Top Ten DnB Basslines
n its early days, DnB leaned towards the "D," as the genre emphasized mashing up drum breaks into crazy, rat-a-tat patterns. Usually, a few strategically placed 808 booms would suffice for bottom end. However, the late '90s saw a shift to simpler, more regular beats. Basslines accordingly compensated in complexity and became the main impetus for tunes. Around London, the conventional wisdom was that a kicking b-line and a good snare were all you needed for a tune. In some cases, merely the former could send a 12" flying off the shelves. If you hear the sound system at Fabric in London, you'll not just understand the importance of basslines to DnB—you'll feel it.
Below are 10 moments in DnB low end that have made people (a) dance wildly, (b) lose their minds, and/or (c) make babies. DnB connoisseurs, if there are any left, will notice some glaring omissions—no DJ Trace, no Bad Company, no Juice or True Playaz records, and so on. That's the breaks, so to speak, of a top 10 list.
10. Origin Unknown - "Truly One"
This was perhaps the epitome of "tummy bass" (sometimes called "wobble bass"), a DnB trend in the mid-'90s. As the term suggests, on a proper system the b-line would resonate through one's innards, if not one's genitals. This 12" was pressed loud as hell and would wreak serious havoc if the DJ didn't watch his levels. This was probably the only DnB tune ever to sample Richard Nixon ("For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this earth are truly one").
09. Matrix - "Mute '98"
Matrix is one Jamie Quinn, brother of Matt, aka Optical. Matrix has made some of the sexiest, most sinuous b-lines known to man (and hopefully woman). "Mute '98" was seriously stoned business, with simple beats and a b-line that engulfed dancefloors. The synth chords were curiously reminiscent of The Doors' "Light My Fire."
08. Photek - "Knitevision"
In recent years, Photek has made increasingly distorted and hairy sounds. Back in the day, though, he was the Samurai of DnB, with scalpel-sharp beats and precise b-lines. "Knitevision" was a sculpted marvel of tick-tock snares, with a percussive b-line that was devastating at high volume.
07. DJ Krust - "Warhead"
This b-line was maligned by some for its utter simplicity, but therein lay its effectiveness. Three notes, that was it—and after 32 bars, a fourth. Big and bouncy, this tune caused universal knees-up dancing and lager spillage. Like most DnB, it sounded innocent in headphones, but writ large, it lived up to its name.
06. Capone - "Friday"
Capone is one of the many aliases of Dillinja, aka Karl Francis, who could occupy this entire list by himself. No DnB producer strikes more fear in sound engineers. Since day one, he has been a student of bass, going so far as to design his own sound system to go with his tunes. Dillinja's b-lines have run the gamut from deadly deep subs to full-on growlers. "Friday" was one of his more laidback productions; warm tummy bass, rolling beats, and a "Thank God it's Friday" sample that filled dancefloors without fail.
05. DJ Rap - "Hardstep"
One of the few prominent women in DnB, DJ Rap is responsible for one of its all-time classics, "Spiritual Aura." "Hardstep" would come next on the resume; it had irresistible percussion and one of the liveliest basslines ever made, in any genre of music. I would kill to know how she got that sound. My guess? Tummy bass sine waves through an overdriven mixing board, perhaps with slight LFO.
04. PFM - "One and Only"
PFM stands for "Progressive Future Music" and that means simple, dubby 808 subs sketch out a sexy, loping rhythm in one of atmospheric DnB's all-time greatest tunes.
03. Roni Size & Reprazent - "Brown Paper Bag"
Except for #2 here, I have never seen a tune wind waists so effectively. In the late-'90s, DnB had a brief trend of tunes with standup basslines, and "Brown Paper Bag" ruled them all. Appropriately, the 12" came in a sleeve that looked like a brown paper bag.
02. Alex Reece - "Pulp Fiction"
This is hands-down the sexiest DnB bassline ever. It's warm, eerie, and comes with crisp beats with the slightest hint of swing. If any DnB tune were made for the catwalk, this would be it. Incidentally, the bassline is sampled from MC Solaar's "Dévotion," off the Prose Combat album. Has no one else spotted this yet???
01. Ed Rush, Optical & Fierce - Cutslo (Lokuste Mix)
No one called this tune by its ridiculous title. It will always be known as the "Locust Remix," as it was a rerub of Ed Rush & Fierce's "Locust," which had a nasty b-line in its own right. The No U-Turn crew (Ed Rush, Nico, Fierce, Trace, and, later, Optical) helped pioneer DnB's techstep sound in the late-'90s. Basically, they sat around, smoked tons of weed, sampled stabs from old Belgian techno records, and ran basslines through guitar distortion pedals to get the darkest, harshest sounds possible. The "Locust Remix" was the culmination of that. Distorted basslines had been around for some time when this appeared on dubplate in '97, but people were unprepared for its sheer ferocity. When I heard Grooverider play this, it got rewound an astonishing three times. People were screaming and pounding the walls of the club, absolutely losing their shit. Now that's a bassline.