In London, between 1997 and 1998, a dark drum and bass subgenre called Neurofunk emerged as a Techstep development. It fuses aspects of funk styles that were harsher, darker, and more complex, as well as Techno, House, and Jazz.
How Neurofunk Started
As artists drifted from Dancehall, Electro, and Hip Hop (characteristics of Jungle music), they developed more gloomy and complex sounds. This style was more percussion-based and featured a dark and distorted bassline. The name Neurofunk suggests a relaxed and ambient style of music. However, this is not the case at all. When it first emerged, Neurofunk, also called “Techstep,” produced the most intense audible impact possible.
In terms of music production, the Neurofunk sound was aggressive and ominous. However, it featured less melodic content and more percussions. The music in this style centers on ominous or funk-driven buildups and breakdowns leading up to techno-infused drops.
After conducting several investigations, Ed-Rush and Optical invented Neurofunk. This was a pivotal moment after the success of their debut single, “Funktion,” which they released in 1997. The group then went on to create “Wormhole,” which is arguably the best Drum & Bass album of all time. The album was the culmination of the sci-fi fantasy universe, with immaculate production and contrasting dark distorted sounds.
Ed Rush and Optical revolutionized the game when they arrived with very different perceptions of what a sonic effect might entail. Everyone wanted to create Drum & Bass music that sounded like them. Thus, companies like Prototype Records and Renegade Hardware adopted these sounds and produced modern music.
The early Neurofunk era was characterized by songs like “Planet Dust” by Bad Company, “Phantom Force” by Digital & Spirit, and “Roni Size – Brown Paper Bag.” Drum & Bass began to draw influence from its form rather than other genres throughout the Neurofunk era. Yet, the gloomy and distorted tones of the genre created a growing divide among club attendees who didn’t like Neurofunk.
Drum & Bass was in an uncomfortable situation after years of both underground and popular success. The genre was dwindling in prominence, and producers and fans were openly rejecting it. The difference between producers and audiences made way for UK Garage or 2-step, which quickly took over radios and clubs.
The main difference between Neurofunk and Techstep is that the former places more of a focus on flowing complex rhythms made up of enhanced and processed sampled breakbeats and percussion, as well as expressive, distorted, filtered, and modulated bass sounds that are layered with rich soundscapes and percussion. “Neurofunk sounds like the organic soundtrack of the nervous system: neurological substances flowing and rushing, causing both deeply mysterious and delicate feelings,” says Kwinten Crauwels, the inventor of Musicmap.
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