How Chase and Status are bringing back 90s rave culture
For those of us who like our tunes at 174 bpm, it's hard not to feel just a little bit jealous of ravers who grew up in the 90s. It's often revered as being a kind of golden age for raving and is generally considered as the time when drum and bass was born. Leading lights of the scene like Goldie, Shy FX and the “one they call” Andy C where just starting their esteemed careers as top selectas and producers. You only need to go so far as Googling “90s rave” to find 1000s of articles, documentaries and pictures which depict a kind of golden era in underground music, with unreal illegal parties the norm and insane club nights like the RAM residency at the END.
Fast forward to 2019 and if you’re into drum and bass then it would be hard to miss London based DJ/producers Saul Milton and Will Kennard aka Chase and Status killing the scene with their Rtrn II Jungle project. The duo announced their latest endeavour in the latter part of 2018 and since then have delivered a brand-new album, a UK tour sell out tour and headline performances at UK and international festivals with whole Rtrn II Jungle stages.
Both Milton and Kennard have said that they were inspired to start making drum and bass by the old sounds of jungle in the 1990s. As such the project is a bit more than just a new album and is instead intended as something of a cultural movement, paying homage to the music which was born out of wavy nights in Caribbean dance halls. As someone who’s been to quite a few of their shows and followed the whole thing with some anticipation, I think that they’ve been pretty successful in bringing back some elements of the old school to the modern-day ravers. The music, the shows and extra projects that the group have done are different from the norm and the do the old scene true justice, so here’s why I think Rtrn II Jungle represents a Rtrn to the 90s as a whole.
Why’s it even called jungle? It’s a question I get asked all the time by normal people and is typically followed by being told to turn that shit down by an angry flatmate who’s been desperately trying to sleep for the last half an hour. For many brits, the musical term jungle may well be synomous with a particularly yellow Sascha Baron Cohen tearing up the streets of the Staines massive, miming General Levy’s 1994 hit Incredible (Wicked Wicked, Jungle is massive). For others, jungle represents the early stages of the music that we now know as drum and bass, Shy FX – Original Nuttah, Origin Unknown- Valley of the Shadows and DJ Zinc – Super Sharp Shooter to name but a few.
In the words of Chase and Status themselves, Jungle is the name given to the music which came out of the UK in the 90s, taking influences from Reggae, Hardcore and Acid House. In a radio 1 Extra Interview with David Rodigan, the pair explain that it was essentially a culmination of all these different genres, which came to form tunes resembling the drum and bass we know today but with more of a dancehall and reggae kind of feel. As drum and bass evolved the dancehall influence became less and less apparent with more techy and liquid influences coming through. To get a bit of a feel for the difference between 90s jungle and more modern drum and bass, try listening to Shy FX – Original Nuttah and then Love to Me by Dimension, there is a pretty stark difference in style and all around feel.
With the tunes on their new album Milton and Kennard have really captured the feeling of old school jungle. Samples for the album were all recorded in Kingston Jamaica, with local artists giving the vocals on the tacks a real reggae/dub kind of vibe. The tracks also depart from the cleaner liquid type sound of modern DnB adding more texture for an old school dirty sound. Pretty much every track on the album features drum chops and syncopated loops, in true 90s style.
Raves in the 1990s were famous for two things: outright madness and a serious aversion to the law. To explain this second point further, in 1994 the UK government passed the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. The law controversially allowed police officers to shut down large gatherings where music characterised by ‘repetitive beats’ was being played. The aim of the law was to ban squatting and free parties where our old mates mandy and molly were widespread. Because of this, raves were driven underground and were shrouded in secrecy. They were often announced via pirate radio or by texting a number provided by the organiser to get a location.
Obviously, it would be a bit unrealistic to expect a huge act like Chase and Status to host illegal parties in an effort to make their shows more ‘authentic’, but with their Notting Hill shows there were elements of this. If you follow the group’s Instagram page you’ll see that there’s a number which you can WhatsApp to get added to a list of people who receive texts about their shows. Call me a susceptible to clever advertising, but I thought that having to text a number to get details of their Notting Hill free party was quite a sick touch. Sure, they did post the set times on social media, but getting to watch Chase and Status + Andy C for free is a bit unheard nowadays, where free parties are less synonymous with big artists.
Anyone who’s watched People Just do Nothing, and loves throwing their Ks up for big daddy Grindah (if you’re reading this you almost definitely have), will of seen some of the more interesting quirks of pirate radio. Unlicensed stations where big in the 90s, especially for playing jungle and rave music which didn’t really appear on registered stations. Pirate shows were famous for great tunes, MCs going mad, missed calls and tacky websites. This is something that Chase and Status have recreated masterfully with their Rtrn radio. Check out the website here because it is sick.
To finish up, I genuinely believe that the drum and bass flag bearers have brought a bit of the 90s back to the modern-day rave scene. The music on the album truly harks back to a golden era of UK rave music with production techniques that make it feel truly authentic. That being said, it's not just the music that they achieve this with, but also all the little touches of how they’ve gone about the whole project. Big up Will and Saul, Junglist Massive!