Say it to yourself. Go on. Weird isn’t it? Just looking at it you realise, quite frankly, it’s a fucking ridiculous term. Not merely on the basis someone pushed those words together in the first place; someone then coined it to describe a genre of drum & bass. Neurofunk sounds like a lounge band for brain surgeons. Telling the average joe you listen to such a thing is akin to telling them you’re into music called dwarf gabba. Or, even worse, minimal techno. Call it age or whatever but I’m a sucker for a bit of nostalgia. Of late I’ve been revisiting some neurofunk tunes from around 2005 – 2008 whilst rooting through my records. After listening to them, unscrewing my face and wiping away a solitary salty nostalgic tear I began to wonder, well, what the fuck happened?
Now this isn’t a rant on how much better the music was years ago. Ok, it sort of is. But not in a jaded-scenester-moaning-on-Twitter sort of way. I hope. I am, however, more curious to how this particular corner of drum & bass has developed to become, in my opinion at least, quite stale and very fucking sterile. Listening to neurofunk in 2014 one thing is abundantly clear. The producers that make it are technically skilled at what they do: creating intrinsically complex beats with an ear for sound design that can’t be matched. There’s definitely no denying that.
Though for all the technical wizardry and plug in wankery on display it’s come at the expense of the tunes themselves. Now it seems more about who can make the most masculine and overly manly sound possible. Some tracks are like hearing two trash compactors having a heated argument inside a large metal bin. I checked out a bunch of neurofunk tracks recently; they weren’t all that distinguishable from each other. Tinny, metallic, over compressed music soon begins to get tiresome, especially as it appears to be a default setting for some of it at the moment. Tell me many how many producers are currently aping Phace & Misanthrop’s Neosignal ‘sound’? Don’t say you haven’t noticed more than one producer replicating Mefjus’s style with almost alarming similarity? Venture back a little bit and you’ll find music as rowdy as its current incarnation yet more subtle in its execution.
A producer who stood out for me was Chook. Hailing from Luxembourg, he ran the label Full Force Recordings and marked his card at the more bass driven end of the neuro spectrum. Check out his tracks Retrograde, Trainspot or his killer collaboration with Phace, Sculptured, which you can listen to below.
Before pairing up, Phace & Misanthrop caught your attention without resorting to sounds you’d hear at a Transformers gang bang. Misanthrop’s Viperfish is his best and most obvious suggestion. I recommend his remix of Noisia & Phace – Outsource too. Seek out Phace’s material during his days on Subtitles (when Phace was actually two people) such as Alive or Oceans Of Emptiness, not to mention the moody yet atmospheric brilliance of Cold Champagne. If you don’t feel fucking cool listening to that then you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near anything. Then there’s Noisia. Undoubtedly some of the finest exponents of the sound, you’d be fool not to either reacquiant or familiarise yourself with some of their early catalogue. From cuts like Hubcap to the tune 95% of neurofunk producers have been trying (and ultimately failing) to emulate: Meditation. Majestic in its delivery, it’s a template for how, when done right, neurofunk can still inspire awe instead of it soundtracking an oncoming apocalypse. Check Meditation in all its seven minute glory. It’ll be the best thing you do all day.
Neurofunk plays its part in the continued evolutionary nature of drum & bass; why it’s progression has seen it stand resolute while others fall away. It was (and still is to a degree) the next stage of what Nico, Fierce, Trace and Ed Rush & Optical achieved when they pioneered Techstep in the mid to late 90’s. Progression in music is something I fully endorse. At present it’s merely giving us soulless tracks lacking in groove. Chucking in everything but the kitchen sink only leaves you with a fucked kitchen. I know, that analogy doesn’t really make any sense. What I’m saying is maybe lets try stripping some of it back and making it sound like music again rather than just chin stroking sound masturbation?
Just a thought.