridge and Instra:mental as producers and DJs, and Loxy who is the first DJ you gotta check if you’re interested (and I really, really advise you to do so! my favourite is still his first CX1 podcast, but there are already 8 others…). Another prominent faces include ASC, Consequence (fantastic debut album “Live for Never” on Exit), Spectrasoul, Dan Habarnam, June Miller, Bop and Despot from Russia, and many many others. Interesting, that to a big extent this scene populates via internet: a lot (if not the majority) of tracks played by DJs are unreleased, published on SoundCloud and sent by artists to DJs directly, without or before signing to labels. Speaking of the latter, the leaders are Exit, NonPlus+, Cylon, which are not afraid to release stuff that mutates so far that it can hardly be called “dnb” at all (here it resembles and partly joins the pathways of forward-looking dubstep).