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Drum and Bass Compilation
No U Turn presents "Torque"
by: Zero Sharp

This is the second of the drum and bass retrospective reviews, and this time we'll be revisiting the dance floors of 1997, and the starts of the style which came to be known as techstep. Starting around 1996, No U-Turn and Emotif, among other labels, helped cause a large step in the evolution of drum and bass. Their producers started stripping down the hardstep style, shifting the focus away from the jungle/reggae samples and putting it more on futuristic, techno-inspired sounds, and making the sounds much darker and harder lead to the installation of this completely new form of drum and bass on dancefloors, that of techstep. Many people were turned off from this new style, in its stark contrast to the fun-loving jungle that had ruled dancefloors up until then, however, the start of techstep also marked an inflow of people into minimal techno, noise, punk, and other noise types of music. At the beginning of techstep's explosion, a Bristol label, No U-Turn, released a compilation of what is considered to be some of the darkest, hardest techstep out there. Headed by Nico, DJ Trace, and Ed Rush, "Torque" is a masterpiece of minimal, rolling drum and bass. The transition in styles can still be felt here; "Damn Son" is essentially hardstep with a evil playfulness, however, the ideas of the new style are all there. "Proton" is still one of the most dark, hard-hitting tracks around; the drop to the amen breaks is almost a religious experience. The pace of the breaks, also, lends itself to the rolling feel of the track; the amens do not dominate here; they creep along with the track, something else rarely felt in darker drum and bass. "Torque" is stripped down techstep; there's nothing aside the mood-setting, unsettling atmospheric, and the occasional reminder that the track could explode at any second from hoover hits. Not since Techno Animal, where the samples and similarities likely came from, has anyone used bass stabs so well to add that much hard darkness to a track. The sheer anguish and feeling of being sucked into an empty abyss in "Squadron" is incredible. This album has been described as gut-wrenching, and that might not be too far from the truth. That being said, though, this album is another must-have for those who like their music that way. It's becoming rather hard to find now a days, however, the rewards to finding it are very rewarding.


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