ROUGH AND FAST
The Wire, 1995?
by Simon Reynolds
The Wire, 1995?
by Simon Reynolds
All my anxieties about jungle's upwardly-mobile drift
towards dubious concepts like 'musicality' and 'maturity'
seem to be on the verge of becoming horrendous reality.
You've got artists utilising 'real' musicians, punters who
(ap)praise tracks in terms of how 'clean' their production
is, and a burgeoning mutual admiration pact between the Mo'
Wax posse and the drum & bass intelligentsia. All the new
styles in what must now be termed post-jungle are ultra-
smooth and mellifluously mellow--from hardstep, with its
fussy hi-hat shuffle-beats and tastefully restrained soul-diva
passion, to the fusion-tinged serenity and long sustained
synth-tones of the LTJ Bukem school. Don't get me wrong,
these developments are still generating astonishing music.
But sometimes you've got to wonder: whither jungle's mania,
For that, you might look to the UK's 'happy hardcore'
scene, which has back-lashed to '92 in order to follow a
different path than that taken by drum & bass, i.e. fixating
on staccato synth-stabs, rush-activating piano riffs, helium-
shrill vocals and stomping 4/4 beats. Or you might check out
Germany's small but fervent breakbeat scene, as represented
on Rough and Fast. Based around a handful of labels,
Germanic jungle has more of an explicitly political edge than
its British cousin. Key figure Alec Empire of agit-tekno
combo Atari Teenage Riot released a jungle track called "Hunt
Down the Nazis" (appropriate given that jungle is all about
musical miscegenation and post-colonial cultural hybridity).
Doubtless by necessity, German jungle is less polished
and fluent than current UK fare, but in a way that only adds
to its raw appeal--there's a fierce inflexibility, an un-
swinging rigour, to the drum programming that's curiously
invigorating at a time when so much UK drum & bass verges on
fuzak-with-breakbeats. Much of this comp harks back to
jungle's under-rated 'dark' phase of early 1993, when
hardcore producers were first messin' with fucked up rhythms
but the music still retained some relation to techno (Joey Beltram/Belgian brutalism style as opposed to trance).
And so DJ Moonraker's "Lion King" and Space Cube's "Dark
Dive" both let rip bass-blast synth-riffs, redolent of the
Frankfurt-based PCP label's brand of stormtrooper tekno,
amidst the jittery, shimmery breaks, while Roland 303
aciiied-squiggles are woven into the hyper-syncopated bustle
of Sonic Subjunkies' "Djungelstadt" and Dr Echo & DJ
Reverend's "Fine Style". And on Doc Tom's "Moskito" there's
a terrific ear-searing synth-noise that, yup, sounds like a
squadron of mosquitos dive-bombing upon your flesh.
As with most non-Anglophone appropriations of Brit-pop
there's something slightly wrong-sounding about the results:
just check those names--Doc Tom, Sonic Subjunkies, Mental
Bombin, DJ Reverend. But the best tracks here--the
itchy'n'scratchy insectoid scrabble of Biobreaks' "May The
Funk Be With You", the prehensile rhythmic intricacies and
gamelan-textured percussion-rolls of Da Captains of Phuture's
"Legendary Flight"--suggest not just that the Krauts may soon
catch but with their UK forebears, but that jungle's next and
most interesting phase will involve regional hybrids across
the globe: G-funk junglism, Miami Bass'n'drum, Latin-
breakbeat, Scandinavian new complexity 'ardkore....