Through The Eyes of two drum & bass pioneers

Out of all the genres and sub-genres and minute categories that make up electronic music, one of the most recognizable is drum and bass. With its scattershot rhythms, low throbbing bass and urban feel, it’s one of the most distinctive and popular forms of electronic music.

In the late 90s, Roni Size and the Reprezent crew, made up of Krust and Die, released New Forms, a landmark album. New Forms, along with Goldie’s Timeless, also set the standard and defined the drum and bass sound. Now, Roni Size and Krust have each released a drum and bass compilation Full Cycle: Through the Eyes (Studio K7!), which shows their mastership of the drum and bass sound and each one’s distinctive take on the genre.

Both compilations follow the same format. One disc is a set of drum and bass songs; the other is a continuous DJ mix of drum and bass. When it comes to the individual songs on disc 1, there isn’t too much difference between Roni Size and Krust. Both have songs by Size, Krust and Die. Often the two discs repeat songs.

When it comes to the music, the tracks go more back to the darker edge of jungle, drum and bass’s precursor, than the jazz stylings on New Forms. Sub-frequency bass booms out of the speakers. Drum rhythms fly at furious pace, it’s hard to believe drum and bass is even played at clubs, it’s near impossible to picture people dancing to this. Over top are twisted and warped samples and synth-lines that add to the hallucinatory atmosphere. Jungle has always been a music that evokes paranoia and the darker side of urban life. All three parts combine to create a sped-up, wired effect.

There are several standout songs shared by both CDs. Mine starts out with a large, symphonic sounding keyboard and a soulful diva singing before the drums kick in at a ferocious pace. Bad Intentions sounds as menacing as its name. Psychedelic sounding synths blast out a dissettling sound over the rhythms. The atmosphere is like being in a funhouse wired to the hilt on speed. Kloakin Device is the cross of a soundtrack for a remake of the cyberpunk classic Blade Runner and a demonic video game. A small set of bleeps sampled throughout the song is eerily reminiscent of the sound in a video game when your character dies, adding to the dark feel.

The two sets differ when it comes to the second disc. The second disc is a continuous DJ mix. One track that’s 74 minutes long. Jungle/drum and bass has always been music meant for clubs and raves rather than home. With it’s fast pace, and dark, wired sound, it better recreates the charged, hot, and sweaty atmosphere at a packed night out that sitting at home listening through a stereo can’t match. Still, Roni Size and Krust do give it a good shot on their respective mixes.

Of the two Size’s is probably more commercial and more straight-ahead drum and bass. The mix starts out a high point and the intensity doesn’t stop till the about midway through the mix. There, like any good DJ would, Size provides a bit of a rest by adding a section that has a very jazzy-fusion feel to it, much like what you would hear on New Forms. While the mix has a lot of energy, after a while, all the tracks do blend into one beat blend that can fade into the background.

Krust’s mix is more adventurous and darker than Size’s. Krust uses more tracks on his mix, cutting between them quicker than Size. This adds to the jarring, dissettling feel, again much more like jungle’s early days. Krust also uses some of the darker tracks from the first CD.

In the end, the only thing that will determine which to buy is how big of a fan of drum and bass you are. If you’re just getting into the genre, Roni Size’s is probably the better introduction. For longer fans of the sound, Krust will probably give you more you’ve not heard of and definitely takes the music back to its earlier, darker days when it was a challenger to the house styles at raves. Both CDs are excellent compilations of drum and bass and definitely are worth the buy.

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