Monday, May 7, 2018

Various - 10 Years Of Drum&BassArena: Mixed By Andy C & Grooverider (Original TC Review)

Resist Music: 2007

(2018 Update:
Called it! Okay, predicting the D'n'B Arena would still be kicking around for another decade wasn't hard. In fact, they've just recently released a
twentieth anniversary 3CD extravaganza! Well, 'extravaganza' if you spring for the limited edition collector's roll-out, including t-shirt, stickers, vinyl accessories, all available on their Bandcamp. What, I ain't no shill. Might be worth scoping out that 20th roll-out though.

A couple things are glaringly absent in this review. One, no Pendulum namedrop. Yeah, Andy C only used one track of theirs in the
Upfront Mix, but their influence is heard throughout his set. It's also interesting hearing early breakouts from Sub Focus, Chase & Status, Noisa, and T.C., who'd all go on to be huge stars in the d'n'b scene along with Pendulum. Andy C knew what was what back then. Back to the errors though, I failed to mention how much tech-step is thrown down in Grooverider's set. For the layman, the differences between darkcore, tech-step, and darkstep are negligible, but these are Very Important demarcations within the jungle scene, believe you me.)

IN BRIEF: Here’s to another ten.

A simple website dedicated to providing scene information and live sets of jungle DJs. That’s all it started out as. These days, the internet is flooded with such places, but in 1997 it was a rare commodity. Audio files were usually just too crap to be bothered with such features - the MP3 revolution was still a couple years away, after all.

Somehow, Drum & Bass Arena survived those uncertain early years, and is now celebrating its tenth anniversary. Chalk it up to the loyalty of the junglist massive (a slick design by the always reliable Designer’s Republic didn’t hurt either). The devotion to their scene is rivaled by few, and when they put their faith in something, they stick with it through thick and thin. Fortunately, the Arena has rewarded their loyalty over the years by keeping to its strengths and always providing fresh material for the online junglists to gorge on. The website may not be a major player in the wider world web, but it’s firmly carved out its niche and will undoubtedly be here another decade later.

So what better way to celebrate your resilience than to have a couple of the ‘deebee’ scene’s elder statesmen come in and make a DJ mix for you? Well, perhaps allowing someone from the new school to represent the ‘current’ set is one possibility, but that’s just a niggling observation. Andy C has proven quite capable of hanging with the young cats.

Anyhow, Andy gets to do the ‘Upfront’ disc, and upfront it is indeed. Right up front in your mutha-fuckin’ face! With that danj’a danj’a bass! Er... sorry about that. Listening to this gets me super-hyped, that’s all. The energy in Andy’s set is fast, furious, intense, manic, insane, and plenty more adjectives describing wicked crazy nuts.

Put in more stoic terms, disc one is simply fun jungle to have on. Although there is plenty feasting for the ears should you so desire, it kind of defeats the purpose of a set like this to only treat it that way; lounging in a sofa with headphones doesn’t do this set justice. Catchy vocal samples, frenetic beats, aggressive basslines, pleasing hooks: all winning ingredients for madcap parties. And unlike many jungle sets which tend to get samey-sounding due to unwavering rhythms, Andy keeps this one fresh with plenty of unique percussion arrangements, even at times throwing different time signatures into the works. I pity the house-head who attempts to dance to this.

Okay, so this is by no means a great jungle set. It does at times teeter off the rails with different styles of drum ‘n’ bass crashing into one another. Some of Andy’s DJ tricks don’t quite mesh. For a set claiming to be ‘upfront’, some songs are rather old. And similarly, I’m sure trainspotting junglists will bemoan about played out tracks (do trainspotters ever talk about anything else though?). These are all points one should take into consideration but if such factors don’t bother you, this is a solid set and should satisfy the dedicated and casual alike.

Of course, what point is there in looking back in the past with an anniversary release unless you also include a good ol’ ‘Classics’ set too? Well, perhaps the fact another classic d’n’b set is redundant in this industry, but that’s just a niggling observation. Grooverider has proven quite capable of giving the goldie oldies a proper rinsing on many occasions.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with jungle will recognize tons of tracks here. Valley Of Shadows, Champion Sound, Cutslo, Threshold, Alien Girl (also heard in a mash-up on the first disc, no less), The Lighter, The Warning: if you’re a junglist but don’t know these, then you fail, poseur. Heh, I kid, of course. I’ve yet to meet a junglist who doesn’t have a firm grasp on his scene’s history. Other EDM scenes could stand to learn from that.

For the most part, the ‘Rider sticks to that ominous, methodical form of jungle known as darkcore/step which was very popular with the less-mainstream crowds in the mid-90s. While far less frenetic than the stuff Andy C provided on his disc, it’s nonetheless great to listen to and chugs along at a good pace. He also throws in some older cuts when the genre was still in its hardcore roots, plus a token nod to the always manic ragga style at the end. All in all, it’s a well-crafted set but will probably be best enjoyed if you don’t have many of these tracks already floating around in your collection.

I suppose you’ve noticed this review doesn’t have a terribly serious tone to it. That’s because 10 Years isn’t a release that needs a thought-out analysis. It is, if anything, a self-congratulatory pat on the back by the Arena, and if you wish to join in the festivities, you’re more than welcome to. There’s not much new to find here but if you could use a couple more DJ mixes of old and new jungle, Andy’s and ‘Rider’s sets won’t disappoint.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved


ACE TRACKS:
Frankly, the second disc owns this section. (UPDATE: Okay, some of the 'upfront' stuff's mint as well)

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