20 Years of Drum & Bass History in 20 Tracks

When khal asked me to put together this list of 20 tunes from the last 20 years, I gladly accepted. I figured I would pick one “important” tune fr

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When khal asked me to put together this list of 20 tunes from the last 20 years, I gladly accepted. I figured I would pick one “important” tune from each year and it would be a done deal. Not so fast. As I set about doing it, I realized what an impossible task it was. Some years had many “important” tunes and some had none. And, ultimately, it was always going to be just my opinion anyway. I’m not the last word on drum & bass or anything else. So this list reflects 20 tunes that were important to ME, and, in some cases, hopefully also important to dnb. I could easily make another 20 lists. So if you disagree with any of my picks here, don’t bother calling the dnb police. Just make your own list.

(DJ Dara is celebrating 20 years of drum & bass and his 20-year DJ career with his "Evolution of DnB" tour.)

DJ Demo & Harlequin - "Ricochet"

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Year: 1994

Label: Corrosive Recordings

Although a bit obscure, this one is a personal favorite as I think it encapsulated everything I loved in jungle at the time - excellent breakwork, an obscure soundclash sample, sweet lovers rock vocal, huge movie sample (from the trailer to Ricochet) and all held together by a thumping 808 b-line at skank factor 10. Luverly!

Dillinja - "Mutha*ucka"

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Year: 1995
Label: Philly Blunt

Dillinja + hip-hop samples = 'Nuff said!

(PS: The voicemail from Bryan Gee at the end of the tune is classic. “I need that tune, star. I need it!”)

Future Forces Inc. - "Flash Gordon"

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Year: 1996

Label: Renegade Hardware

Time to get dark. Although No U-Turn were killing it on the techstep tip in 1996, I chose this tune for a few reasons. Firstly, it was the debut of Future Forces, who would be hugely influential later on as half of Bad Company, and also as solo artists.  Secondly, it was the first release on Renegade Hardware, a label that went on to release tunes from some of the biggest artists of the time and whose compilations I mixed for US release. Thirdly, I remember the exact moment I got this tune. I had heard it many times on a Grooverider live tape but didn’t know what it was (pre-Internet days). It arrived into our store and as soon as I put the needle on and realized what it was, my hair stood on end. Those were the days.

Adam F - "Circles (Roni Size Remix)"

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Year: 1997

Label: Talkin' Loud

I’m gonna cheat here and kill two birds with the one stone. I couldn’t compile a list of personal favorites without the inclusion of Adam F and Roni Size, so on this tune you have them both. Adam F’s classic "Circles" with Roni Size's distinctive jazzy twist. I battered this tune when it came out and I think it's even on my most popular mixtape, Beats.

E-Z Rollers - "Tough At The Top"

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Year: 1998

Label: Moving Shadow

In a year that saw the release of "Bambaata," "Alien Girl," "Brand New Funk," and "The Nine," how does one pick a favorite? One picks something completely different, that's how.  A tune that I immediately became identified with when I licensed it for my debut Moonshine CD, Full Circle. I remember first hearing it in DB's apartment and immediately thinking “I need this tune for my CD." Although there were several versions released, this original album version is the best, in my opinion. A big vocal tune that still stands the test of time.

Ed Rush & Optical - "Sick Note"

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Year: 1999
Label: Virus

You didn’t really think I was going to miss Ed & Optical, did you? Although there were several tunes I could have listed by now, I waited to give you this beauty. Another tune I smashed at Jungle Nation in NYC and, for me, the epitome of the original neurofunk sound.

Total Science - "Make Me Feel"

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Year: 2000
Label: CIA

After several years of a prevalent minimal, dark sound, TS and several cohorts brought the breaks back with a vengeance with a slew of junglistic releases on a multitude of labels. The use of the vocal sample on this one really made it stand out, and also made it perfect for mixing.

Technical Itch - "The Signal"

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Year: 2001
Label: Moving Shadow

Yet another artist who could appear multiple times on this list is the beast from Birmingham, aka Tech Itch. I would best describe his sound as brutally beautiful and this track is no exception. Not one of his more high profile tracks but it really hit me where it hurts.

M.I.S.T. & High Contrast - "3AM"

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Year: 2002

Label: Soul:R

Yet another cheat where I get to include two artists who have released untold classics on their own. This tune was the perfect combo of M.I.S.T.’s discoish sound combined with High Contrast’s big horny style. (I meant brass instruments!) Cheesily enough, I would always try and play this tune at 3AM. I always thought the vocal said “like her new hat,” but Marcus Intalex assured me it doesn’t.

Pendulum - "Trail Of Sevens"

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Year: 2003
Label: Renegade Hardware

Love them or loathe them, there is no denying Pendulum had a huge impact on dnb and Vault truly dominated when it came out. Although this tune is a bit more obscure than their others, I played it a lot.

Gridlok & Kaos - "Piston"

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Year: 2004
Label: Violence

I remember going through my record bag at one point in 2004 and realizing I had four Gridlok records in there that I was constantly playing. This tune was one of them and epitomizes his sound for me: twisted up vocal samples, industrial clangs and whirrs, tough clean breaks and a bassline that had you reaching for fresh drawers. Spectacular!

Jenna G - "Woe" (prod. by D.Kay)

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Year: 2005
Label: Bingo Beats

Another twofer with this sublime vocal classic. The perfect combination of an awesome producer and a phenomenal vocalist. Come back D.Kay, wherever you are!

Sub Focus - "Swamp Thing"

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Year: 2006
Label: Ram

Although there were much higher profile Sub Focus tunes, this remains a favorite. It is perfect for teasing as it contains the very distinctive melody right from the off, something that I wish more tunes had. I always love hearing a set and knowing what tune is coming next because of a melody or a sample in the intro.

CLS & Wax - "The Race Is On"

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Year: 2007
Label: Future Retro

Another somewhat obscure tune but I played it to death. I loved the combination of almost flamenco-style guitars and the reggae vocal sample. If you heard me play in 2007, you most likely heard this tune.

Break - "Is This What You Want?"

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Year: 2008
Label: Symmetry

A track from Break’s awesome LP, Symmetry, this tune really did the business on the floor. Short intro followed by an absolutely pounding b-line and tough breaks. Is this what I want? Damn straight!

Loxy & Perpetuum - "The League"

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Year: 2009

Label: Def Recordings Ltd.

Proper moody vibes on this one. A nice long intro with stepping breaks, a "Phantom Force"-style b-line and a hefty sub dropping when you least expect it. I dug this out for a set recently and had numerous people ask what it was. Timeless.

Taxman - "Look What You’ve Done"

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Year: 2010
Label: Ganja Records

Gonna get controversial here and include a drumstep tune (please don’t report me to the dnb police). Admittedly, I wasn’t keen on drumstep but there were a few tunes that were great, this being one of them. I think I have a soft spot for this one because of the wealth of old jungle samples it uses. “Rrrrr rrrr rrrr rrrrroll the beats!"

Dub Phizix & Skeptical ft. Strategy - "Marka"

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Year: 2011
Label: Exit

A modern classic, this tune was battered by DJs across the whole “bass music” spectrum, and for good reason. Although quite minimal, musically, it is really infectious and the vocal is a winner. What I also love about this tune is how the vocal is so conducive to riding over other tunes. Top gear!

Original Sin - "Therapy (Remix)"

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Year: 2012
Label: Playaz

No matter what your opinion on jump-up, the sheer power of this tune is undeniable. Heavyweight!

Concord Dawn - "Amnesia"

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Year: 2013
Label: Concord Dawn

Although there were a ton of “bangers” released in 2013, I tried to project 10 years into the future and think what tune would I still reach for from 2013. This is what I came up with. The breaks, somewhat melancholy musical elements, and funky bassline are right up my street. And to top it all off, it’s available as a free download. Go get it!

Audio - "Stampede"

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Year: 2014
Label: Ram

This style of tune is something I reach for only on occasion. And if any tune warrants that reach it's "Stampede" by Audio. The oldskool break, the bass twists, and the ear-splitting whoop. Magical!

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