Review Summary: Dear Diary: My Form & Function Tour
I was a happy freshman of the Electronic Music School (EMS). I had taken the obligatory course on DnB for first-year students, TRONICS98: Rhythms & Shapes: An Introduction To Drum & Bass
, of which a man named Professor Dev was the teacher. Professor Dev was hardcore. Starting early September, we had until the exam in mid-December to listen to just about 90 DnB albums and compilations, the quarter of which we were asked to analyse and review in homeworks. One of the highlights of this class was a visit we paid to the Photek Laboratory, which featured for the first time that semester - how lucky my folks and I were - the Form & Function Tour
. We went there in October and we had a final paper to write about it. It is one of the best things I have done in my years at the Electronic Music School.
The Tour would begin in early afternoon on that day. If I recall, I think it lasted approximately two hours. And I mean two hours of cutting edge and un-like-any-thing drum & bass that enchanted and initiated our virgin ears. Of course the whole class was there, including the Professor. You didn't want to miss that - and not just because of the final paper.
I was first impressed when we entered the Photek Laboratory. It reminded me on the one hand of a beautiful planetarium, for its noble pensive character and its fascination about harmony and hugeness, and on the other hand of something like an insectary, because DnB specimens over there were studied and manipulated as if they were living beings. Even though it was quiet in the main hall, you would always hear some work-in-progress DnB piece blasting from afar. At that time, the Photek Laboratory was recently built in the urban landscape, as modern as it could be and filled with informative posters about DnB and electronic music in general. Epic events were held in one specific section of the building at least once or twice a month. It was a concrete and elegantly architectural Resident Advisor.
Our guide for the Tour quickly arrived and spoke to us:
"Greetings and welcome to the Form & Function Tour
. My name is Rupert Parkes. Today you will experience drum & bass like you have never heard it anywhere else. Each piece of the Tour has its own room and its own theme. We will proceed in each and every one of them. It is yours to discover what is hidden in those rooms. You will wear 3D glasses for the panoramic screens as well as earplugs, because the volume and the frequencies will be extreme."
Well fair enough. He went on and added: "Drum & Bass is all about rhythms & shapes. More than a framework, it adds a dimension - a thickness - to any matter and it plays with the measures of things. It is first and foremost a fuel."
We then followed him. And so here is the recount of the Form & Function Tour
I made in my final paper:
The Knitevision Room
: Obscure & dense & brooding. Out from the ninja-moving shadows, a throbbing kick breaks through. Drums start whirling like staves of the mind, absolutely crisp and unstoppable. The bassline emerges, fades away, reappears, vanishes, echoes through-and-through from the deep, as quick as a ghost, and like a mysterious silhouette that takes off around us in bigger-than-life heartbeats, invisible though almost palpable. 1Thessalonians: 5:2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
Indeed we are in the Drum & Bass Monastery, very dim lights open at Compline, for the Knitevision
utters the word of the grand abyss and slips its discreet but strong way into our silent corridors. Drums play swift & to the point; the misty bass is awake for the vigil. It is a chameleon-like and ontological piece that offers an answer to the conundrum: Why is there something rather than nothing?
The Lightening Room
: Electrical and dizzy drums. Each time one of them hits the floor, colourful lightning strikes and sprinkles the vast area. Unlike the Knitevision
, the Lightening
is a playground of brief flashes. My head spins under the magical and tireless weather of the track. I meet a DnB Jewelcrafter, who lends me some of the vivid precious stones that fly around him in circular motion. I try to catch one or two with my hands, however they escape any grip. They have the spark of lasers, as well as the knockout force of rather sophisticated Bigfoot Trucks. Drums & Diamonds alike, Bass & Rubies altogether parade over us in a heavy fashion.
The Santiago Room
: And here we cast off! Clouds break into pieces. Our bassline literally conjures up the sun: boiling hot, weighty, encompassing, slow-burner of afternoons. As for the drums, just look at our boat made for the Great Cruises: rock-solid, refined, definite, bursting like a frank and joyful laugh. The Santiago
is as bright and neat as anything. Everything about it is thick. It vibrates with confidence. Over the sea of idle beaches we go navigate and explore. Our boat produces waves rather than it is the waves that come at us. Pirates dare not a thing in a hundred years; mermaids keep quiet; sea monsters hurt their ugly heads that bump into our shell. Track is green, blue, white, and wears sharp sunglasses.
The Seven Samurai Room
: But a more serious matter awaits. The duel is about to begin in this deserted courtyard of lost glories. I must fight the ominous and faceless visitor who has come from the void, for I am the DnB Keeper who seals it. Basslines float around like dust clouds or rusty bits and pieces. Sounds of the Samurai Age emanate as though they were sung by austere birds perched on broken pillars. The Seven Samurai Room
is clinical, metallic, resonant, chaotic too; it honors its DnB duty of living fully
in the spaces and giving them a rhythm or two. Here, the drums embody a thousand swords that hit each other with complete precision and harmony; they tell a rather pummeling tale. Piercing right through the atmosphere makes their whip-strike harder than the most violent winds.
The Margin '98 Room
: Rebuild! Reconstruct! Reform! Titan-pounding drums, with sticky and tight glue-basslines who lay the foundations, erect and revive the places that have haunted our dreams. At the speed of light, and through a formidable kaleidoscope of space and time, the Margin '98 Room
extracts, stretches, assembles, shapes anew. I see the Tower of Babel suddenly DnB'd high up in the skies, the Library of Alexandria DnB'd back from the very fire that destroyed it, the whole Atlantis DnB'd out of the deep water, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World all freakin' DnB'd from scratch into a splendid return to form. It sounds like the earth becoming one big ball of planetary drums & basses.
The Rings Around Saturn Room
: Enter the unknown Garden of Saturn. Let us discover a flora & a fauna of cosmic qualities. I feel I'm in an important expedition, wearing a helmet with the desire to remove it so I can breathe the New Air. So far everything is harmless
, I say to my ship. I will collect some more samples. I can't even describe the colours.
And so, no maps are yet drawn of this land; our compasses look as confused as we are. But how superb the Garden is, shaken by smooth DnB in both exotic and luxurious manners! It foams with the intensity of a Coke & Menthos experience. Rainy, lushy, fizzy, fleshy drums swing around with sinuousness; they incarnate what was once - and still is actually - unknown matter for us. Welcoming basslines walk pacifically as if they were inoffensive animals. Strings and windwhispers create new sunrises and new sunsets on this track which is neither day or night.
The Water Margin Room
: At first, an eerie and humid tension. And then, a release of anthemic and temple-in-the-jungle proportions. The Water Margin Room
takes us in its grasp like a network of ivy. It is the ultimate dance adventure of the Form & Function Tour
, set in both a wonderful and toxic vegetation. The liquid drums tighten up and contract as much as they spatter and accelerate, their dynamics resembling a dinosaur who chases us and smashes the clustered surrounding trees and unfortunate frogs. The wild bassline enters the ear in the shape of multiple gigantic raindrops. Halfway through the Water Margin
event, I can hear a river murmur its secrets - I can sense its enchantress pull and its terrific attraction, but I fall. I get up. I fall again. I get up once more and jump away like a DnB Tarzan. My mind is spinning, only I am dancing nonetheless.
The UFO Room
: A feverish night of December. Here in the forest it is not pitch-black. Puzzling lights. There is something out there. The atmosphere is so tense and full of cold shivers. I hear voices. There is no doubt about it – there’s some type of strange flashing red light ahead. /// Sir, it's yellow. /// I saw a yellow tinge in it, too. Weird! It appears to be maybe moving a little bit this way? It’s brighter than it has been.
At every turn, at every cross I feel we are getting nearer & nearer. But are we? The forest is weighty of ambient enigmas. We’re picking up heat reflection off the trees. [...] Looking directly overhead one can see an opening in the trees, plus some freshly broken pine branches on the ground underneath. Looks like some of ‘em came off about 15 to 20 feet up.
The bass whirs like a nightly creature. I feel we are making history. Right on this position here. Straight ahead, in between the trees – there it is again. Watch – straight ahead, off my flashlight there, sir. There it is. /// Hey, I see it too.
The drums appear at last, nervous, paranoid, jerky, along with an ever so shadowy bassline, both engaged in a worrying race as if the former represented us frenetic humans and the latter embodied the elusive UFO - human drums & alien bass. Right on this position here. Straight ahead, in between the trees – there it is again. Watch – straight ahead, off my flashlight there, sir. There it is. /// Hey, I see it too.
Sometimes I discern a frightening and otherworldly sound, rawhrowhrawhrowh
, mutter in the forest. Bass weaves in & out, twists & reverbs. Drums hammer their adrenaline rush. Just jumped up towards seven tenths. /// Seven tenths? Right there in the centre? /// Uh huh. [...] We’re getting very positive readings.
Winds & cracks make the soundtrack of this cinematic suspense. Something of the Unknown is out there. It's coming this way. It's definitely coming this way.