Whatever happened to Omni Trio?

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The state of post millennium drum and bass

L-123-002Since 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”.

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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.

Omni Trio

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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.

L-16686-1152069677Rob 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’.

Shout to headphonecommute.com. Read the full article at here,

You can check out my “All Omni Trio mix” here

About Law

Main author and creator of Drumtrip. I have been listening to and mixing drum and bass in its various forms since 1998. Drumtrip was designed to celebrate the glory years between 1991 and 1997.

  • Headphone Commute

    Thanks for the shout out! Talking about the ‘evolution of dnb’ – have you heard what DJ Hidden has been up to? It’s definitely on the darker side, but still very much in the revolutionary spectrum…

  • You know DJ Hidden is a name I haven’t heard in quite a long time. I did rate a couple of his tunes back a decade or so ago. Will have to check him out, nice one.

  • jish-wa

    Interesting observations that I broadly agree with, but best not to start my own rant here! I still like dnb though, I just started listening to older dance music again in about 2002, which is also when I got into grime.

    Omni Trio are brilliant, will have to check out the new stuff.

  • DrumNLOL

    Main problem with DNB is that when ever a new artist arrives every fucking label under the sun will be on the phone and emailing wanting tunes and generally blowing smoke up your arse

    Fast forward a year down the line and the artist realise’s every fucker has put their tunes out then not paid them – cue a million excuses about sales and accounts and this and that

    The artist then will do one of two things:

    1 – Fuck off and stop making DNB and either quit completely or go and make what ever is the next big thing (garage in the 90s, dubstep in the noughties)

    or

    2 – Start their own label to which they will find that most of the (label owning) Djs who was supporting them before will not play their music for shit now as they are classed as competition and how dare they go try and expand the scene with their own label

    Either way the scene looses another artist and continues on its path of self destruction

    Iv’e been there done it and got the T shirt and the amount of bullshit I see on a daily basis you wouldn’t even begin to believe me if I told you.

    This past 2 years has been the worst I have ever seen it with sales and gigs down all across the board the back stabbing and bullshit is at the highest its ever been.

    The music now is of the worst its ever been with unimaginative sample pack and preset bashing – there is no innovators left all DNB has now is a group of controlled producers bashing out clones of what ever is flavour of the month because what ever one of the 4 main labels they are signed to has told them to make it

    Even the majors dont want to sniff at DNB they would rather go find new artists like Rudimental or get pop producers to knock up drumstep tracks for Ellie Golding

    To sum up what is left of a credible scene is nothing but the hood rats who before making music were busy robbing old ladies down hackney high street and who would fuck their own mum over for a fiver. Any artists trying to live the dream by signing with one of the main DNB labels I feel for you as you are about to have the very life sucked out of your body in return for nothing

    You think the X factor winners have got a bum deal that’s nothing compared to life as a DNB producer

  • Nice one for the comment. As time goes on I think more and more people are starting to realise the above is quite often the case for new talent. The days of freedom and creativity do mostly seem behind us and the bullshit politics around the scene seems too much to bare at times. And that’s just what I have heard – having never been a (successful) producer or label owner myself.
    Much respect to the ones still doing it just for the love and trying to avoid getting shitted on at every corner.

  • Eazyflow

    Dj Hidden (with Eye D) has been producing industrial gabba as ‘The Outside Agency’. Brilliant if you like that kinda thing (which I do). Didn’t know he was coming back to DnB. Will check it out 🙂

  • Roydelski

    Creative peak stopped with artists like artemis… It was all down hill from there

  • Braddersrm

    I’m a bit late to the conversation but I noticed this when I moved to Bristol back in 2001/2 (18 years old) The first year was great having moved from London and spent my weekends in either bagleys or fabric with a few other venues that were of the scene at the time. Bristol as we know was great for dnb. Full cycle were in charge there really. Myself and my two mates who’d we’d moved down together with tried setting up as a dj, potential producer and was all good. local residencies at revolutions, fez bar, thekla, Lakota, dimensions to name a few. It was within my 2 years there that I noticed that the technology in production became more accessible. People moving away from hardware to software and learning to recreate sounds of the producers/labels who were killing it, ie anything from ram records, valve, bad company, full cycle, renegade hardware. The turning point for me was walking into eat the beat and the guy there, can’t remember his name now introducing a young lad, and being quite excited by him. Said he’d just been signed to valves sister label, I think was called beats at the time. The tune was basically a rip off any dillinja or Lemon D track I’d heard in the past couple of years. The young lad was TC. Fair play, he’d made it but he was the first of a few that just ripped producers sounds and started churning it out to the masses, on mass. After this I felt the scene just amalgamated into this one sound. Nearly 15 years later in still looking for that sparkle of productive creatism

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