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Wired for Sound

Wednesday, May 7 2003
It's alive! Since its birth in the early 1990s, drum 'n' bass, nee jungle, has been pronounced dead more times than even a DJ accustomed to counting BPMs would bother to count. The style is once again making a comeback (especially in San Francisco, a city in which it never really went away), with hyperkinetic productions marked by a jazzy sensibility emanating, most often, from the London studios. But the most exciting recent transmission from the breakbeat galaxy comes from Michigan's Soundmurderer, and it's not a new creation, properly speaking. Wired for Sound is a mix CD (or rather, three midlength mixed sets) of early '90s jungle classics, dating from an era when chopped beats still sounded tough and fresh -- that is to say, before they formed the soundtrack for every other car commercial -- and when digital techniques like "time-stretching" (a distorted form of sample alteration) were still in the R&D phase.

Jungle was heavily indebted to reggae and dancehall music, overlaying triple-time breaks and caroming bass lines with the toasting of Jamaican vocalists like Cutty Ranks. Soundmurderer -- aka Todd Osborn, who runs Detroit's Rewind Records label and also records minimalist house music as Osborne -- draws heavily on these older productions, playing half-speed dub cadences before releasing jackhammer snares.

Wired for Sound brings together 60 tracks from acts like Remarc, Shy FX, Tek 9, and Krome & Time, but picking out the individual pieces is hardly the point. Tracks spin by in a dizzying whirl of drums and speaker-shaking bass, while the nimble-fingered Soundmurderer picks his way through jungle's golden era. Air horns blare, chants of "Murderer!" pan across the spectrum, drum fills collapse into backspinning rewinds. The energy is unmistakable and irresistible. Whether Wired for Sound signals the beginning of a return to ragga jungle or is a captivating one-off born of one skilled selector's obsession, resurrection never felt so raw.

About The Author

Philip Sherburne


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