Categories
Music

Gettin' Fit in the Jungle: the Drum & Bass Issue

The week of Memorial Day last year (the last Monday in May, for readers in other countries), I stepped on a scale to check my weight, and I didn’t like what it said- it briefly topped out at 250 before settling on 249 pounds (about 113 kg). I’m literally a smidge under six feet (1.83 meters) tall, missing it by like a quarter inch- I consider myself to be six feet tall!; I wasn’t exactly round, but I was more rotund than ever. I began a regimen of walking on my breaks and lunches at work, getting my body ready for a full blown fitness revival. It had been 11 years since I last worked out regularly or visited a gym, but when I was regularly working out, my weight was normally between 200-210 pounds; I felt it was time to get back to that weight range (actually close to it -about 215 pounds), so for my birthday on June 17th, I gave myself the gift of a membership to Planet Fitness.


A new sound is sweeping across London: Jungle music is heavily influenced by the Dancehall sounds of Jamaica. It combines a mixture of fast drums and heavy bass; the music has become so mainstream, that even the BBC have started playing it.

The opening to Chase & Status’ album ‘RTRN II JUNGLE’

I was first exposed to the sound of Jungle around 1995; my favorite radio show Moods & Grooves, which I’ve talked about here before, was starting to transition away from Trip-hop (which the show also introduced me to), and into the skittish, restless beats of Jungle and Drum & Bass. The show, which ran on Sunday nights from 10-11pm on Northwestern University radio station WNUR, was hosted by Chuck Wren, who also did a show on (and is supposedly still involved in today) the third wave Ska scene. This show focused initially on the Rare Groove scene, moving into Acid Jazz (which came along during R&B’s New Jack Swing period, so it was upbeat), and then slowing down to the then morbidly slow tempos of Trip-hop (today’s Trap makes that stuff sound like Disco!), before revving up again for this new style.

As with Trip-hop, I didn’t like Jungle at first; Chuck found the jazzier sides of the music (because this was still an Acid Jazz show at heart), and played enough jazz-influenced stuff that it eventually won me over. Within a couple of years, it was the predominant music style for me – I started buying up all the Jungle and DnB I heard Chuck play, and sought out other artists, as well. By ’98, I had most of the albums that are considered classics today, such as the Goldie Timeless album, the Mercury Award-winning New Forms from Roni Size, the Grooverider album Mysteries of Funk, the album considered the first “coffee table” DnB album, So Far by Alex Reece, and every compilation I could get my hands on, such as the Metalheadz Platinum Breakz comps, the Progression Sessions series from LTJ Bukem, and the V Classic and Planet V comps from V Recordings (more on them later). My favorite labels, as time moved forward, were Bukem’s Goodlooking stable of labels, Moving Shadow, and Hospital Records.

LTJ Bukem

For those who aren’t entirely familiar with the sound of Jungle and Drum & Bass, there are two video documentaries available on YouTube that will better run down the history than I can. This first one traces the origins of Jungle…

The next video describes how Jungle eventually morphed into Drum & Bass…

As you can see, it’s a style that originated out of the UK, became briefly popular here in the States in the late 90’s, but never totally caught on here. It is, however, HUGE over there, bigger than I ever thought it would get – heck, the genre even has its’ own Awards show, which is broadcast on YouTube. It’s even rumored that Adele will forego her usual Pop formula in favor of DnB for her next album, saying she’s ready to dance now instead of lamenting all the time – we’ll see…


So what does all of this have to do with me losing weight? Well… it’s like this: when I was last a regular at the gym (2008), I carried around a 4 GB Apple iPod nano that had a good bit of Classic Rock on it- that was my music style of choice with which to work out or to do yardwork, and the latest Break ‘n Bossa album, which was a DnB – flavored Samba /Bossa Nova compilation. When I started my lunchtime walks last year, I took my iPhone with some 60 GB of music on it with me; however, I didn’t tap into any of that music. Instead, I was perusing Soundcloud and just happened across the V Recordings podcast – I said “hey, I didn’t know they had a podcast” – to be honest, I hadn’t been paying much attention to the DnB scene at all, except for a few artists I kept up with, mainly S.P.Y, Makoto, and London Electricity (all current Hospital artists, ironically- I did subscribe to Hospital’s podcast at one time ) – so I checked out this V Recordings joint. Instantly, it became the soundtrack of my gym workouts three days a week, plus my daily walks at work.

Bryan Gee of V Recordings

The podcast is hosted by co-labelhead Bryan Gee, who’s run the label with partner Jumping Jack Frost since its’ inception in 1993; he’s also active as a regular club DJ, going all over the UK and Europe for events, in addition to running the label. He’s a fantastic mixer, and an affable personality during the monthly show, although he can be overly talkative at times. Check out the February podcast…

Now… since I’ve immersed myself back into the DnB scene, I’ve gotten into podcasts from other labels and even DJ’s… Metalheadz used to have a monthly pod, Hospital has one, and a label that I like a lot, Fokuz Recordings out of Rotterdam, Netherlands does a monthly podcast (hosted by Minneapolis – based DnB artist Kasper) and a weekly mix. One DJ that has a great podcast is L-Side, a DJ and producer out of Sao Paulo, Brazil; a protege of Bryan Gee, he speaks mostly Portuguese during his show, but the music speaks for itself – he is a bad-ass DJ too! On the American side of the scene, Liondub International is a NY – based label specializing in Jungle/DnB, Dancehall, Reggae and Hiphop.

I’m sure there are many others out there, but I only have so much time!… but if you’re so inclined as to check them out, these will get you started… Soundcloud is a great place to check out live mixes and podcasts, and YouTube will get you some video of live events with DJ’s doing their thing.


Here are some of the latest releases in DnB I’ve heard…

From Hospital Records comes the latest in their annual label showcase, Sick Music 2020: this is 25 exclusive tracks from their stable of artists, including the trio of artists I mentioned earlier (S.P.Y, Makoto, London Elektricity), and also featuring longtime acts like Nu:Tone and Logistics, as well as newer signings like King of the Rollers, and some other nice surprises.

One of those surprises is a Serum remix of the Todd Terry House classic “Bounce to the Beat” – didn’t forsee that one; another is a collabo of two DnB MC legends, Dynamite MC and DRS for “Fix It All“, which also features London Elektricity – these two have also signed up to do an album together, so that’s something for which to look forward.

Here are a couple of videos from the compilation, from Degs (feat. Unglued) and the Dynamite MC/DRS collabo…

Also from Hospital is the newest from London Elektricity called Building Better Worlds; this is the group fronted by Hospital label head Tony Colman, and one of DnB’s most intriguing artists.

I’ve been a fan of this group since they dropped their debut Pull the Plug back around ’99. For their seventh album, Colman & company continue to expand the sonic footprint of DnB into new areas; this time, it gets very cinematic in a classical sense, and it also continues a practice not often used in this genre, and that’s live instrumentation – they will incorporate real strings, horns, and a live drummer- they’ve actually toured as a full band. If there was a such thing as “organic” DnB, they would be it.

Tony Colman, label head for Hospital Records, and the man behind London Elektricity

Here are the videos for “Build A Better World” and “Final View from the Rooftops“..

One compilation album for which I’ve been waiting to be released is finally seeing the light of day (released 3/27): Bryan Gee Presents FUTURE is the latest compilation from V Recordings; it’d been rumored to be coming out since last September, but has been delayed until now. I’ve heard most of the tracks on the podcast over the past several months, and the album’s a banger, but I held off on publishing this article until it came out, just so I could promote it.

It’s 25 tracks of new exclusive tracks, along with remixes from the V catalog. Among my favorites are the Alibi remix of the L-Side track “Killer Transmissions“, which features one of my newly favorite rappers, Brooklyn-based rapper T.R.A.C.; a new track from Alibi called “Big Man Jungle“, which features MC Fats and underground veteran vocalist Cleveland Watkiss – I first heard this guy’s smooth vocal skills on the 1992 Acid Jazz album from Outside, the project of keyboardist Matt Cooper, who these days is playing keyboards for Incognito, and I also bought his solo Jungle album under the name Project 23 – Watkiss is pure butta; a new track from DJ Marky called “Hard to Find“, and Zero T checks in with “Move & Flow“. There are remixes of classic tracks like Krust’s “Not Necessarily a Man“, Roni Size’s “Dayz“, and Ray Keith’s “The Reckoning“, and several other new tracks, including last year’s club hit “Moon In Your Eyes” from Serum, Paul T and Edward Oberon.

There are no videos available for any of the tracks, but you can enjoy the audio for Krust “Not Necessarily A Man (L-Side remix) and L-Side “Killer Transmissions (Alibi remix)…

Another label from the V camp, Liquid V, released a comp around Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November) called Reshaped – it is a baker’s dozen worth of tracks in the “liquid” style, which is more melodic and soulful. Two tracks from that album that I loved were this one from Mr. Joseph featuring Youngman…

… And this one from dRamatic & Command Strange, a producer out of Russia… remixed by L-Side…

Just out from the North Quarter label is the HOT debut album from Submorphics called Kodak Dreams. After releasing singles, the 2018 mini-album Detroit Haze, and doing some remixing and gigging over the past decade, the artist, whose given name is Greg Axelrad, and hailing from the U.S. (he lists Detroit, Chicago, and San Francisco as places he’s lived), finally puts out an official album.

Submorphics

Despite the generic album cover (The Black Keys did this years ago, too), you can hear a good bit of classic R&B influence in his music… lots of mellow, minor-chord, soulful tunes reflective of his journeys. I’m lovin’ this one right now… Here is the audio of “The Prize/Golden Roots (Interlude)” feat. T.R.A.C….

Some other good DnB album releases over the past few months include:

Random MovementLost On Purpose

A Sides50 Sides of A

MakotoTomodashi Sessions


What individual tracks get me worked up to work out? In general, most any DnB track, if judging solely on the basis of the speed of the music, should do the trick getting that heart rate going. Early Jungle was plenty fast, running at Techno speeds around 120-140 bpm; today’s DnB runs it up there around 160 bpm or more- and that’s not factoring in a DJ pitching the music up a little, making it even faster. Dancing to Jungle / DnB brings back to mind early 90’s New Jack Swing- had to be a good dancer and in good shape – if taken at speed, merely bouncing to it, or some twitching of body parts will get it done; otherwise, taking it at half speed (which is the approximate speed of the average HipHop, Reggae, or mid-tempo R&B track) will have you on beat.

Other than the podcasts and the occasional mix session, as well as the entire RTRN II JUNGLE album from Chase & Status (which I can now say was my 2019 Album of the Year), here are some of the tracks that get me going:

This first one is a classic from V, a nearly eight minute sci-fi, blaxploitation funky Jungle slammer from Adam F circa ’97…

For my agitated moods, this classic by Ed Rush & Fierce for Grooverider’s Prototype label is a perfect soundtrack… by the time this nearly nine-minute epic from around ’97 is over, I’m STORMIN’ into the gym…

Of more recent vintage, this track from Document One’s debut album last year is a perfect pep talk…

And then there’s this banger from Drum Origins, Emery, and Dreazz…

Finally, gotta share this sick lil’ roller from L-Side, from his new EP The Void… out on V…


I’m sure by now you’re wondering if I ever hit my goal of losing 30-40 pounds; the answer is YES!

Officially, I’ve lost 34 pounds to get to an even 215; at the same time, I kinda hit a wall and can’t seem to get any lower, so I’m kind of vacillating between 215-219. I think I’m trading fat for muscle, as I continue to reshape the girth I once had into more of a “V” shape; I’m down from a 42 waist to a 36/38, down from a 48 jacket to a 44, and from XXL shirts to an L (especially if they’re stretchy, shows off the physique more). I can now wear stretchy, skinny jeans too – I haven’t worn form-fitting clothes since they were last in style, which was the 70’s!

So that’s been my fitness journey for the past 10 months, and it continues on today (actually stalled at the moment, since my gym is closed due to COVID-19 concerns). My renewed fervent love for Jungle / DnB has been a tremendous influence in my success with the weight loss, and now I find myself in the somewhat enviable position of being a fit, fiftysomething Junglist. Hey, I’m thinking of starting an aerobics class (I used to teach it part-time), using DnB as the soundtrack for others to get fit… and I’m about to resume DJ’ing, with DnB as one of my several specialties – getting that playlist together now… I’ll keep you posted…

STAY SAFE EVERYONE!


Mi fi Junglist a champion; everybody dun know de program.”

from “Program” / Chase & Status ‘RTRN II JUNGLE’

By maestrotjd

I'm a music head. A classically trained violinist/violist literate from chant to Chopin to Copland, Soul man, aging Punk, Classic rocker, Alt rocker, Church choir man, House head, Techno, Industrial guy, almost Rasta, Ska & Rock Steady baby, Junglist, Dubstep to Two-step to Chicago old school steppin', Lounge & Exotica, World Fusion, Latin & Bossa Nova dude, Jazz man from Swing to Bebop to Acid, Trip hop and Hip hop, ya don't stop, a lil bit Country, Gospel, and everything in between. These are my musings (or ramblings).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.