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10 essential DnB classics to reinvigorate your weekend playlist

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10 essential Drum 'n' Bass classics

Drum ‘n’ Bass is one of the oldest sub-genres of modern dance music, having differentiated from rave/hardcore techno back in the early 1990s in England. Characterized by high-tempo beats and intricate bass lines, the genre rapidly gained traction in underground dance music venues all over the world, before finally emerging as a separate genre in the mid-90s.

Peering into the unique past of Drum ‘n’ Bass, we look at ten of most influential and radical songs that helped shape this niche genre.

Words by Kanvar KohliFeatured image via Philippe Wuyts Photography/Ultra 2016.

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Origin Unknown - Valley of the Shadows

Andy C and Ant Miles created a true masterpiece back in 1992, right around the time Drum ‘n’ Bass was established as a separate genre. “Valley of the Shadows” can actually be regarded as one of the first ‘liquid’ DnB tracks, as it features soothing melodies and smooth beats. Interestingly, this track samples vocals from NASA’s Apollo 11 countdown and continues to be an instantly recognizable club classic, while setting the benchmark for DnB tracks nearly 25 years after its release.

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Shimon and Andy C - Night Flight

The late 1990s and early 2000s are fondly remembered by many as the “Golden Era” of Drum ‘n’ Bass. A glittering example of the trippy tunes prevailing in the era is “Night Flight” by Shimon and Andy C. What instantly stands out about the track is its tasteful minimalism. Staying true to the genre, large portions of this track feature only energetic drums and a supremely groovy bass line, eliminating unwanted elements such as leads and synth melodies. The track has aged like a fine wine, and would fit in perfectly at a modern club setting.

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Bad Company - The Nine

Another specimen from the genre’s “Golden Era,” Bad Company’s greatest ever hit is a fast paced, futuristic single way ahead of its time. “The Nine” features one of the hardest bass lines ever conceived by man. Despite its age, the crisp combination of hi hat samples and evil, growling bass line can be marveled at even to this day. The show-stopping track has been rated as the best Drum ‘n’ Bass track of all time by a variety of publications, cementing its place in bass music folklore.

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Black Sun Empire - Arrakis

Fast forward to 2004 and Drum ‘n’ Bass had definitely evolved into a more intricate genre. Fresh sounds were layered into tracks, adding a new dimension to singles from this era. This concept is perfectly illustrated by Black Sun Empire’s ferocious single “Arrakis.” The Dutch trio is renowned for their harsh and uncompromising style while remaining true to the core of Drum ‘n’ Bass. “Arrakis” definitely has a lot more going on than its basic predecessors; a higher level of mixing which adds an unmistakable polish to the brilliant track.

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Pendulum - Blood Sugar

Undoubtedly one of the greatest Drum ‘n’ Bass acts of all time, Pendulum changed the modern perception of the genre forever. Pioneering the use of synths in their singles, which have since become a staple in almost all songs, the band ushered in the second wave of Drum N Bass to the masses. “Blood Sugar,” taken from Hold Your Color in 2005, is one such track which uses the Pendulum sound to great effect; expertly blending synths with a high octane DnB core for intense head-banging action.

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Noisia - Stigma

No Drum ‘n’ Bass list would be complete without Dutch bass masters Noisia. The legendary trio is revered by many a producer due to their glorious sound design and uncanny ability to alter the course of the entire genre with their genial music. “Stigma,” released in 2008 is one such single. The extremely energetic track kicks off with a suspenseful intro, aided ably by the warbling bass line and thick drums, which turn the track into a true bass monster; widely regarded as one of their best ever singles.

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B-Complex - Beautiful Lies

Slovakian producer B-Complex is one of the contemporary greats of Drum ‘n’ Bass, cementing her place amongst the elite with her 2009 single “Beautiful Lies.” The soul of the track is permeated with a distinct Hip-Hop influence, clearly audible in the intro and break. The track features sublime production, as B-Complex expertly mixes in catchy vocal samples and piano chords into the bass drop -one of the contributing factors to the track’s status as a modern classic.

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Netsky - Memory Lane

Netsky’s meteoric rise to stardom was a result of his ‘liquid’ style, which greatly widened Drum ‘n’ Bass’ fan base due to its easy listening appeal. One of his greatest hits came in 2010 with “Memory Lane.” Featuring a catchy hook and beautifully layered melodies, it serves as a benchmark for liquid DnB singles several years after its original release.

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Sub Focus - Tidal Wave

Sub Focus is a true veteran of the genre, starting off in 2002 and still going strong in 2017. Having carved out a rock-solid reputation over the past decade, he first tasted commercial success in 2005 with “X-ray/Scarecrow.” One of his best ever works was the supremely serene “Tidal Wave.” The track gained significant popularity due to its ethereal vocals and it’s ridiculously catchy music, making it one of the standout Drum ‘n’ Bass hits of 2013.

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Tristam and Bracken - Frame of Mind

Rounding off the list of classics is Tristam & Bracken’s legendary collaboration “Frame of Mind.” The duo had previously released some eye-catching music, but nothing of the magnitude of this particular single. The track became an instant hit after its initial 2013 release and continues to be a staple in most Drum ‘n’ Bass live sets and playlists. The reason for this unprecedented success is the ease with which the vocals melt into the sublime instrumentals, which strikes the perfect balance between low frequency drive and mid-range finesse. “Frame of Mind” is quite possibly the most popular DnB track of all time, ensuring its status as a classic.