1990/91 - Nomad - I Wanna Give You Devotion - Rumour
With both it's lyrical content and excellent crowd atmospherics this track really did capture the vibe of all the early warehouse raves perfectly. It brings crazy memories of the early Perception & Raindance party's flooding back... Other classic tracks from this time that also need a mention are True Faith's "Take Me Away", Orbital's "Belfast", Beltram's "Energy Flash"...oh, and how can I be allowed to miss out the legendary "Mr Kirks Nightmare" by 4-Hero who were already contemplating the downside of the rave scene with those spooky lyrics way back in 1990!! 4Hero really were the true original masters of the darkside
1991 - Bitin' Back - She's Breaking Up - Fokus
Micky Finn's first tune - killer bassline, very ahead of it's time and still sounds great now. This track alongside tracks like The House Crew's "Keep the fire burning" and Zero Zero's "Sanity Clause" are certainly guaranteed to bring back memories for all the free party massive throughout 1991. Another 2 rare gems worth looking out for from this era are "Language" by Renegade (white label) and "Get Raw" by 'Undacut' on Mendoza records - both little known early breakbeat classics of their time, well worth hunting for! ...which leads me to...
1992 - 2-Xtreme - Xtremity EP - Empire
Just when many of us thought piano anthems were dead and buried, along comes this classic ep that contained a piano tune to blow all the others out of the water. Absolute gem. Liquid's "Sweet Harmony", Congerss' "40 Miles" and of course Danny Breaks' "Far Out" were close contenders for the crown, but 2-Xtreme has to be my all time favourite piano track. The Xtremity ep is currently changing hands on eBay for rediculous amounts of cash.
1992 - Satin Storm - 1999 - Satin Storm Records
The first release from Satin Storm, still the hardest to find, and in my opinion the best by far. 1999 is the track i'm talking about, certainly the best tune by far from this very scarce 6 track ep. v nice. Incidently, it uses the very same riff from a classic old dub reggae record that was also sampled for "The Dub Plate" which you can read about below...
1992 - Wot's My Code? EP - The Dub Plate - White Label
Ok, so we already had the prototype Jungle sound from the likes of Rebel MC, SUAD and Ibiza Records, and the developing Darkside vibes from the Reinforced crew, but for me, this is where the true sound of what was to become known as Drum and Bass begins... "The Dub Plate" was later remixed by Ray Keith and Nookie, but the groundbreaking original version is from a 4 track white label that was produced by a couple of local Oxford DJ's in '92 (Danny Whittaker & Jason Hardy), they were both soul, reggae and hip hop fans and as such, didn't really have many close links with the hardcore/rave scene at all... Much respect is due, because this little known white label contained 3 tracks of jungle style reggae influenced vibes, and one extra track called "The Dub Plate" which at the time was really pushing the boundries because it used a combination of a seriously deep reggae style sub bass kick AND The Winstons classic Amen Brother break at almost 160bpm, which at the time, as far as I remember, had never been done before in that combination.
This combination was soon to become almost industry standard for the Drum and Bass sound on the whole. I know "Dub Plate" certainly helped influence me. I should point out that amen had of course been used before in both hardcore, rave and hip-hop, one other notable track would be Reel to Reel's "WE R IE" - but the crucial thing to note about "Dub Plate" is it's BPM and the style of sub bass tone used, and also it's lack of cheesy rave elements that often put an obvious time stamp on a lot of music from that era - ...and this would include plenty of my own pre-invisible man stuff too, much of which would be better off melted down and used as ashtrays... great fun at the time tho! ;-)
This combination was soon to become almost industry standard for the Drum and Bass sound on the whole. I know it certainly helped influence me to use the amen break, in fact within a couple of days of first hearing it I made a track using that very same drum break. From that moment on I was hooked and over the next few months I made a long stream of amen tracks including The Bell Tune (although that didn't released until a year later) and...
1993 - The Invisible Man - The Beginning - Timeless Recordings
Ok, so I had to put one in here somwhere... the sound quality is a bit dated on this one now due to my old sampler, but I was particularly proud of this track primarily for it's edited Amen break which was somthing i'd certainly not heard anything like before. I had previously used it as a straight loop on earlier tunes, but when I figured out how to cut it up and layer it, that's when the fun really started, I just knew I had somthing special going on. A well edited Amen Break alongside an 808 sub kick and some simple atmospherics just sounded so amazing all on it's own, thus the speech sample "strictly drum and bass". A whole new world of possibilities was opening up for the drum programming...
It wasn't long before the amen break was being used by practically every producer within the scene, and as time progressed the belgian style techno stabs and noises dissapeared (thankfully!) and the edits and studio trickery got more and more complex. People were at last beginning to call the music Drum and Bass instead of hardcore. This Amen formula certainly helped cement the sound for many of the tracks I went on to produce for Gwange, Q-Project and Spinback on Legend Records. After a while, tracks using the Amen break virtually had a genre all of their own. Foul Play, Peshay, Bukem and DJ Crystal among others were all solid amen addicts back then too. It really was a challenge NOT to use it in the studio 'cause it was just so damn versatile and sounded amazing even when used at 160bpm+ without timestretching. If the drummer from The Winstons had got paid every time his break was used for a DnB tune he'd be a rich man... Respect due.
1993 - Andy C - Valley Of The Shadows - Ram Records
This track reminds me of practically every DnB club I ever attended throughout 93/94. Especially Innersense at the Lazerdrome in Peckham. Absolute anthem. Wicked sub bass, fantastic break, and excellent use of samples... - track down the sample cd that was given away free with the first issue of Future Music magazine and you'll hear exactly what I mean... ;) fair play to the man like Andy C! If only I'd have found that break a few weeks earlier, maybe i'd have released that Undergraduates track under my own name - needn't have worried tho, as within a matter of months it got hammered by everyone else too...
1994 - PFM - The Western - Good Looking Records
Yet another gem... I could of easily picked any PFM track to go here. When it comes to the atmospheric side of things, PFM's tracks really stood out from the crowd for both production and musicality. Much like all the early GLR stuff, it really was proper soulful music with atmosphere, but it still retained enough energy to work on the dancefloor - which for me, is exactly what great dance music has always been about.
1995 - Photek - Rings Around Saturn - Photek Records
Many of Photek's early tracks were gems, infact this track alongside "The 7th Samurai" and "Fusion" are always in the bag if i'm playing an oldskool DnB set. Top class. I first remember being blown away by this track at Bukem and Fabio's legendary night "Speed" at the MARS club in Soho. Blindin' tune! Proper genius.
1995 - Alex Reese - Pulp Fiction - Metalheadz
Pulp Fiction was (and still is) a seriously badass tune, it was highly original at the time, and of course it will remain in the classic oldskool bag for many years to come. It was also the track that spawned hundreds of immitators of it's "2-Step" style which unfortunately also lasted for many years to come.... hmmm... oh, and because the 2-step groove generally sounds slower, DnB then began to speed up way beyond 160bpm... say no more.