A brief guide to the subgenres of drum and bass music
The sound of drum ‘n’ bass music is a subgenre of subwoofer-shredding club tracks that exists in a variety of genres, from autonomic to techstep. Below is an alphabetical glossary to help you understand these subgenres.
Since its emergence in the British rave scene in the early 1990s, drum’n’bass has divided into several subgenres and derivative sounds. To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to distinguish a techstep from a mid-tempo, a lime jump from a liquid, but don’t worry. This handy guide uncovers the gaps and gives you the knowledge you need to understand each subgenre when you hear it.
Autonomic Sound, a short-lived chapter of drum’n’bass, emerged from the short-lived podcasts of scene veteran’s dB ridge and Instrument, which gave rise to the FABRICLIVE 50 mix. The mix of excellent synthesizers, electric effects and minimal beats took drum’n’bass music into new realms.
In the early 2000s, when drum’n’bass was stuck in a dark void, Brazilian mobsters brought sunshine and funk back to the genre: DJ Marky, Patife, Bungle, L-Side, S.P.Y. and XRS created a new style of Brazilian samba without sacrificing important beats and bass lines. Without doing so, they mixed variations of DnB music with influences from Brazilian samba and soul, resulting in a captivating crossover. Believe it or not, they were even on the charts in the early 2000s.
Breakcore is a music based on drum and bass with exaggerated drum edits and abstract electronics. Originally created by artists like Apex Twin, Mega and Square pusher, but artists like Shipmate, Venetian Snares, DJ Scotch Egg and Kid606 have also taken break core to crazy and wonderful results.
Chronologically, hardcore emerged between the euphoria of hardcore rave and the noise of jungle sound systems. Darkcore was one of the earliest models of drum’n’bass music, which was darker and more complex than any other music before. Goldie, 4Hero and DJ Crystal helped introduce the beat-chopping and melancholic textures that became commonplace in drum’n’bass.
Half-Time, also known as drum step, literally cuts the beat in half into a hip-hop gallop, but the bass and electronics spin at full speed, creating a powerful impact in the club Om Unit, Dub Philip, Fracture, more sounds, Kromestar and Ivy Lab, Half Time is indebted to dubstep and trap, but also uses all the features of breakbeats and timeless drum’n’bass together.
Intelligent Drum & Bass
Dreamlike ambient drum’n’bass is a style developed by LTJ Bukem and the musicians of his label Good Looking Records. Influenced by Detroit techno and elements of UK home draft, Smart Audio, also known as hardcore, combines breakbeats, bass and heavenly atmospheres. Although sometimes called too light, its availability and melodic awareness attracted many new movements in the drum scene.
A rustic, stripped-down sound made for the dance floor. It combines step beats with punchy digital bass riffs and is packed with springs. But pioneers like DJ Hype and Twisted Individual helped shape the scene from the start.
Jungle is one of the most unique sounds in UK digital music and also the precursor to drum music. It combines punchy bass and dub effects from reggae sound systems, fast breakbeats with old-school samples, hardcore from growling dancehall MCs, and occasional pads and sweet vocals. Artists like Special Request reinforce the validity of the jungle.
Liquid Drum & Bass Music
It doesn’t get much more liquid than Liquid Drum & Bass Music. Liquid features its own crisp rhythms, surprising riffs, homemade downloads, Rhodes keyboards and jazz samples. First created by Alex Reece and Wax Doctor and released on Fabio’s Creative Source label, High Hospital became synonymous with Liquid, and the genre contributed to the creation of a kind of brilliant (but extremely reliable) crystallization.
Neurofunk is a flawless cybernetic rave with a distinct mechanical character, and labels like Vital and Eat brain as well as musicians like Noises, Phase, and Current Value contributed to this new kind of driven drum’n’bass music.
In the late 1990s, drum and bass became commercially viable. Techstep was a decidedly underground response that eschewed melodies for cyborg influences and nightmarish techno. With its regimented style and moody template, it took drum ‘n’ bass music in a new direction, as did Ed Rush and Optical, Bad Company, and Doc Scott. Techstep had just discovered the renaissance of a new micro genre of hard, chunky beats called skull step.
There are probably many more subcategories of these genres, and one could even argue that the genres on this list actually have other names and don’t belong. But one thing is certain: drum’n’bass will continue to evolve.
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