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16th March 2022

From the Vault – Sonically beneficial DnB

Into the Vault: a deep dive into five historical masterclass tracks from various genres. This week, all the Drum and Bass you could ever want!
From the Vault – Sonically beneficial DnB
Photo: From the Vault by Tom Frankland

Welcome to From the Vault! In this series for The Mancunion I’ll be delving into the past to discover lost music relics that you may have forgotten or might not even have known existed. Each instalment of From the Vault will cover 5 tracks from a wide range of genres catering to every music taste, from punk to soul, techno to reggae, and west coast rap. In this series I aim to cover basically any music that is sonically beneficial or I feel is worth your time. In this inaugural instalment we cover 5 classic DnB tracks that may have been lost to time but are well worth bringing back! 

‘Didgeridoo’ – Aphex Twin: some readers may know Aphex Twin for his critically acclaimed ambient and techno works such as ‘Selected Ambient works 85-92’ and ‘Come to daddy’. But, some might be surprised to know that before making some ambient classics (and purchasing tanks and bank vaults), a young Richard D James was cutting his teeth producing some incredible DnB acid house tunes such as ‘Didgeridoo’. Released in 1992 under the titular EP name, ‘Didgeridoo is a 7-minute extravaganza of glitching synths and sparky beats revolving around a short sample of a didgeridoo being played. Only the mind of Aphex Twin could formulate a seminal classic based around an indigenous Australian windpipe.

‘Valley of the shadows’ – Origin Unknown: allow me to introduce a truly legendary DnB/Jungle track from the boys at RAM records. With the name of this track supposedly inspired by Psalm 23, this song is of biblical proportions for DnB due to Origin Unknown truly changing what DnB was meant to sound like. The sampling of extensive drum tracks was from a free catalogue CD and the iconic ‘Felt like I was in a long dark tunnel’ from a BBC documentary on out of body experiences. This song has all the makings of a classic, from bashful and aggressive breakbeat style drum breaks to ethereal and fluttering keyboards (not to mention the iconic vocal sample). ‘Valley of the Shadows’ was an immediate commercial success and remains a must listen to for any DnB fan.

‘London’s white trash’ – various artists: whilst not exclusively one track and instead a multitude of songs and hand held footage, ‘London’s white trash’ is instead a rambunctious dive into the hedonism and individuality of the early 2000s DnB movements. An hour-long extravaganza documenting London’s burgeoning graffiti underground London’s white trash boasts seedy camera footage. It documents greats such as Aztek, prime and Zomby in their quest to tag up all modes of public transport north of Stockwell. This footage is then paired with fizzling and punch techno from the likes of DJ Brockie and UFO to create a cheeky and seminal portrait of London’s underground graffiti and techno collectives.

‘Narayan’ – The Prodigy:  many readers will doubtlessly be aware of such classics from The Prodigy’s classic 1997 album Fat of the Land such as ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Diesel power’. But, the albums 7th track ‘Narayan’ never received the same adulation from fans and commercial performance which is devastating as the track uses the prosaic mantra ‘a diamond in the rough’ on the entire album. Sporting a shining guest feature from Kula Shakers Crispian Miller, ‘Narayan’ is a breakbeat masterpiece imbued with slamming breakbeats and screeching distorted vinyl screeching’s. The song may best be recognisable in the midsection which introduces a Buddhist chant interlude. It remains a staple and reminder of what breakbeat can accomplish.

‘Brown paper bag’ – Roni Size & Reprazent: this is taken from the platinum mercury prize winning 1997 album ‘New Forms’. ‘Brown paper bag’ is undoubtedly part of a strong calibre of songs in this seminal LP. Described by the guardian as the “only DnB album you will ever need” it’s clear to see why this assessment rings true even today. ‘Brown paper bag’ begins with the idyllic plucky strings of a guitar and isolated bubbly synths before exploding into a frenetic and sleek breakbeat style pattern of drum brakes and clattering cymbals. Part of the songs allure is how Roni Size & Reprazent seamlessly weave in and out of this pattern dipping once against into subdued instrumentation before racing into cryptic keys and breakbeat patterns. A technical marvel and DnB essential, ‘Brown paper bag’ is sure to be and remain a seminal hit of the genre.

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