Dubplate peer pressure

Aug 8, 2001 at 12:00 am

Takin’ it back to the old school while pushing things forward, a crew of Michigan bassheads are rewinding drum ’n’ bass history and dropping it in a sci-fi context.

In the early ’90s, primarily in England, jungle sliced and diced its way through the dance world. Its spastic beats — often with vocals sounding like chipmunks on crystal meth — were the combination of many influences. Reggae, hip hop and techno met somewhere in the middle and jacked up the tempo. Today, jungle lives and has spawned as many subgenres as the three or more that spawned it. This collection exemplifies techstep, hardstep, ragga, intelligent drum ’n’ bass, ambient jungle and other blurry categories all mixed live, direct and flawlessly from local dubplates by Ronin Selecta.

"Time Constraint" appropriately opens the mix. Co-produced by Ronin, SK-1 and Soundmurderer, this track takes the overall vibe of the mix and condenses it into an intelligent techstep track that crawls out of the ocean in Godzillalike fashion to breath fiery bass lines and metallic synth hits. Tracks flow from bangin’ wavy bass madness ("Soun’ clash" by SK-1) into chill-out cuts that temper the beat assault with reggae-style coolness until they rise up to kick your eardrums even harder ("Champion" by Soundmurderer). Scotty V’s "Come Ruff" is high-octane dance floor fuel. Brijawi’s "Murcury Retrograde" energetically pushes minimalist techstep through oscillating melodies and heavily distorted bass into the deep radar bleep funk of Rampage’s "Station." Things creep down a bit and gently morph into Ceryn’s "Vampyre Prophecy" and Symphonik’s "Incandescent," which are dark and tensely subdued enough to necessitate Vincent Price as a posthumous MC.

Sometimes beautifully nostalgic, but mostly progressive, gritty and minimally produced, Unity Gain is a pleasant surprise to anyone who doubted drum ’n’ bass’ continued influence or presence in Detroit. Find out more at mijunglist.com.

E-mail Robert Gorell at [email protected].