On the subject of speed in Jungle

Brokeman

Living Too Late
Contrary to what you might think, this is not going to be another "has it all gotten too fast?" thread. Rather I'm interested in hearing people's views on the <i>formal</i> qualities of tempo change in Jungle.
I've held a pretty functionalist view for a while that the shift of Jungle from the 130-40s to the 150-60s and later +170 was instrumental in its development of rhythmic complexity. I know that this is a tenuous argument since Jungle today is considerably less rhythmically complex than it was before, but there was point when it shifted from the Breakbeat-Hardcore style of breakbeats accentuating the 4/4 beat (even once the stomping kick had been removed) to the shuffled break which emphasized the rests rather than resolving itself.
To what extent does everyone think that the upward shift in BPMs made this possible or invited those experiments?

On a related note, I've been facinated recently with the role that the Technics 1200 pitch slider has had on Hardcore tempo evolution. An unmodified pitch slider will increase or decrease the tempo of a record by approximately 11 BPM. The "+8" specified is a pretty arbitrary number, and who knows what motivated an unnamed Japanese engineer to choose this figure, but it's influenced the trajectory to dance music since the 1200 was accepted as a standard for DJs. We might all be listening to much slower Jungle, Hardcore, Garage & Grime today had they chosen "+6" as a standard.
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
pitch control also influenced development of house -- re: ron hardy playing disco records at feverish pace
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
didn't hardcore djs simply mess with the 1200s to make them go faster than +8, such that whatever limits were engineered into the turntable were exceeded anyway???
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
as for your first question, i'm hardly an exper . . . . but i think that because the "music was too fast to dance to," they began to fiddle with the bassline such that, to borrow SR's expression, jungle became a 2-lane highway, the fast lane and the 70-to-80 bpm reggae slow lane . . . . so in shaping the rhythms to fit both speeds, the rhythms became more complex

trust me, you'll get a much more adequate answer from others here
 

Brokeman

Living Too Late
dominic said:
didn't hardcore djs simply mess with the 1200s to make them go faster than +8, such that whatever limits were engineered into the turntable were exceeded anyway???
They certainly may have, but the fact is that tempos did not jump 10 BPM overnight, they show a pretty steady increase in speed over the years consistent with the +8 adjustment.
What's crucial here, I think, is not that some DJs may have altered their decks, but rather that the 1200 is a <i>standard</i> which would be found in any club where a DJ would play and therefore the tempo shift is consistent with the standard.
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
i think you're right! --

yes, the whole question of jungle's development from 90 to 95 is very interesting . . . .

i expect this will be a good thread
 

dominic

Beast of Burden
also, i should probably let SR speak for himself -- but he also has a theory on how jungle became less rhythmically complex . . . . namely, as the london massive left jungle for garage, and as white fans from outside the metropolitan area moved from house/trance/gabba into d'n'b, the djs and makers began to change the music, however unconsciously, to satisfy expectations of new audience, who liked to "trance out" while dancing
 

bassnation

the abyss
dominic said:
the "music was too fast to dance to,"
i'm not sure it was too fast to dance to - i remember hardcore raves where they were pitching tunes up to a ridicolous degree and people were dancing like nutters - doing that dance that involved kicking your legs really quickly in a cyclic kind of way, almost mirroring the rolling curves of the music.
 

xero

was minusone
also the higher the bpm, the easier it is to beat-match, could this have had some bearing?
 

matt b

Indexing all opinion
Brokeman said:
I've held a pretty functionalist view for a while that the shift of Jungle from the 130-40s to the 150-60s and later +170 was instrumental in its development of rhythmic complexity .
listen to early jungle- its rhythmically complex, but sounds well slooow compared to later stuff- i don't think there is any real relationship between the 2


Brokeman said:
The "+8" specified is a pretty arbitrary number, and who knows what motivated an unnamed Japanese engineer to choose this figure, but it's influenced the trajectory to dance music since the 1200 was accepted as a standard for DJs. We might all be listening to much slower Jungle, Hardcore, Garage & Grime today had they chosen "+6" as a standard.
classic drum'n'bass /jungle djs play stuff at or around +6, not +8
 

bassnation

the abyss
matt b said:
listen to early jungle- its rhythmically complex, but sounds well slooow compared to later stuff- i don't think there is any real relationship between the 2
agreed, in fact, convuluted rhythms sound cramped and overly "busy" at 180 bpm, which is probably why modern jungle has stripped it right down. there becomes a point where too much speed removes "da funk".


matt b said:
classic drum'n'bass /jungle djs play stuff at or around +6, not +8
"this one goes up to eleven"
;)
 

dubplatestyle

New member
yeah speed and space seem to be the two main funk components, at least when it comes to jungle (tho maybe to all music). after about 160bpm things stop being "funky" and just get "rushy", ala trance or hard house or gabba. (this isn't even a diss, per se. modern dnb seems like its mostly functionalist rave muzik for people on drugs to me and that's fine. but those 180bpm amen loops stopped signifying "funkiness" a long time ago.) space might even be more important though...slower tempos allowed more pauses, syncopations, hiccups, and stop-starts in the beats (even if they were only a fraction of a second) and syncopation is at the root of funkiness obviously. since the real action in modern dnb is so much in the basslines (and the speeding up of the basslines might be an even more key story in modern dnb's evolution/devolution than the beats), which sound fine and riffy at 180bpm+, the beats simply seem to be marking time.

there's plenty of modern hip-hop, rnb, and old skool uk garage where the beats were/are just as intricate as jungle, at much much lower tempo, anywhere from 110-145.
 
D

droid

Guest
minusone said:
also the higher the bpm, the easier it is to beat-match, could this have had some bearing?
Hmm.. really dont know about. Sure - in slower records the bars are longer, and you have more space (and therefore more opportunity) to mess with the record between the beats, but that also means that it takes longer to notice when a tune starts drifting out of time. In faster tunes, you hear the drift more quickly, but then again so does everyone else, and because the beats are closer there is less of a chance to push or pull the deck, and you usually have to wait till the end of a bar to do it. IMO, the main thing that determines how 'easy' a mix is, isnt the tempo of the tracks, but the regularity of percussive elements within the tracks... thats why 4/4 tunes tend to be so easy to mix, because you are left in little doubt about whether on not your mix is tight...

yeah speed and space seem to be the two main funk components, at least when it comes to jungle (tho maybe to all music). after about 160bpm things stop being "funky" and just get "rushy", ala trance or hard house or gabba. (this isn't even a diss, per se. modern dnb seems like its mostly functionalist rave muzik for people on drugs to me and that's fine. but those 180bpm amen loops stopped signifying "funkiness" a long time ago.) space might even be more important though...slower tempos allowed more pauses, syncopations, hiccups, and stop-starts in the beats (even if they were only a fraction of a second) and syncopation is at the root of funkiness obviously. since the real action in modern dnb is so much in the basslines (and the speeding up of the basslines might be an even more key story in modern dnb's evolution/devolution than the beats), which sound fine and riffy at 180bpm+, the beats simply seem to be marking time.
Spot on! As mentioned above, the vast majority of 'classic' drum n bass is at about 168bpm (84bpm half-time) most things produced between late 94-96 are about this speed.. prior to this, 93-94 jungle hardcore went from about 152 - 156 (78bpm) as the music got more jungly.. Of course there are the odd exceptions, ie: the Slammin' Vinyl stuff spiralling off into happy hardcore, or the Edge of Darkness Gabba tunes at 190 bpm.. but the rule generally stands

It wasnt till 96/97 with the 'new' NUT sound when the speeds went crazy.. touching 88/89 in some cases (176/178bpm).. and since then things have gone seriously downhill IMO.. the tempo of the music dictating the content to a large extent.. its very difficult to put any 'swing' or nuance into a beat at 190bpm. By accellerating the tempo of the tunes, DnB producers have lured DnB out of the range of 'Jungle', which is defind IMO by its relationship with Dub/Reggae and Jazz.. its no coincidence that a huge amount of dub and Reggae clocks in between about 70 and 86bpm, this is also the speed range that Jungle hardcore covered..

The extra space in the bars allows for much more interesting drum structures, and the half-time beat is nice and relaxed.. this was the most revolutionary thing that originally struck me about jungle.. you could either gently sway to the beat on the half-time or go mental to every hit... but once you hit 90bpm or so, your halftime beat is at a hip-hop tempo... much more rigid... Those are the main reasons why I think jungle/dnb really lost its funk when it started pushing the 180 mark...

Now the weird thing is that i would have been one of these people embracing the acceleration of tempo back in 'the day'. I got 'into' jungle in 94/95, (we pretty much missed the Hardcore era here due to geographical disadvantages), and I remember hearing 'the crane' by source direct in a club around the end of 95, and being shocked at how fast the music had become, it just seemded like they couldnt fit any more beats in - (and it was brilliant!)

I had the same experience at a no U turn night with Ed Rush, Trace and Nico in 97, not long after 'skyscraper' came out, and prior to 'technology' - again, a ridiculous increase in speed, and the added intensity of the music was totally overwhelming... at the time it was fantastic, but looking back now it really seems like that was the beginning of the de-volution of D+B into the functional trance variant that dominates today...

i think at the time we all equated the increase in tempo with an increase in excitement. As the tunes got faster, a record from 6 months ago would have to be played at plus 8 to fit in with todays tunes, and then of course, once you start pitching up the newer records, the producers have to follow suit because otherwise no one will to be able to play their tunes out, and a tune at 'last years' speed just wont go in. I think the 0 setting on the pitch of technics 1200's also have a lot to answer for here, as I, like nearly every other DJ I know would automatically start a set at +2 rather than risk having to risk the dreaded 'click' wrecking a mix, so straight away your up a few BPM's before you even start mixing...

Its a vicous circle, and for whatever reasons the people with the power to change it (DJs and producers) are the ones who've been spinning the wheel...

Just on a side note -Isnt it ironic that one of the reasons Squarepusher/Aphex/U-ziq drill + bass et al were ignored by the D+B 'scene' at large was because of the 'superfast' tempo of their tunes (92 bpm at the fastest - most mid 90's Squarepusher was about 88-90)? I remember reading an interview with Goldie at the time complaining that it was 'mental music - too fast to dance too'.. :rolleyes: how times have changed...
 

blissblogger

Active member
dubplatestyle said:
there's plenty of modern hip-hop, rnb, and old skool uk garage where the beats were/are just as intricate as jungle, at much much lower tempo, anywhere from 110-145.
maybe one of the main effects of the initial speed hike in jungle, was that the polyrythmic funkiness of this midtemp to low-fast music referred to by dubplatestyle here was taken into the zone where it suddenly shouted "mad futuristic bizniz" while still being really funky, ie. ot was taken out of the zone where it could plausibly be thought of as "played", human-hands stuff. obviously a lot of midtempo stuff is programmed sounding and very intricate but an idle ear could see it as within the domain of normal hand-played drum kittery. when it got fast jungle got very unrealistic, nonnaturalistic,

the bass thing is central, there was phase in ardkore/early "jungle techno" as they briefly called it when the fast breaks were coming in but the basslines were really frantic and agitated, basically the same tempo as the drums, i call them bippety basslines, a good example is "Rush in the House" by Xenophobia. i love that style but it's quite linear. and then suddenly the bass dropped in tempo, the split-lane thing came in, and the musical relationships of bass to drums go incredibly interesting and, well, musical. that's almost like the best thing ever in music for me, the way those B-line move around the beat.
don't know enough musicologically to define it but strikes me as similar to jazz. and the emotions the bass could communicate opened up -- no longer were they just rushy and E-buzzy, they could communicate trepidation, and/or menace, or a warm "adult" sensuality a la bukem-style, or...

then when it d&b got so very fast, the bass went riffy again, linear-tunnel vision, and very four square in its relation to the beat, and very mono-emotional

ripley has some interesting observations about what's happening to d&b and extended baroque bass-breaks here http://djripley.blogspot.com/2005/01/whats-that-sound.html
 

matt b

Indexing all opinion
post '95 jungle/drum'n'bass was developing a 'formula' and the tunes a specific structure- intro/ drop/ breakdown/drop etc to benefit djs, which meant that anything that didn't fit the formula got discarded (eg: nearly all ragga/amen jungle as well as drill'n'bass).

as this developed into techstep etc, speed was one of the few variables people could use to make the tunes sound different, hence 190bpm stuff
 

dubplatestyle

New member
when i was musing on the "bass problem" earlier, i actually flashed on that david toop line you quoted in gen xstacy simon, something about bass returning to being "physically felt" rather than a "stun gun that hammers home the chord changes". (i'm probably brutalizing this.) the baroque riffery that constitutes modern dnb (a lot of that schaffel-like "swing" in stuff like pendulum seems to come from the bass, not the beats at all) seems to be what people are actually dancing to, and it is "instructing" them in a way...there's a lot fewer ways to move to it. (plus if you were actually dancing to those toppermost snares you'd have to be whacked out of your mind on drugz not to get exhausted within the first 20 mins.)
 

Diggedy Derek

Stray Dog
Yet at the same time- the bass is so subtle in good jungle, it hints at melodies but never expliticly states them; it's a rumble drifting in and out of the track, giving a vague sense of physical space but not defining the dimensions/structure of the track in any way. It stands outside the track, intruding....

It's a paradox innit- the bass is so fundamental, yet so ineffable.
 

dubplatestyle

New member
there's a paradox tune (forthcoming?...it was on that knowledge mix) on bassbin that plays that modern dillinja bass-riff against a chopped up "apache" and it actually works really well. it's almost as if when dnb works well these days its as if the two components have traded places!
 

blissblogger

Active member
toop on d&b, mystery bass

your memory's pretty sharp then, dubz, i think you got it word for word

toop nailed it with that observation i think, in the review he also compared it to jazz, it was a specific phase of jazz (hard bop maybe) and he likened the bass in jungle to "dropping the bomb", which if i remember is a style of playing the drums -- perhaps the jazz-schooled can enlighten further?

one thing about the bass in a lot of the classic jungle is that it's both the bedrock of the tune and also this unstable, trepidatious presence -- it frees up the drums to go haywire but it's not entirely a solid foundation itself

and yeah, it's melodic, you want to sing the bass parts

mind you there's drum breaks that are singable too

total music innit

toop said another good thing in that review, which was of some d&b comp, he said that jungle was actually a lot more musical/muso than some of the more utterly posthuman kinds of electronic dance like certain kinds of house and techno

that makes sense so long as you don't limit "musical" to obviously muso-/jazzbo sectors of d&b like the bukem/fabio end of it, but include raggAmen, jump up etc

there were tunes that only consisted of drums and basslines and were intensely musical , way more than other ones that had a nice rhodes sound and jazzoid chords and signposted their musicality thusly

i'm preaching to the choir here i imagine
 

bassnation

the abyss
blissblogger said:
the bass thing is central, there was phase in ardkore/early "jungle techno" as they briefly called it when the fast breaks were coming in but the basslines were really frantic and agitated, basically the same tempo as the drums, i call them bippety basslines, a good example is "Rush in the House" by Xenophobia. i love that style but it's quite linear. and then suddenly the bass dropped in tempo, the split-lane thing came in, and the musical relationships of bass to drums go incredibly interesting and, well, musical. that's almost like the best thing ever in music for me, the way those B-line move around the beat.
yeah, some jungle tunes, the combination of the beats and the bass were like some intricate clockwork machine ticking at different tempos but somehow all aligned in the same purpose. but i'd disagree that the half tempo bass came in very late in jungles development. there were lots of 'ardkore tracks with that slow bass, genaside ii "narra mine" immediately springs to mind, and that was released in 1991!

blissblogger said:
don't know enough musicologically to define it but strikes me as similar to jazz. and the emotions the bass could communicate opened up -- no longer were they just rushy and E-buzzy, they could communicate trepidation, and/or menace, or a warm "adult" sensuality a la bukem-style
again agreed, but even if they suggested trepidation i found that buzzy at the time. even the darkest 'ardkore was rushy through its sheer nastiness.
 
Top