Jungle in its purest form was one of history’s more short-lived musical movements. It first emerged from the white heat of the UK rave explosion around 1991-92 as one flavour among many – often referred to at the time as “jungle tekno” – but in late 1993 it achieved its final form. Having continually sped up and become more complex, its sampled hip-hop breakbeats had completely cut loose from the regular pounding of techno kickdrums, adopting wild patterns closer to a feral cyborg jazz than to any existing dance music form, and its vast bass tones influenced by Jamaican dub and dancehall became overwhelming.
For two years, a slew of some of the most radical electronic music ever made poured out of the bedrooms and studios of Britain’s cities. The combination of furious, anarchic rave energy, misuse of new technology and dazzling sophistication has arguably never been equalled – and its influence was everywhere, from more mainstream forms like trip-hop to the electronic avant-garde. But by the end of 1995, jungle was more or less over, replaced by its equally uptempo but slicker offspring, drum’n’bass, and its less manic first cousin, UK garage.
A few diehards maintained the aesthetic, but after that two-year heyday, it really only existed as a flavour once again – an influence in other sounds, a scene no more. However, that flavour proved extremely persistent. Over the decades there have been multiple waves of jungle revivalism, as various scenes from left-field electronica to dubstep and grime rediscovered the power of jungle’s rolling beats and bass. Now, as we noted in our 2021 guide to genres, its influence is felt more strongly than ever before.
One of the most important DJs in the world right now is Sherelle, a Londoner whose sets elegantly weave together threads of rave history – with the complex hybridity of jungle holding everything together. The new London jazz generation which grew up on pirate radio is incorporating it, with the work of drummer/composer/producer Moses Boyd being the epitome. Big drum ’n’ bass names like Chase & Status, Breakage and High Contrast have been on the revivalist tip solidly for a couple of years. And producers from the “post dubstep” generation like Etch and Sully are pushing the sonics and rhythms of jungle into whole new shapes.
All together it makes for a heady stew, with the tropes of jungle appearing at a whole variety of tempos, and in everything from deranged, transgressive electronica to warm street soul. We’ve tried to join all these dots in our new playlist – from Moscow to Miami and Exeter to Estonia, these artists are coming from every possible type of scene and background, yet are bound together by the enduring power of that mad, magical period from 1993 to 1995.
Rave on to this playlist right now.
Cover Credit: Pim Myten / Unsplash
Writer | Joe Muggs
Joe Muggs is a writer, DJ and curator of many years standing, covering both mainstream and underground. His book 'Bass, Mids, Tops', covering decades of UK bass music, is out now via Strange Attractor / MIT Press, and you can subscribe to his newsletter at tinyletter.com/joemuggs.