Celebrating a golden age in hard funk and soulful drum & bass
September 22: D&B pioneer Fabio will release the innaugural volume of Generation Liquid.
A brand new series that digs deep into a seminal drum & bass sound, Volume 1 features soulful anthems, cult classics and rare remixes from likes of Calibre, Marcus Intalex & ST Files, High Contrast, Chase & Status, D.Kay, Artificial Intelligence, Alix Perez, SpectraSoul and Jonny L under his alias Mr L.
Complete with timeless cuts like Calibre‘s highly sought-after remix of Jaheim’s Put That Woman First and Marcus Intalex & ST Files’ remix of MJ Cole‘s UKG anthem Sincere, Generation Liquid Vol 1 is the start of a series that reappraises an exciting period in drum & bass history.
Largely coined as liquid drum & bass or liquid funk, the era dates back to the late 90s / early-to-mid 2000s when a rise in soulful, often sample-heavy, highly funky drum & bass sounds emerged on labels such as Fabio’s Creative Source, Marcus Intalex’s Soul:r, Bryan Gee’s Liquid V and a then-burgeoning Hospital Records. The sounds ranged from strong US house influences to big soul and funk licks, turbo-charged for the junglised generation. Artists such as Calibre, Shy FX, Artificial Intelligence, Carlito & Addiction, Influx Datum, Danny Byrd and High Contrast were some of the artists leading from the front and regular weekly club spots like Bryan Gee’s Movement and Fabio’s Swerve were testing grounds where artists would link up and debut their dubplates.
“A lot of drum & bass was very tight and claustrophobic at the time,” stated Fabioin a Red Bull article I wrote about liquid drum & bass a few years ago. “Don’t get me wrong, that was the vibe and I loved that heavy stuff. But I think that first wave of what became known as liquid was a natural reaction. In a way it was a new take on the sound LTJ Bukemand [his label] Good Looking – and my label Creative Source – was doing in the mid-’90s. What they called ‘intelligent’ drum & bass. But that was a lot more epic and floaty for me. This was different. It was jazzy and soulful, and had more funk and movement.”
A natural reaction to the heavyweight techstep and early neurofunk movement of the late 90s – and also an inspired development from the Bristol styles that Giles Peterson was championing on his Talkin’ Loud label and the pioneering fusions of 4 Hero and their Two Pages album – the jazzy, soulful, sounds were an essential and exciting addition to the drum & bass menu, boosting the genre into myriad musical directions and taking in influences from further and further around the world. It’s no coincidence that this was also the period where Brazil became a D&B hotspot with artists like Patife and Marky leading the charge. In the case of Marky & XRS, they took it all the way to UK mainstream TV with an appearance on Top Of The Pops in 2002 performing their groundbreaking hit LK.
The term liquid itself, meanwhile, was coined by Fabio in 2000 for a VA album on Creative Source called Liquid Funk. The name was famously inspired by hip-hop crew Tha Alkaholiks’ track Likwit and their album Likwitadtion. “They were pretty anarchic and rapped drunk all the time,” explains Fabio. “I thought that name was sick and was a good way of describing that style of D&B. I called my radio show that on Radio 1 and it just caught on. It basically became synonymous with Calibre. That’s what his stuff was. Just fluid.”
The fluid continued to flow throughout the 2000s with a growing range of emergent artists and the likes of Hospital Records taking the sound to huge audiences at their legendary events at the iconic Heaven nightclub. Swerve, however, is the spot most associated with the development and incubation of the sound.
“It was a rite of passage,” High Contrast told us last year in this interview. “If you were a fan or wanted to get involved in that sound then you went to Swerve. Those were amazing nights. The first time I went there was Valentine’s Day and Groove played Suddenly. That was just incredible. To hear my music being played by the guys who invented this whole thing at the number one spot.”
As the 2000s progressed, other styles of drum & bass took the lead, including an aggressive bid for much more mainstream sounds and audiences which pushed the soulful sounds back underground or into the deeper room twos. The word liquid has forever been thrown around since this era, and can often be misinterpretted, but this is where it started and Generation Liquid Vol 1 is a great starting snapshot of that original sound, where it took root and how it developed over the 2000s. With cuts on this first volume ranging from 2003 to 2009, it’s an encouraging start to an exciting series that could go on for many volumes and dig deeper back in time, too. We’re excited about where this series goes next.