BLEEP – JEFF DOBSON [EP7] DRUM N BASS A DIRTY WORDNovember 4, 2022
I’ve always had a soft spot for Drum n Bass.
But like a lot of folks my age out there, I felt it sort of went a bit ridiculous as most genres do when they become watered down by over-enthusiastic producers whose talent doesn’t match their optimism.
You know that almost “loving something to death” downward spiral as an art form. I know the mob is forming to disagree with me and claim it went from strength to strength, but that’s a great thing about insanity. It has to be pointed out before it can be dealt with.
Back in March 2021 I reached that half-century milestone and received a new pair of slipmats from my long-time friend with a simple instruction to “Do me a two-hour set”, and along with the command was attached a Bandcamp label link.
Now from around 91, our musical paths followed different routes so as you can imagine, the trepidation I was feeling on opening. But this wasn’t just a link to inspire a recording. It was a link that refreshed my love of deep and atmospheric D&B the naughties stole from me with the rise of the roller and festival-leaning sounds coming to the forefront, where noise and the bpm warfare strangled the ethereal.
The label? VNR (Violet Night Records) is run by a couple of diamond geezers and damn fine DJ / Producers, Chippie and DJ Flash, who well and truly bend over backward to ensure fans of both the music and label retire of an evening content. Forever showering buyers with test presses and one-off bundles of joy that you rarely see on such a scale or frequency.
Now I must admit on finding out the label had only just surfaced, I struggled to comprehend why would anyone consider starting a record label as the world entered a pandemic we’ve not seen the likes of for many many years. Dance floors are gone and the fiscal implications that brings. Never mind the personal struggle of justification on the buyer’s front.
But as Flash pointed out “By the time the madness had hit, VNR as a project was already in the oven. We had the first run of tracks already signed, artwork ready to go and pressing was booked so it was never really in doubt. As a pair of avid audiophiles, record collectors, and DJs for over 30 years, running a label was something we’d dreamed of and nothing was going to stop us.”
Sentiments backed up by partner Chippie, “We knew Blame was sitting on a pile of unreleased material. Conrad’s a good friend so we kinda knew we were in with a shout of releasing the body of work. Once we had those there was no turning back” he beamed “and now 2 years down the line were selling not only both here and Europe but also good units over in the States.”
Quickly establishing itself as my go-to “Atmospheric” rack on my shelves I began to ponder how the D&B term became a dirty word, pretty much in the vein of modern Tech House has become and where this revival has risen from. I asked Eschaton, producer, and string-puller over at Omni Music for his take.
Eschaton: ”I fell out of love with it around the millennium as there was very little around being released that interested me. I got back into it around 2005 when the ‘Drumfunk’ sound was coming through on the fringes of the scene and it stirred my interest once again.
From then I met other people who were still experimenting with the ‘classic’ breaks etc and so I started producing properly and set up Omni Music a little while after to get those sounds out. Not many were releasing the more atmospheric stuff then (practically none at all!) So it was very niche then. It’s certainly caught on again, which is great.”
When poked about the resurgence that’s gathering pace by the day,
Eschaton: “That’s a difficult question for me to answer, as for me, I was back in the scene from 2005 as I said and produced from 2007 onwards, so it was always with me. The break-led stuff was always on the fringes, very underground, but forums like Subvert Central back in the mid-2000s gave like-minded people and producers a platform to interact effortlessly.
A lot of great music stemmed from them from artists like Fracture & Neptune, Fanu, Macc, and dgoHn, etc, and that sound seemed to gradually infiltrate more into the wider part of the scene. Labels such as Paradox and Blu Mar Ten have always embraced the Breakier and atmospheric side of things, they helped a great deal I think in making people understand that there was more to DnB than the mainstream was offering.
Sci-Wax and Introspective shone the torch too, delving expertly into Drumfunk and Jungle territory as well as sometimes into more atmospheric stuff. Now the tear-out Amens, Jungle, and Atmospheric styles are all the rage, back then it was just a handful of dedicated labels pushing it. I don’t think I actually answered your question there”
Oh how we chuckled as he now ponders a career in politics….
Posing the same question to Ande Foster over at Karma Records in the hope of putting a little meat on the bone regarding my wanton understanding.
Ande Foster: “That’s a tough question; I mean as in did it ever go away? The original Jungle sound is certainly coming back. It seems strange but maybe it had something to do with the lockdown. Every DJ was suddenly “on air” and maybe people had more time on their hands to listen. Also, it could just be the age-old thing that everything comes full circle. The truth is nothing ever really goes away; it just has different moments in time.”
Sitting between dates in France back in the summer I was kicking back one evening listening to Blames logical progression session when it dawned on me that
this is almost a quarter of a century old and still as relevant today as it was in 1997
The recording is itself a pillar of Drum and Bass sessions alongside LTJs recording and so imagine my delight when the VNR boys got in touch to say we’re going to play@ Deeper Journey. We’re going back to Manheim, to the home of the recording.
Speaking to Blame about the upcoming return he beamed
Blame: “It feels very special, I retired from DJing for around 10 years, but this opportunity jumped out at me and made me dust my headphones off. It feels like one of those special coming full circle moments and going back with such familiar wingmen is just going to add to the moment”. Humbly adding “ There was no way of knowing back then and it feels amazing that after 20 years people are still talking about it.”
The saddest part for a lot of us is
we’ll never have the chance to hear it for the first time again
and that as it stands there are no real plans to return to the circuit.
Blame: ”At the moment it’s a one-off, my studio deadlines are taking up 7 days a week at the moment. But never say never. There’s a kind of itch, but I love making music the most”