Neurofunk

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Neurofunk
Stylistic origins Drum and bass, funk, techstep, house, jazz, techno, dark ambient
Cultural origins Late 1990s in England, Scotland, Europe, USA
Typical instruments Synthesizer, sequencer, drum machine, sampler, keyboard, personal computer

(complete list)
Other topics
Drum and bass artists
Drum and bass record labels

'Neurofunk' (also known more simply and informally as just 'Neuro') is a subgenre of drum and bass which emerged between 1997 and 1998 in London, England as a progression of techstep. It was further developed by juxtaposed elements of heavier and harder forms of funk with multiple influences ranging from techno, house and jazz, distinguished by consecutive stabs over the bassline and razor-sharp backbeats. The first sounds of neurofunk's early evolution - when diverging from techstep - can be heard on Ed Rush and Optical's Funktion single for V Recordings and on their first album Wormhole LP for Virus Recordings in 1998.

The first mention of the term was in the book Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture by Simon Reynolds.[1] This is where the English music critic coined the name as a result of his personal perception of stylistic shifts in techstep - back beats replacing breakbeats, funk harmonies replacing industrial timbres and lack of emphasis on the drop - by referring to them as, "(Neurofunk) is the fun-free culmination of jungle's strategy of cultural resistance: the eroticization of anxiety".

Overview[edit]

Psycho album by Phace on Subtitles (2007).

Konflict formatted Optical's style into a harsher, more stripped-down form with a stronger techno influence at the forefront of their tracks such as The Beckoning (released on Renegade Hardware in 1999). In 2002, Sinthetix, Cause 4 Concern, and Silent Witness & Break took Konflict's hard edge, minimalist approach with emphasis on colder, precision beat engineering, harder stabs over the bassline, sharper mixdowns and simultaneously, hastening the advancement of the style's sound design between the periods of 2002 and 2005 along with Gridlok, Corrupt Souls, Noisia, Phace, and The Upbeats. Gridlok also worked on sampling big band horn arrangements during his time on Violence Recordings, bridging the gap between the subgenre's techno and jazz influences yet, maintaining the elements of classic neurofunk dissonance and minimalism in his music.

As the subgenre developed, with artists starting as purists and later changing their musical direction into broader musical settings, so new artists have emerged to fill the vacuum, re-energizing the sound by taking production back to its roots.

Between 2007 and 2008, a decade after the pioneering artists first established neurofunk's technical soundscape, the style was enhanced with a series of diverse, forward thinking debut albums set to redefine its concept production with the rough-cut antics of Break The System by Gridlok (Project 51/CD/2007); the minimal techno-funk fueled Psycho by Phace (Subtitles Music/2007); the blending of rhythmic guitar chord progressions on Black Lotus by Mindscape (Citrus Recordings/2007); the melodic experiments of My Light Year by Telemetrik (BSE Recordings/2008), the highly conceptual and intensive Nobody's Out There by The Upbeats (Bad Taste Recordings/2007), and the innovative Black Box singles compilation (Syndrome Audio Recordings/CD/2008), featuring various artists and highlighting remixes by second and third-wave producers, among the second-wave, Phace and Misanthrop contrasting the rhythmic grit of third-wave producers Chook, Dose & Menace.

Silent Witness & Break began producing their groundbreaking tracks when recruited by legendary No U-Turn, label founder/producer Nico who released their first singles Contact and Higher Rates (No U-Turn Recordings/2002 and 2003) with Silent Witness eventually establishing his own DNAudio imprint with partner, DJ Squire as an outlet for his music alongside Break's and Survival's. UK's DNAUDIO crew have since combined both techstep and neurofunk subgenres as their signature approach to drum and bass with Break often using stark, amen influenced breakbeats in his solo tunes. By mid 2008, Silent Witness, Break & Survival released their first album, Hard Times on DNAudio Recordings composed of powerful breakbeats and back beats, upfront low-end basslines and soaring, futuristic production. Currently, the subgenre continues to progress in sonical terms as far as the utilisation of Cut-up sounds is concerned with Audio (who incorporated elements of dubstep in one of his tunes), Optiv & BTK, and Insidelnfo & Mefjus delivering explosive new singles, EP's and albums between 2010 and 2013 for Virus Recordings: Audio's advanced, Genesis Device (2010), Soul Magnet (2012), and Force Of Nature albums along with his redition of Headroom VIP (2013); Optiv & BTK's elaborative Dirty Tricks LP, and the Mythos/Blunt single by Insidelnfo & Mefjus (2013).

Now, the scene is led by artists such as The Upbeats, Noisia, Spor, Ed Rush and Gridlok.

Lyrical content[edit]

"We Enter" (Optical Remixes) by Ryme Tyme on No U-Turn (1999).
Matrix & Fierce - "Tightrope/Climate" 12" single on Metro (2000).

As an MC and lyricist, Ryme Tyme played the neurofunk style as an integral member of Ed Rush & Optical's live, DJ sets and studio sessions.

As a producer, Ryme Tyme's combined vision and recording techniques are highlighted by his track We Enter (produced by Ryme Tyme/Optical RMXS/No U-Turn Recordings/1999), along with Payback (produced by Ryme Tyme/DSCI4 Records/1999), White Lightning (produced by Optical & Ryme Tyme/The Creeps album/Virus Recordings/2000), Abyss Remix (produced by Ryme Tyme & Nasis/1210 Recordings/2001) and Lightsleeper (produced by Ryme Tyme, Matrix & Fierce/C4CLTD/2002). Some of these tracks were compiled for the album entitled Ryme Tyme (1210 Recordings/2001), consisting mainly of his 12-inch singles for 1210 Recordings.

Media[edit]

  • Ed Rush & Optical - Compound (1998)
    Excerpt from "Compound", from the album Wormhole on Virus Recordings (VRS001LP), by Ed Rush & Optical. Exhibiting the early experimental stages of neurofunk.
    Matrix & Fierce - Climate (2000)
    Excerpt from "Climate", from the 12" single on Metro Recordings (MTRR007), by Matrix & Fierce. The blending of multiple influences ranging from funk, techno, house and jazz.
    Cause 4 Concern - Peep Show (2001)
    Excerpt from "Peep Show", from the 12" single on Virus Recordings (VRS009), by Cause 4 Concern. Techno at the forefront of production in 2001.
    Phace - Hot Rock (2005)
    Excerpt from "Hot Rock", from the 12" single on Subtitles Music (SUBTITLES047), by Phace. The stripped-down, minimalist approach to production adopted by second-wave artists.
  • Problems listening to the files? See media help.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Simon Reynolds Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. (Picador, ISBN 0-330-35056-0) (excerpt)