12 of the best late-90s drum 'n' bass tracks - Features - Mixmag

12 of the best late-90s drum 'n' bass tracks

Special drum 'n' bass tracks in the period from '97 to '99

  • Dave Turner
  • 3 April 2020

There ain't nothing like a banging, fast-paced drum 'n' bass soundtrack to get you through tough times. Whether that's getting your head stuck in books studying, ticking off your job to-do list or clocking up miles on the run.

There's hours and hours, days and days of jungle and drum 'n' bass to get through, from mixes and tunes from the mid-'90s to liquid in the late 2000s. That hasn't stopped us from putting together a list of belters released in the late-'90s (that being the period from '97 to '99), including tunes by the likes of Andy C (as RAM Trilogy), J Majik, Grooverider, Roni Size, Calibre, Marcus Intalex and more. Tuck in below.

Jonny L 'Piper' (Grooverider remix)

A producer tightly wound into XL Recordings' output in the '90s, Jonny L pivoted from his earlier rave-focused productions into drum 'n' bass in the middle of the decade. The biggest mark of this shift was 1997 album 'Sawtooth', featuring the monstrous stepper 'Piper'. You think that hits hard. Grooverider's remix is a musical assault, powered by crazed mechanics that roll throughout. Just when you think everything's calmed down with the lingering synth shimmers, the steam-rolling drums just keep on coming.

Roni Size & Reprazent 'Brown Paper Bag'

That funky riff, man. Gets me every time. So iconic. Then those tinkling strings that go with it, followed by those futuristic, drawn-out synths building up to the rinse out everyone knows that's coming. No wonder Roni Size and Reprazent won the Mercury Prize with 'New Forms', the album this was on. Outrageous d'n'b funk.

Ed Rush & Optical 'Bacteria'

When it comes to dark drum 'n' bass released in the tail-end of the '90s - and later down the line - Ed Rush & Optical are masters of the craft. The pair linked up for the first time in 1997 and later launched Virus Recordings, a label that'd become the go-to for the brooding techstep d'n'b sound. The fact the label is called Virus says a lot about the nature of the tunes on it. 'Bacteria' - another apt title - came out in '99, littered gruesome bass groans, eerie bleeps and clip-clap drums. Heavy business from two of d'n'b's greatest.

Bad Company '4 Days'

Bad Company's tunes are baaaaaaad. Bad as in mega good, obviously. '4 Days' is an absolute weapon, heavy on revving bass and so relentless you've done a week's worth of cardio after listening to it. It's rockets like this that've made the group - Fresh, Vegas, dBridge and Maldini - such d'n'b icons.

Lemon D 'Chainsaw'

Initially a 12" with no official release, Lemon D's bell-ringing weapon 'Chainsaw' got the Metalheadz stamp of approval when it was included on 'Metalheadz Presents Platinum Breakz II'. Growling bass revs point to the track title of choice as Lemon maintains his form of producing those fierce and fiery d'n'b tunes he's so well known for.

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Calibre 'Mystic'

Late-'90s drum 'n' bass wasn't just vigorous, intense drum workouts. '98 introduced the d'n'b world to the smoother, softer sounds of Northern Irish producer Calibre. In '99 he released 'Mystic' via Fabio's Creative Source label, a hub for the more funkier side of the genre, coined 'liquid funk'. 'Mystic' would precede endless amounts of crooning Calibre tunes from then until now. We should've known then - due to the deft sampling of the pinging riff from 'In The Rain' by Detroit soul group The Dramatics - that his output would be a soulful catalogue of liquid d'n'b gems.

Marcus Intalex & ST Files 'How You Make Me Feel'

Marcus Intalex, RIP. A boss of drum 'n' bass. His work with ST Files was majestic, penning releases for the likes of Metalheadz, Hospital Records and Doc Scott's 31 Records. It's on this label they released 'How You Make Me Feel' in 1999. Much like Calibre's 'Mystic', 'How You Make Me Feel' marked a shift in the d'n'b sound. Another funk-filled liquid flavour with ice-cold vocals, glistening piano chords and delightful jazzy moments.

DJ Krust 'Warhead' (Steppa Mix)

Maaaaate. Those bass pumps. Prime for those late-night drives around town. Sub-woofer in the boot. And to set a raver-filled dancefloor into absolute bedlam, of course. DJ Krust you bad, bad man. An unforgettable classic on V Recordings.

Moving Fusion 'Turbulence'

Essex duo Moving Fusion nabbed a vocal from Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie for 'Turbulence' in 1998. The sheer power and thunder of the tune match the Street Fighter themes of thwacks and knockout blows, adding another bulging muscle to the RAM Records body.

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RAM Trilogy 'Mind Overload'

There's no way we could've had a late-'90s d'n'b list without Andy C getting a look-in. Andy's one-third of RAM Trilogy alongside Ant Miles and Shimon, responsible for spearheading RAM Records to its status as one of the biggest - and best - drum 'n' bass labels in the world. While tunes by Origin Unknown - another guise for Andy - had contributed to RAM's rise in the early and middle sections of the decade, RAM Trilogy took it to another level. 'Mind Overload' is just a beast, filled with dizzying mechanics and a deep-drilling bassline. Ed Rush & Optical included it in their 1999 Essential Mix, so check that, too.

J Majik 'Repertoire'

It took 22 years for J Majik to release a second album, but, oh my gosh, it was worth the wait. Last year's 'Full Circle' is packed full of atmospheric tunes reminiscent of jungle's golden era that it makes you think whether he just dipped into an archive of unreleased tunes and decided to make an album out of them. The point I'm making is that J Majik's a producer of d'n'b and jungle whose tunes bang. Like, really bang. Take 'Repertoire', the 1997 release on Goldie's Metalheadz. Magic. Packing that d'n'b thump, but oozing with sumptuous pads and neck-tingling vocals.

DJ Die 'Clear Skyz'

Every genre has those tunes that are just instantly recognisable. DJ Die's 'Clear Skyz' is one of them, all down to that howling bassline that echoes in your ears for days. Real eerie d'n'b business and another cog in the Bristol machine - alongside Roni Size, DJ Krust and DJ SUV - that bossed the genre in the '90s.

Dave Turner is Mixmag's Commercial Content Editor, follow him on Twitter

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