Since the turn of the millennium there has been a worrying phenomenon within the D&B scene – really great producers often get bored and look elsewhere. Well, its not quite as simple as that so let me explain.
Since it’s creative peak in the mid 90s, beyond 2000 drum and bass has become a little stagnant.
Yes there has been fleeting moments of creativity to speak of with producers such as dBridge, Instra:mental, ASC, Fracture, to name but a few, flying the flag and always looking to pursue a new sound. But generally speaking, the D&B mainstream is much the same as it was in 2004, in 2014.
I am not one of these people who insists that progression to new sounds is always a great thing, its not always the answer. After all I run a blog where the tagline that says it’s “1994 everyday”.
However, as a punter you have to understand and appreciate that creative producers get bored with creating the same old tried and tested formula D&B almost enforces upon them. “You must set the tempo at 174, You must have a 64 bar intro, you must have a drop, you must have a breakdown, you must have a second drop. you must have a DJ friendly outro, you must master your track as loud as fuck etc etc”.
D&B fans are quite a precious bunch; just ask DJ Zinc when he started (very successfully) experimenting with tempo’s below 174bpm. He said in a recent interview with Uncle Dugs that part of the reason he quit mixing D&B regularly because he was so tired of people asking him to play D&B when he was mixing other genres.
Instra:mental, Boymerang, Skanna, Photek, 4Hero (kinda), Breakage are a just a few names that come to mind; fantastic producers who have moved on from the D&B scene for one reason or another. I am not saying the pressure to conform is ultimately responsible, but I’m sure that in most cases it has been a contributing factor.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. I thought 2013 was a great year for D&B with some exciting new sounds and producers coming through. A mixture of new talent like Sam Binga, Om Unit and Stray getting recognition. And established producers, known for their work in other genres, have been looking to D&B (jungle in particular) for inspiration, such as Machinedrum and Special Request (AKA Paul Woolford). Things are looking pretty good.
But my reason for this lengthy rant / moan / observation is that I recently stumbled upon an interview with one of the greatest jungle / D&B producers there ever was; Omni Trio.
Omni Trio was a unique talent. Even before he started producing hardcore under his Omni Trio, London Steppers and Splice aliases, Rob Haigh was already a seasoned musician with several releases throughout the 80s as well as being a member of bands ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘The Truth Club’ in the 1970s.
He got involved in the burgeoning hardcore scene after he opened a traditional record store called ‘Parliament’ in Hertford, UK around 1990.
It wasn’t until encounters with Paul Rhodes, a DJ who was a resident at the night club next door to the shop, that he began his experiments with hardcore which culminated in releases on the shop’s in-house label ‘Parliament Music‘.
Rhodesy and Rob produced for the label as ‘Rhodes-K‘ and ‘Splice‘ respectively before Rob went on to release as Omni Trio on the Hertford / Watton-at-Stone based Moving Shadow. With Rhodesy also working at the shop, Parliament quickly became known as hardcore, and then jungle specialists.
Rob never want to raves or really paid much attention to the music beyond his own record store. Regardless of this he went on to become one of the most respected and praised producers to come out of Moving Shadow and Jungle Drum and Bass scene in general.
Rob continued to produce for the label up until around the millennium when he released his last album on Moving Shadow; the beautiful ‘Even Angels Cast Shadows‘. His last dalliance with D&B was a solo album on his own ‘Scale Records’ called ‘Rogue Satellite’ and a project known as Black Rain.
Black Rain consisted of Rob and Sean O’Keeffe and catered for the more experimental D&B market. Although I have no idea how well the label did, I fear that by then, 2003, the creative and experimental ship may had already sailed within D&B circles. Which is a great shame as it was a fantastic partnership which produced some great tunes.
Back to the interview; I found it on headphonecommute.com, and in between discussing his recent solo piano work as simply Rob Haigh and Silent Storm, they get to the inevitable question about his Drum and Bass years and his reply is a familiar tale…
Do you think you will ever return to drum’n’bass? – And while I’m still talking about dnb, what are your thoughts on the evolution of that genre?
Rogue Satellite was a conscious attempt at a really minimalist approach to drum and bass. And after that I wanted to take it even further – and not have to adhere at all to what were becoming drum and bass conventions. I wanted to experiment with time signatures and different approaches to composition. By the early noughties, in response to the rise and popularity of UK garage, drum and bass was on the offensive in order to stay relevant to mainstream club audiences – but this was at the expense of some of its innovative edge. I had a lot of material already written that just didn’t seem to fit in with where drum and bass was going – I felt it was the right time to pursue this fresh direction.
He does not categorically say he will never return, but you would assume its unlikely after all these years. Which is a great shame as he is one of the true greats.
As such, I think its only right to end on some of his more recent, post-D&B work. From his 2013 album ‘Darkling Streams’.