As possibly the only genre in modern dance music that Britain can truly call its own, drum and bass is a U.K. phenomenon that has been slow to catch on in the United States. In the last year, however, the style has gone through a period of malaise in its homeland, while the U.S. is experiencing a renaissance of sorts.
Just as the British have taken American sounds like rockabilly, house, and hip-hop; reinterpreted them, and tendered them back to us, the Yanks are now doing the same thing with drum and bass. Producers such as Hive, Gridlok, Kaos, D Ecco and Sabotage, Swarm, KC, Mathematics, Juju, Karl K and Jae Kennedy, Echo, Impulse, Rob F, Stratus, and Vector Burn are putting out tunes that are as much in demand as cuts by their overseas counterparts.
"We've got something to prove," says Kaos. "There's a friendly competition to take it to the next level with every track. We work harder, we have the passion, we spend extra time. Everyone [in the U.K.] is fighting over a very small piece of land, but we're fighting for something in common: American drum and bass."
This surge in quality material has not gone unnoticed. Well-known yet notoriously elitist British producers and DJs are snatching up these tracks, releasing them on their own prestigious labels, featuring them in their sets, and hiring Americans to make remixes and original music. "Drum and bass is a music pirate, borrowing its identity from other styles," explains Bad Company UK's DJ Fresh. "The rock-influenced sound has been blowing up, and who can rock harder than the Americans?"
Dieselboy, who is easily the most popular junglist in the States, provides a platform for domestic producers through his HUMAN Imprint Recordings. Releases such as Bad Company UK's )EIB(: The Remixes (which were all done by domestic artists), Dieselboy and Kaos's Barrier Break, and KC's Extreme Steel EP, with its cutting-edge production and inventive approach, have put the label on the map. "I set up HUMAN as an outlet to help foster and promote American drum and bass," he says. "It is time to put the spotlight on what we have created in our own community."
HUMAN isn't the only American drum and bass label garnering attention, though. Violence Recordings, Social Studies, Phuturo, Cartel, Habit Recordings, and many others are making international waves. By bringing new talent to the forefront, they are establishing themselves as contenders, giving their mentors a revamped version of a British art form that's being sold by the crate.
Kaos performs on Monday, March 8, at Maze. Kaos and Bad Company UK perform on Tuesday, March 9, at Mirage. Dieselboy performs on Saturday, March 6, at Opium Garden; Monday, March 8, at Space 34; and Wednesday, March 10, at Butterfly Lounge. See listings for more info.
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