On Trains and Drum & Bass

Over the years, I have met many people who don't like electronic music. One sub-genre in particular I have noticed is especially hard for newcomers to appreciate is drum & bass. It's an extremely polarizing style of electronic music. You basically either love it or you can't stand it and there's not much middle ground.

One of the reasons I think that is so, is because it's just so overwhelming the first time you listen to it. You almost have to train yourself on what to actually listen for.

In that regard, I equate listening to drum and bass to riding on a train (or a car for those of you who don't ride the rails). If you look out of the train as your riding, or if you're riding shotgun staring out the passenger window of a car, you see the landscape whizzing by you very quickly. If you focus on the details in the foreground your eyes are going to be overwhelmed and your head is going to start to hurt, you might get nauseous and you're not going to enjoy the view. Same with the hyper fast signature beat of drum and bass.

Admittedly, not all drum & bass is created equal and when I speak of the genre which is rife with it's own deluge of sub-genres, I am generally speaking of what has become known as 'liquid' drum & bass, best exemplified by the music being put out on Hospital Records. Although, Tony Coleman and company over at Hospital would probably be dismayed to see me pigeonhole their music so, in the end, Hospital records is a brand and their distinctive sound acts as that brand's identity.

Anyway, back to the subject, the beats behind drum & bass which generally run in the 120 bpm range are typically the biggest hurdle for new listeners to clear. It can be overwhelming, overpowering and stifling. Of course, with some songs, that's the whole point, however with others, it's more of a backdrop.

As with a train ride, the beauty of the landscape is not found in the up-close details but rather out on the horizon. Rather than focusing on the foreground we let it whizz by unnoticed and focus on the bigger picture. With drum & bass, the principle is the same. Let the beat become a backdrop, a set pattern, and then focus on the minute variations in that pattern. That is the point at which the artistry of drum & bass becomes apparent. Many people believe that electronic music is devoid of such virtuosity, and they are entitled to their opinions, but it shows great skill for a DJ or producer to manipulate the layers of a track deftly enough to become evocative, energizing or contemplative.

Well that's enough philosophizing, how about some train videos?

None of these actually feature drum & bass music, but they're still good. The first two are mine (not my music though) and the third is a pretty awesome music video by Michael Gondry.


Hammer said…
give up some love for your resident DnB head!! YEAH THAT'S ME, BITCHES. good post, I've been on a big DnB kick lately, especially while driving in my car. I wish I had a better speaker system in my car so that I could annoy the fuck out of people while jammin to some Dieselboy or Goldie.

Word. Hammer out.