Then mid-noughties Pendulum started bringing it out of the ghetto, though obviously the taste was too rockist for some (the snares began to sound like rock drums; the tear-outs there but toned down). But it was a key moment, as was Tinnie Tempah going all junglish in the outro of his anthemic Pass Out.
We have had ‘junglist’ sounds in modern pop-dance for four or five years now – that surging breakdown then the release of the amen riff now is as much for thing for Top Man boy and Top Shop girl on the exhiliri-piss in Magaluf as much as the steppers in grimey ex-industrial spaces of the main British cities. Some of this clearly soars – only generic sonic scrooges would deny the rush of DJ Fresh ft Rita Ora’s Hot Right Now or Fresh ft Ms Dynamite’s Gold Dust (Fresh a former member of cartoon dark junglists Bad Company).
Since Rudimental ft John Newman’s Feel the Love (the guest vocalist has become key to new pop), its use even extends into the stock-in-trade of much current pop: melodramatic but vague emotional unloadings such as Jacob Banks' Alive (produced by ravepop torchbearers Chase & Status) – the amen tear-out making not complete sense as the singer avails us of his ‘journey’ – tie in with the vogue for depressive hedonism, though typically it’s not always clear which emotions are to the fore and why. John Newman’s solo and guest output is full of little breakbeat stylings underpinning the high energy emoting. Even Emeli Sandé is involved.
Other uses, such as Wilkinson’s Afterglow, tack the beat onto less demanding tales (you’ve been to some sort of rave, had a good communal experience, now it’s afterparty time) but still need to say ‘we have been here, we have done something’ that is generated by a generation not being sure why it has to hedonise de trop without any purpose (I’ll tell you, marketing). All in all, we have come a long way from a situation where playing such purist (for that is what it was) ‘rhythm science’ in the house made no sense to your parents (and therefore worried them) to one where mum can now happily tap her feet along to a poppy number whose beats are similar to the ones we knew in all those seminal tunes (Dad’s still not sure tbf though everyone loves that Newman). Few of the producers themselves makes just this strain of poppy drum and bass.
Nowadays many in the scene seem not to worry too much about the commercialisation and regard it as churlish not to embrace it – it’s here; amen breaks and riffs are just another tool in the festival DJ’s fuck-off sonic armoury. Like any genre that has been appropriated by producers with eyes on big unit sales, what is striking is how easily it all fits into the pop mix with the other trance / hip-hop / house influences. Apparently, post-EDM America is now getting it too (*shudders*).
Drum and bass had kept going so far forward it was lost. It had to change, and eventually it did. I’m not sure whether this had been enough to regenerate the purist ‘underground’ (like this matters, nearly 20 years on) scene – but it’s notable that many of the acts that are talked about as drum and bass are not making that music at all (indeed the key seems to be just merely for it to have been a formative influence) but are making a techno or footwork influenced sound – the former Instra:mental, DBridge (fellow Bad Company alumnus), Machinedrum, Om Unit. Others, such as Demdike Stare on their Test Pressings, or Lee Gamble, use it as base for far more interesting sonic drift; still more are happy to churn out retro – but still decent – gear in the style of the HATE project of Andy Stott, Miles Whittaker and Gary Howell (seminal retro!).
That still more make pop music with it shouldn’t be a matter for recrimination like it used to be.