Nargile Lounge has introduced a new format to liven up their
weekly lineup. Wednesdays now feature “Contact,” a night of drum ‘n’ bass music sponsored by Urbana-Champaign Drum ‘n’ Bass (UCDNB). Since opening, the bar has experimented with bringing niche music (indie rock, house and various international dance musics) to its doors.
Drum ‘n’ bass (also referred to as D&B, drum & bass, or jungle) is a subgenre of electronic music known for its ferocious basslines and frantic percussion. The obligitory use, or misuse, of sub bass often makes the music seem aggressive and masculine. The antithesis to sugary-sweet electronic musics such as trance and house. Drum ‘n’ bass is emotional music. It can be raw and abrasive or quite the opposite, light and funky.
Unlike most other subgenres of electronic dance, it lacks the steady, repetitive beat. The groove of drum ‘n’ bass comes from its breakbeats. The term “breakbeat” is derived from funk and disco, in which dancers were encouraged to let loose during the percussion-only section of the track. More recently, modern technology allowed for the creation of loops, which in turn spawned the idea of looping breaks into a full song. With the standard tempo of a track ranging from 160-180 beats per minute, this is music that would not exist without digital aid. A human drummer would find it near impossible to sustain the inside ryhthms at such a speed for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, the appropriate philosophy behind drum ‘n’ bass is to embrace technology and continually strive for innovation and change. By incorporating a wide range of influences, including the broken-beat funk of James Brown and dub-plates of old reggae records, newer drum ‘n’ bass has done exceptionally well at incorporating hip-hop MCs and jazz into the mix. The UK has been almost universally accepted as the birthplace of drum ‘n’ bass, with pioneers such as Goldie, Roni Size and LTJ Bukem, but artists can be found on any corner of the globe.
“What I like is that there’s so much energy. The music is really satisfying and it makes me feel good,” says local drum ‘n’ bass supporter Reuben Mele.
The basement of Nargile is warm and inviting. Flavored hookahs and arcade games keep the customers happy, and the aquarium above the bar radiates with a soft glow as the neon lights by the dancefloor burst in unpredictable directions. The rumbling of the bass shakes the floor beneath everyone’s feet. Most fans are there to genuinely experience an intimate connection between the DJ, audience and music.
“I like it, it’s a change,” says bartender Rollins Duckwitz. Duckwitz feels the new musical alternative will provide for a better atmosphere, and hopes to see attendance increase over the next few months.
The introduction of “Contact” was primarily the work of Nargile employee Michael Raphael Diggs. Diggs enlisted the help of UCDNB, which began as a small group of friends playing records for each other. Their passion towards the music culminated in the website UCDNB.com, an outlet for the junglist ethos in C-U. Since launching in Aug. 2004, it has become an gathering spot for the drum ‘n’ bass culture, with news, a message board, music recommendations, event listings and their own house parties.
Since day one, Diggs understood that the support and approval of local drum ‘n’ bass DJ’s was essential. Good DJ’s and good music would attract other local supporters of the drum ‘n’ bass scene, who would serve as the lifeblood of his new night. Naturally, the man Diggs turned to was Armands Revelins, aka DJ Geist. A long-time supporter and veteran of the local drum ‘n’ bass scene, Revelins brought to the table what could have taken months for Diggs to accomplish. In a short matter of time, the two formed a very sensible working relationship in hopes of solidifying the drum ‘n’ bass presence in Champaign-Urbana.
Geist, which means “spirit” or “mind” in German, is a fitting alias. Revelins is in his fifth year of the doctorate program in philosophy
at the U of I. An avid collector of vinyl records, he has amassed an impressive catalogue of bootlegs, white labels and rare out-of-print recordings. The wall of “infinite respect,” dedicated to drum ‘n’ bass’ most influential labels, is his collection’s greatest point of interest.
“I’ve found it worthwhile and interesting to track the history of certain producers and labels. Hearing how a producer wrote a song on synthesizers and equipment that by today’s standards is considered cumbersome, and comparing it to efforts by the same or other producers on very advanced and current computers and gear is fascinating,” admits Revelins.
“It’s not always the case that the more recent stuff is an improvement. In a way, when producers weren’t overwhelmed with possibilities, they managed to write songs that evoked different kinds of moods and attitudes quite clearly. Collecting records is a means for comparing the development and elaboration of styles and expressions.”
Although this is not the first time drum ‘n’ bass has been introduced to Nargile, Revelins expects “Contact” to be successful. Attendance has increased steadily, and Revelins acknowledges that word of mouth has been key in keeping the culture alive. “There was drum ‘n’ bass in C-U before ‘Contact,’ and there will be drum ‘n’ bass in C-U afterwards.”
‘Contact’ goes down from 9pm till close every Wednesday night at the the lower level of Nargile in downtown Champaign. For more information on drum ‘n’ bass Bass music or to get involved, visit www.ucdnb.com.