For a genre that gets its name from two key ingredients, drum ‘n’ bass has a diverse range of sub genres. From jungle to neuro, minimal to clownstep, each style has its own key signifiers and you’ll know a liquid track from it’s ability to make your head nod and put a smile on your face.
The sound, championed as liquid funk by Fabio in the early 2000s, spread quickly thanks to labels like Hospital and Good Looking, and artists such as Calibre and DJ Marky. And by the late 2000s, the genre had evolved into the truly chilled-out and laid back sound we know today.
Dusty breaks, booming sub and moody samples all come to prominence alongside the sunny atmospheres and rolling Amens already in vogue in this list. Let it roll over you.
Check out our list below
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Calibre feat Lariman Overreaction
Where else to start than with a Calibre tune, eh? The Northern Irishman is one of the most decorated producers in the drum 'n' bass game and a master of the sultry liquid roller. While his output has always been impeccably consistent, in the later part of the decade he was on fire with the 'Shelf-Life' and 'Overflow' albums both released on his Signature Records imprint. 'Overreaction' dropped on the aforementioned 'Overflow' album, becoming an instant favourite with its loose production and langorous vocal delivery from Lariman.
Atlantic Connection 'It's Your Jazz'
While Nathan Hayes AKA Atlantic Connection may have veered from his strictly drum 'n' bass roots in recent times, he was a force to be reckoned with coming onto the scene in 2006. An American artist that could actually keep his productions from becoming overly bombastic pieces of garbage, Atlantic Connection was a perfect fit with Dutch label Fokuz Recordings which was making a name for itself as a purveyor of the mellow side of drum 'n' bass since 1999. Released as a b-side to Brother's 'Do The Right Thing', 'It's Your Jazz' is a saucy number that really does bring that jazzy flow thanks to a sliding double bass and well placed piano samples.
Commix 'Emily's Smile'
Another crew up there with the best of them, Commix were at their peak in the late 00s as a trio leading a charge of producers that were making forward-thinking and intelligent drum 'n' bass without giving up any of their dancefloor sensibilities. Hailing from Cambridge, Commix could be as heavy as their Metalheadz peers but also had an ear for melody as sharp as anyone on the liquid scene. 'Emily's Smile' from their debut album 'Call To Mind', is a great example of that contrast. Starting off with a gorgeous chord progression and some larger-than-life strings, it rolls out into a bass-heavy monster with glimpses into the darker world they would enter with tracks like 'Satellite Type 2' and 'Talk To Frank'.
Zero Tolerance feat Steo 'Walk Away'
Featuring the excellent talents of Irish vocalist Steo, 'Walk Away' is the highlight cut from Zero Tolerance's debut album 'Cheap Shots' on CIA. Perhaps the only liquid tune that could be described as pensive, its suspended bassline and plodding sample, coupled with its introspective lyrics make it an emotional ride more akin to an r'n'b love song than a tear out drum 'n' bass track. For Zero T, it's one of his most complete liquid tunes.
Bungle feat Darrison 'Just A Little Bit'
As much as liquid became about moody head-nodders in the late noughties, there were also those keeping its original Amen-break heavy, sunshine-drenched vibe alive. DJ Marky, Bungle, Patife, XRS all brought a distinctly Brazilian d'n'b sound, or drum 'n' bossa nova as some have called it. 'Just A Little Bit' from Bungle is basically the embodiment of a summer party with its big band sample, a stuttering guitar and Darrison's vocals about "rocking to the rhythm". And while it might be a little to sacharrine for some, you can't fault it's a huge tune at the right time, in the right place.
Makoto & A-Sides 'Spacetrain'
Representing the best of Japan's drum 'n' bass scene, Makoto's 70's jazz and soul influences have served him well in a career that has been firmly in the liquid camp since the late 90's. UK producer A-Sides is a stalwart of the drum 'n' bass scene since the early 90's and the pair's one collaboration resulted in 'Spacetrain', a sprawling track that blends flavours from both producers in equal measure.
Electrosoul System 'On The Run'
Russia's Electrosoul System seriously churned out the tunes after starting his career in 2005, making him a name picked as one to watch on many a deep web forum. While that prophecy didn't quite pan out, he was still a force to be reckoned with, releasing on imprints such as Fokuz and Spearhead. But it's his 2009 release with label Allsorts that marked the decade's high point. A-side 'On The Run' is a fizzing piece of low-key liquid, full of rolling breaks, a simple bassline, chopped and screwed vocals and a drop that keeps you guessing, it's the perfect soundtrack to sparking that second bifta.
Dj Marky & Makoto 'Togetherness (2009 edit mix)'
Who can you count on to turn Keith Sweat's sexed-up and swagalicious 'Make It Last Forever' into a sunny, break-fuelled liquid d'n'b roller? If DJ Marky & Makoto were the first names that came to mind then you're correct. Fruitful producers by themselves, the two take it up a notch when they work together, producing tracks like 'Secret Place' and 'Long Distance'. But it's 'Togetherness' that's peak energy and vibes.
NB: Yes, this was released in January 2010 but it's the 2009 edit. It's staying in.
dBridge & Calibre 'Ponderosa'
To kick-off his debut album, dBridge collaborated with Calibre on the brilliant 'Ponderosa' a tune full of smoky piano lines, atmospheric effects and a sub destroying bassline that comes out of nowhere on the drop. If you like this then please check out 'The Gemini Principle' in full.
Redeyes 'Let It Shine'
Despite looking like Pitbull on the front cover, Redeyes' Poetry In Motion' EPs are class. Containing tracks like 'How Many Ways', 'Love Is Haight' and 'Blue Note' it was hard to narrow it down to one track to include on this. But the luxurious rhodes and effervescent wah-guitar of 'Let It Shine' was the deciding factor. Heavy on groove and funk, it embodies that sunshine spirit of earlier tracks in this list from DJ Marky, Bungle and Makoto. Lovely.
Lenzman 'The Blues'
Lenzman is without doubt one of the major players to come out of the late-00s liquid drum 'n' bass scene. Now known for sublime works such as 'Open Page', 'Bittersweet' and 'Ice Cold Soul', the Dutchman's signature sound can be traced back to 'The Blues', one of his first releases. Fitted with that classic scattering percussion, it's is a delicate track that revels in its combination of jazziness and wobbly bass.
Mutt 'Kush Talk'
Hailing from Canada, Mutt has a hip-hop background and it shows through on this slinking r'n'b-infused track. The half-time intro sets up a classic roll out packed with a snug sub bass and layered breaks. Liquid is known for its groove and this track has that in abundance.
Naibu 'Generic Generation'
The last track released on the short-lived Avalanche imprint, Naibu's 'Generic Generation' is another atmospheric gem from the French producer. The trip-hop vibes are heavy with its soaring string section, drawn out bass, exotic percussion and restrained drops. The utilisation of the forlorn vocal sample is also a nice touch.
Break 'Natural Progression'
Bristol's Break is well known for veering into the heavier side of drum 'n' bass with sounds that have long been some of the most innovative in the game. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have an ear for melody. 'Natural Progression' is one of the more overlooked tracks in his back catalogue, packed with luscious atmospherics and simple breaks, the track comes to life when its meaty sub kicks in and throws its weight around.
Alix Perez 'Crooklyn'
Before Alix Perez became known as a minimal maestro, he was well versed in the shuffling beats and lounging aesthetics of liquid. There was the joyful 'Love Bug' in 2005, the bouncy 'Magnolias' in 2006 and the 'Watching You/Virtue' release with Mutt. However, the 'Allegiance' EP with Lynx is what established himself as the next big thing in d'n'b and contained sounds that blended the liquid of his past with the minimal of his future. Put together with the MPC-smarts of vintage east coast hip hop, 'Crooklyn' is a subtle banger, bringing together dusty breaks with mesmerising sounds and an excellent jazz riff to make it a rewind candidate every time it gets played out.