15.11.2016 | Words by:
A friend once described drum & bass to me as 'the genre that refuses to die'. This was clearly meant as a cutting remark, and I admit it tickled me quite a lot but it also occurred to me that it could be taken as a compliment. Jungle and d&b spills out of parties, clubs and overblown car stereos the world over, along with it’s nieces and nephews; garage, dubstep, grime etc. But the fact that this once defiantly underground and quintessentially UK musical form now has a global reach is not a problem per say, rather the inevitable commercialisation that comes with it.
London’s own Boddika spoke about this back in 2012; "It was just so original when it was happening", he told RA
. "It was so cutting-edge and futuristic, but when big money came into the equation, things started going downhill." The days of d&b’s futurism and boundary pushing are certainly behind it. However, traces of that unique attitude continues to ripple across the surface of electronic music as a whole but seem to go largely unnoticed.
For most UK producers it’s something that’s both inescapable and a point of pride but the way in which it manifests can vary a lot. A reductive explanation could perhaps point to more snare drums, different sets of drum breaks or subtle differences in tempo. Perhaps more pertinent but even harder to pin down would be cultural signifiers like nods to West Indian music or pirate radio culture. There is a whole language of signifiers that can be lost on the casual listener.
It would be wrong to describe Joy Orbison’s music as jungle, dubstep or even garage; it’s way too singular to be pigeon-holed. However, it’s hard to miss elements of all three. London’s underground music, d&b in particular, has been a driving force for Joy O ever since his uncle, the one and only Ray Keith, introduced him to scene. More recently Joy O has been collaborating with the aforementioned Boddika, a producer who has turned his hand to almost every UK sub-genre over the years, mixing them with techno from overseas and other more leftfield influences.
The two bonded over a passion for mid-nineties drum & bass and went on to make some very special techno records that subtly maintain their London ethos. Joy O explains this in the same 2012 interview. "We are quite interested in being UK-sounding, so that drum & bass influence, that almost tech-step thing is a big part of what we do. You might not be able to tell, but it is."
It’s understandable that London’s d&b and garage often becomes the butt of the joke and there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a sense of humour about it. It’s not like people don’t make jokes about techno and house music either and you could even argue that an element of British self awareness and sarcasm makes the London sound so joyous and indulgent. Still, whilst credible dance music continues to evolve and other foundational genres get all the credit, it’s worth digging a bit deeper and realising that the London sound is still a vital stimulus and part of the picture as a whole.