Despite running a dnb label, I listened to less jungle and dnb than ever before in 2021. There’s simply too many other styles out there (ambient / R&B / house / etc) that excite me. Nonetheless, I do keep my ear to the ground whenever possible, and when something really catches my ear, it’ll end up on this page. So here are my top releases of 2021 within the wide world of jungle and DNB. As it turns out, many of them coming from outside of the scene.
Brogan Bentley • Diapason Rex LP
It can be hit or miss when a traditionally non-drum & bass artist jumps into the genre. In this case it’s a clear hit. The opening track ‘Ecstacy’ (below) reduces the music to its basics with a simple, amen based drum loop, and sends it to soaring heights with his vocals. An instant highlight when I first heard it. The rest of the album, filled with inventive soundscapes and melodics, make it my jungle album of the year. Released on one of my favorite labels, Leaving Records in LA, which has a wide range of creative output.
Nia Archives • Headz Gone West EP
Here’s something extremely fresh: jungle meeting traditional r&b. (Well that’s how I interpreted it at the time. Cool to see she is the new queen of jungle in 2022) You get a lot of pop-oriented vocals in dnb but not necessarily in the r&b style, so this was a breath of fresh air. Clearly a product of the extremely rich soul scene in the UK, she has remixed other r&b songs with Congo Natty in tow. Thankfully, she continues releasing more music in this style and has built up a nice little catalog. Self-released on her Bandcamp from Manchester. PS stay tuned for my r&b meets jungle mix on v-day 2022!
Fanu • Truth & Lies EP
Anything Fanu drops is a must listen. In recent years he has been making strong moves on Metalheadz, a long overdue recognition of his production talents. But his work on local Finnish label Straight Up Breakbeat is equally as impressive. His signature crunchy drums and cold, dirty basslines are present throughout. Highlight: Mental Aerobics
TMSV • Jungle Selections Vol. 1 & 2
This talented Dutch producer has been dropping his ‘Jungle’ series for a few years now, and 2021 brings two vinyl pressings of his favorites from that series. Not strictly a jungle producer, his productions stand out from the pack with their exquisite sound design and steady variations. I would have picked almost an entirely different suite of songs, but everything here is a worth a listen. Lots of ear candy and wild amen rinsing within.
Illuvia • Iridescence of Clouds
Illuvia is a master of ambient and has released more music than any other artist I can think of. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has reached the 100 album mark. Although he doesn’t release much jungle/dnb these days, it appears that he’s saved some of his best work for this album. The ambient textures dominate with ghostly filtered jungle rhythms float by like clouds for a stunning effect. Released on ASIP in LA.
Pink Pantheress • time machine
Along with Nia Archives, part of the new and very welcome jungle meets r&b trend coming out of the UK this year. Except this is a fully formed album, with at least half of it being jungle/drum & bass. Her high pitched voice sounds somewhat childlike but it’s pleasant to listen to. Closed out tactfully with an Adam F cover/remix. Let’s hope this trend continues. It’s a shame she deleted her Bandcamp (she’s blowing up), but you can listen on all other platforms here.
Kid Lib • DAT043
There is something about Kid Lib that sets him apart from the field. I’m not sure but I think it has something to do with his signal processing chain or outboard effects. Everything in his production sounds so clean, bringing to life and clarity all the samples and sounds of old. It’s like hearing original jungle in super HD for the first time ever. Released on Harmony’s Deep Jungle label.
Alix Perez • Atlas 1
Alix does it again. Well he always does it. But this time impressively so on his collaboration with Monty on the highlight of his 1985 label compilation. Possible drum & bass (not jungle) song of the year for me. His Burning Babylon single is also worthy of high praise as a dirty dancefloor highlight of 2021.
Necrotype • Zellandine EP
Am I allowed to list something from my own label here? Because I just did 🙂 Necrotype is one of the most consistent producers in the jungle scene, with a very rich history of releases and a high level of quality control. This release recalls the early days of breakbeat hardcore and trance, showcasing the sound that just preceded – and eventually became – jungle music. The title track will take you to another world; enchanting dance music to lose yourself to in the rave, released on Mettāsonic from Taiwan.
Here’s a mix I made that weaves a lot of these songs together.
I hope you enjoy it. And stay tuned for the 2022 mix!