Up this week for DnB Fix, we take a step back in time and explore Doc Scott's masterful Drumz '95.
Staccato drums trip up and down, hi-hats punctuate each phrase, darting from left to right, and the multiple bass drums sound like a cop pounding on your door. All this within the first 10 seconds.
And so begins one of the heaviest, darkest and technically magnificent Jungle tracks of the 90’s. Doc Scott’s Drumz ’95 is a masterpiece - at first seeming sparse and intimidating, it begins to reveal its very complex production and genius use of multiple chopped breaks to create an intricately weaved (but definitely still intimidating) classic.
At this point, some might accuse me of hyperbole - I have heard many people infer that Blue Skies, the B side of Drumz ’95, is the better tune. A beautiful, jazzy, Bukem-esque number. Well, I just guess it depends on what you like - and I am very much aligned to the Dark Side.
Also, I have a confession to make. This is an homage piece, not a critical review. But let’s go back to 1995. I’d never heard of Blue Skies. In fact, I’d never heard of Doc Scott or Drumz ’95. But I’d heard of Dreamscape, and I loved Jungle. I was 14, shy, stuck in the middle of nowhere… and (like most kids my age) a collector of rave flyers - the closest I ever came to going to an actual rave. I covered my walls, along with articles about the Jungle scene and the covers of I.D magazine. On one wall, I stencilled some really bad graffiti that said ‘Da Underground.’ I had my tape player and a bong, and my mum didn’t come in without fair warning.
My best friend at the time surprised me on my birthday with a 12-tape pack of Dreamscape 20 - September 1995 in Nottingham - which contained the amazing Fabio/Grooverider cassette. I think it was side two, Fabio’s side, that began with what I now know to be Drumz ’95. What I remember then, and what I still feel now every time I play the record, is just how otherworldly it sounded, brutally and unrelentingly pushing forward. I was transfixed, and rinsed side two until it was just a muffled shadow of its former self.
The years went by, and I lost the tape and moved on. I never forgot the track though, but just assumed I would never find it again, knowing neither its name or who it was by. It was only about five years ago, by now used to searching for and finding elusive tracks, that I had the bright (but slowly realised) idea of searching the Fabio set on Youtube. There it was, complete with a tracklist... A sense of joy and “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” Washed over me. Doc Scott. Drumz ’95.
Drumz ’95? It all fell into place. Over the choppy, stabbing breaks, a voice repeats in an urgent, chant-like fashion, that one single word - “drums”. However, as a teenager, that is not what I heard. As the ghostly, echo-chamber synth falls in beneath the beat, I was convinced that someone was saying ‘Bwan.’ Jamaican patois aggressively shouted over the track, I reasoned, make perfect sense. What did it mean? I didn’t know. It just made the track harder. Try listening to it now and not hearing ‘Bwan.’ I don’t think you’ll be able to…sorry about that.
The track was very important at the time, influencing many other artists in the way they used breaks, and it was also released at the very beginning of ‘Tech-Step’ playing a large role in popularising that style. I didn’t know any of this, but it doesn’t surprise me - it sounds like a landmark record, and still stands out as a very powerful piece of music.
However, it's uniqueness, for me, is also a bit of a problem. As I went from teenage tape collector in my bedroom, to record collector and finally DJ, whenever I play Jungle sets I never know quite when to drop it. It's always in my bag, but it isn’t by any means a party record. Its not a banger, or a dance floor stomper either - its just too dark, too inward looking, too difficult to unlock. It reminds me of Brutalism, Constructivism, high rises, Dystopian futures and automated factories in Soviet Russia.
I get all this from Drumz ’95, and more. I can never fully put into words the feelings and emotions, the shiver down my spine I get when those first stark breaks kick in. But suffice to say, it takes me somewhere else every time, like all the best music should. It takes me to a time when I would rewind the tape to the start for the hundredth time, and bathe in Doc Scotts eerie, merciless masterpiece.