DBridge & Instra:Mental Present Autonomic - FabricLive.50As traffic police warn us, speed kills. However, alongside trying to ram the point home with pictures of mangled chassis and ambulances, maybe they should also play your average drum & bass compilation to anyone they pull over. For drum & bass has also been a victim of an obsession with acceleration, with producers ratcheting things up faster-Faster-FASTER into a pile-up of interchangeable tracks on the dance floor. In doing so, they've arguably reduced a lot of the music's core audience to exactly the sort of boy racers who like to pimp their rides to ridiculous extremes; only here its daft bass drops sellotaped on to secondhand sampled breaks rather than ludicrous wheel trims fastened to wobbly and unroadworthy motors.
As a former member of Bad Company, D-Bridge has something of a track record when it comes to pedal-to-the-metal drum & bass himself, while Instra:mental's first tunes around the turn of the century had something of the techstep edge that would later be bent out of recognition by those following behind. As they've grown older, though, both D-Bridge and Instra:mental have been unwilling to try and keep up with their younger counterparts in terms of speed alone, preferring instead to slow down and take something of a turn backwards into the more experimental ethos of mid-'90s drum & bass characterised by Photek et al.
Central to the D-Bridge and Instra:mental ethic is a self-imposed "speed limit" of 170 BPM, a guideline that allows for a broader perspective of sound. Not that things even really get that fast on their Fabriclive mix anyway. Origin Unknown went down "a long dark tunnel" on "Valley of the Shadows" back in 1993, but this is more like a slow cruise around the city streets. The low bass of tracks such as Instra:mental 's own "From the Start" rumbles like an engine throughout the mix and the minimal clicks of Code 3's "Living Proof" are CCTV cameras searching the skyline; while soulful acapellas occasionally float in like pirate radio frequencies. It's also a mix pregnant with suspense, the snatch of guitar in Dan Habarnam's "Nu Este Roz" or the exiguous vocals of Pearson Sound's "Down With You" provide teasing glimpses to lead you around the next corner. Autonomic's labyrinthine sound may be disorientating to navigate at first, but by easing off the gas D-Bridge and Instra:mental have ironically streaked far ahead of most of their contemporaries.