Sunday, March 06, 2016

Bass Bits #9 - Jungle

Skipping right past bleep - on the grounds that I already covered it - and onto jungle

Where to start?!

Too many to pick. Entire genre is based on bass. It's drums and it's bass - everything else is optional extras, gravy on top.

Just some extremely random (out of chronological sequence) faves, then, with a dozen other contenders jostling behind each one....

NC & Asend, "Take Your Soul"

Love the strange off-tone drone of this, like a dulled metallic clang almost. There's something humorously fixated about this track, about the way the whole tune clip-clops along, switching between two patterns.

In The Wire, I described "Take Your Soul" as an "ultra-minimal classic of compulsion-for-compulsion's sake.... whose one-and-a-half note bassline, percussive/textural as opposed to melodic, lodges itself in your memory-flesh as viciously as a flechette."

Omni Trio, "The Elemental"

The fluidity of the bassline  - delicate at first, like raindrops trickling down a blade of foliage in a jungle...then as the track takes off  thudding like smooth sub-lo thunder - works against the inflexible jack-knife-at-the-waist of the two-stepping beat.

Rufige Cru, "Menace"

The difference between "The Elemental" and "Menace" - which is only about four years, 92 to 96 - is immense. Partly that's down to production values: Rufige-bass sounds muddy, turbid compared to Moving Shadow's late 90s slick 'n' phat. And partly thanks to intent: "Menace" comes out of drugs, E and weed...  the bass is bleary, oozy, black gas that breaks down  the barrier between your body and the music. "Elemental" is crisp, rounded, glistening, articulated  - it's not speaking to or from a drugged consciousness particularly. "Menace" is also dubby, in its overall production, so there's a sound system echo here, whereas "The Elemental" seems suburban, not inner city...  designed for headphones, a car stereo, the living room.  D&B that's authentically from the heartland of Hertfordshire, that would sound just right on a drive from Aldbury to Chesham.

Talkin' "dirty"

How is that oozy seismographic sound near the start - and again at 1.50 - made then?  A 808 that is being detuned back and forth to different degrees?

Suddenly realised that despite having written a book on the subject, I'm not entirely sure how the bass in jungle records is actually made... 

Sometimes the B-lines have the boom-thud impact of an 808 - so it's the bass and the breaks that are coming out of hip hop. (Probably rather a high proportion of the prime movers in this post were actually present at  UK Fresh '86, now I think of it).

Other times it sounds like a bass-tone sampled from somewhere ( or even swatched together from different sources, an overlay of timbres) and then played on a keyboard as a bubblin' line or blasting riff 

Other times it so closely resembles the simple melodic units of reggae that you'd think it was a sample, but I should imagine it's a recreation of that using a keyboard -  isolating a reggae bassline from the drums would be quite hard to do, using a sampler, I'd have thought...

Then there are sort of pingy metallic bassline reports, which seem to hail from dancehall. 

Loads of other styles and sounds, tricks and devices.

I invite Those Who Know to drop some bass-science on me... 

Talking about science and the dropping thereof....

Danny Breaks, could just as well call himself Danny Bass....

That Safari Sound bass is luminous....

Eyes rolling back in the head with that one... ohmighosh

Now the multiple or stacked bassline is a whole different ball game

Rolling glow bass.... and then a different bass, bippety and reggae-style, comes in too...  paralleling the layering of Amens....

.... science chief  Ray Keith

Bass penetrates...

God bless SS

Lots of choices when it comes to Roni Size, DJ Die, Krust.....

This one is Size & Krust collaborating via two of their aliases. And who knows, maybe Die contributed by rolling the spliffs.

I remember having this on a tape off of Grooverider's show on Kiss FM and playing it over and over on a train journey to Scotland. On my way to Rezerection for a piece on gabba. Distinct memory of that strange Day-Glo bass-rift in my headphones and the excitement of crossing the border for the first time and the landscape getting all rugged and bare and craggy.

Ooh gosh, this next one.... memories.

I can't remember which mix I favored, I think the former, but let's do the other as well

Sometimes all that was needed was to go slow and low  - Origin Unknown, DJ Solo

I can't really convey what this next track means to me, how it makes me feel...  I don't think DJ Nut Nut ever did anything  else with quite this vibe .... he probably did a whole bunch of very solid, rinse-out  tunes like "Special Dedication"...  played his part... faded away...  but "The Rumble" is spirit-world stuff...  

Actually the flip is quite eerie and special now I remember. (Perhaps the X Factor was Pure Science?)

I can tell you what "The Rumble"  makes me picture... spring '94, back in England for a few months by that point, after a long period of being trapped in the USA (that's how I felt in '93 - kept away from the action. I made it back to London just twice, for about a month and a bit each time). In '94, when I wasn't out and about, in the clubs, I was glued to the pirates -  listening in the kitchen of a poky flat in a once smart, now faded Belsize Park block with charming old fashioned fittings and dodgy electricals.... I associate this and other songs of that year with the uncanny, indescribable sensation of a mild electric shock every so often.

I don't think I ever heard "The Rumble" played out once that whole year... There were tunes you heard scores of times on the pirates - "Music Box" by Size & Die was another that season -  but hardly ever heard played in the clubs, where by then it was nonstop raggAmentalizm and "The Burial" five times a night.

The greatest of the jazzy jungle tracks, with an upright bass feel at first and then into cascades of syncopated sub-lo bass-hits that maintain the jazzual feel


I was thinking there should be a whole post dedicated to Dillinja, but I'm going to shove him in here with his brethren.

Could pick so many....

He could do bass that maimed... landmine bass, bass packed with nasty shards of jagged metal

He could do bass that soothed and healed and calmed.

There was dancehall and dub in there.

There was jazz and quiet storm.

Dillinja was a bass sculptor without rival. What went wrong? His decline from "Acid Track" onwards shows the power of scenius - even if you're a genius, when a scene turns to shit, there's no escaping its down-dragging currents.

Apologies to the 2637 tunes I forgot to include in this necessarily truncated and incomplete post!