Neurofunk: Wikis


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Stylistic origins Drum and Bass, Funk, Techstep, House, Jazz, Techno, Dark ambient
Cultural origins late 1990s in England, Scotland, Europe, USA
Typical instruments Synthesizer Sequencer
Drum machine Sampler
Keyboard Laptop
Mainstream popularity Small
(complete list)
Other topics
Drum and bass artists
Drum and bass record labels

Neurofunk is a subgenre of drum and bass pioneered by producers Ed Rush, Optical and Matrix,[1][2][3] between 1997 and 1998 in London, England as a progression of techstep. It was further developed by juxtaposed elements of heavier and harder forms of funk with multiple influences ranging from techno, house and jazz, distinguished by consecutive stabs over the bassline and rhythmically structured by razor-sharp back beats where highly nuanced, dark ambient production is prominent. The sound of neurofunk's early evolution - when diverging from techstep - can be heard on Ed Rush & Optical's "Funktion" single for V Recordings and on their first album Wormhole for Virus Recordings in 1998.

The first mention of the term was in the book Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture by Simon Reynolds.[3][4] This is where the English music critic coined the name as a result of his personal perception of stylistic shifts in techstep - back beats replacing breakbeats, funk harmonies replacing industrial timbres and lack of emphasis on the drop - by referring to them as, "(Neurofunk) is the fun-free culmination of jungle's strategy of cultural resistance: the eroticization of anxiety".



Psycho album by Phace on Subtitles (2007).

Since the early stages of neurofunk when Optical originated the style with his track "To shape the Future" (Metalheadz/1997), Konflict[2] redefined the sound into a harsher, stripped-down form with a stronger techno influence at the forefront of their tracks such as "The Beckoning" (Renegade Hardware/1999), setting a new standard for upcoming producers to follow suit. In 2002, Sinthetix, Cause 4 Concern, and Silent Witness & Break took Konflict's hard edge, minimalist approach with emphasis on colder, precision beat engineering, harder stabs over the bassline, sharper mixdowns and simultaneously, hastening the advancement of the style's sound design between the periods of 2002 and 2005 along with Gridlok, Corrupt Souls, Noisia, Phace, and The Upbeats. Gridlok, however, worked on sampling big band horn arrangements during his time on Violence Recordings, bridging the gap between the subgenre's techno and jazz influences yet, maintaining the elements of classic neurofunk dissonance and minimalism in his music.

As the subgenre quickly developed during its course with artists starting as purists and later changing their musical direction into broader musical settings, new artists have emerged to fill the vacuum, re-energizing the sound by taking production back to its roots where grittier, dark funk harmonies and wah-wah pedal distortion effects were quite often used upfront on tracks along with neurofunk orientated new labels and internet forums designed to release and promote the music. Between 2005 and 2008, developing artists with small but consistent sets of releases such as Misanthrop, Axiom, Catacomb, Cern, Rregula & Dementia, in combination with DSCI4, Syndrome Audio, Subtitles, SLR, Full Force and Neosignal labels were viewed as the most challenging artists and cutting edge outlets within the scene as the subgenre's first ten-year period came to a closure in 2008.

Between 2007 and 2008, a decade after the pioneering artists first established neurofunk's technical soundscape,[2] the style was enhanced with a series of diverse, forward thinking debut albums set to redefine its concept production with the rough-cut antics of Break The System by Gridlok (Project 51/CD/2007); the minimal techno-funk fueled Psycho by Phace (Subtitles Music/2007); the blending of rhythmic guitar chord progressions on Black Lotus by Mindscape (Citrus Recordings/2007); the melodic experiments of My Light Year by Telemetrik (BSE Recordings/2008), the highly conceptual and intensive Nobody's Out There by The Upbeats (Bad Taste Recordings/2007), and the innovative Black Box singles compilation (Syndrome Audio Recordings/CD/2008), featuring various artists and highlighting remixes by second and third-wave producers, among the second-wave, Phace and Misanthrop contrasting the rhythmic grit of third-wave producers Chook, Dose & Menace.

Silent Witness & Break began producing their groundbreaking tracks when recruited by legendary No U-Turn[3], label founder/producer Nico who released their first singles "Contact" and "Higher Rates" (No U-Turn Recordings/2002 and 2003) with Silent Witness eventually establishing his own DNAudio imprint with partner, DJ Squire as an outlet for his music alongside Break's and Survival's. UK's DNAUDIO crew have since combined both techstep and neurofunk subgenres as their signature approach to drum and bass with Break often using stark, amen influenced breakbeats in his solo tunes. By mid 2008, Silent Witness, Break & Survival released their first album, the epic No U-Turn influenced Hard Times on DNAudio Recordings composed of powerful breakbeats and back beats, upfront low-end basslines and soaring, futuristic production.

Drum & Bass artist, Spor, rose quickly from the ranks and produced clear-sounding, top notch Neurofunk tracks using Fruityloops; he established Lifted Music with Chris Renegade, Ewun, and many others; Lifted Music is known for it's superb production in Neurofunk and Techstep releases. Phace and Misanthrop are still going strong with releases on Neosignal; such as CCTV and Factory 5; establishing the special 'neuro' sound.

Lyrical content

The Creeps album by Ed Rush & Optical on Virus (2000).

As an MC and lyricist, Ryme Tyme personalized the essence of neurofunk as an integral member of Ed Rush & Optical's live, DJ sets and studio sessions. His spoken word flow and fiery, apocalyptic manifestations can be heard on "Resurrection" (produced by Ed Rush, Optical & Ryme Tyme/The Creeps album/Virus Recordings/2000) and "Yes" (produced by Ryme Tyme and Trace/1210 Recordings/2001), "Planet X" (produced by Mindscape/Black Lotus album/Citrus Recordings/2007) and "Tonka" (produced by The Upbeats/Nobody's Out There album/Bad Taste Recordings/2008). His use of certain concepts found in poetic futurism was influential on neurofunk's second-wave MCs, most notable on ex-Sinthetix, MC Mecha's abstract lyrical roundabout drawing comparisons to Ryme Tyme's assonance and aesthetics.

As a producer, Ryme Tyme's combined vision and recording techniques are highlighted by his set-style track "We Enter" (produced by Ryme Tyme/Optical RMXS/No U-Turn Recordings/1999), helping to establish the subgenre as an entity to drum and bass along with "Payback" (produced by Ryme Tyme/DSCI4 Records/1999), "White Lightning" (produced by Optical & Ryme Tyme/The Creeps album/Virus Recordings/2000), "Abyss Remix" (produced by Ryme Tyme & Nasis/1210 Recordings/2001) and "Lightsleeper" (produced by Ryme Tyme, Matrix & Fierce/C4CLTD/2002). Some of these tracks were compiled for the album entitled Ryme Tyme (1210 Recordings/2001), consisting mainly of his 12-inch singles for 1210 Recordings.

Origins and influences

Besides the subgenre being a divergent of techstep, some of its origins and influences can be traced back to the late 1960s to mid 1970s period of trumpeter Miles Davis: his blending of jazz, rock and funk genres; the switching of his trumpet on to wah-wah pedals and marshall stacks and the use of distortion as a new method of expression for his distinctive modes and phrasing; pioneering a new, progressive sound and style based on African American musical traditions such as call-and-response.

His drummers during this period - Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, and Al Foster - made use of polyrhythmic, upfront playing techniques in interaction with a dynamic system of sharp trumpet modes and riff-based, sheets of sound of heavy rock guitar rhythmic patterns, improvised jazz solos and deep funk basslines, paving the way for new electronic, trance induced, instrumental dance music of the 1980s and 1990s. Some of Miles Davis' seminal albums from this period, In a Silent Way (1969), On The Corner (1972) and Get Up With It (1975) were forerunners of contemporary, experimental funk music and influential on early neurofunk tracks such as "Bluesy Baby" (Ed Rush & Optical remix) by Ram Jam World (Higher Education Records/1998), "Syringe" by Ed Rush & Optical (Virus Recordings/2000) and "Serum" (Matrix remix) by Outfit (pseudonym for Dom & Roland, Fierce and Optical; Metro Recordings/1999).

Matrix & Fierce - "Tightrope/Climate" 12" single on Metro (2000).
"We Enter" (Optical Remixes) by Ryme Tyme on No U-Turn (1999).

Neurofunk is mainly characterized by mid-range, synthesizer sounds intertwined with an opening and closing filter on a funk influenced bassline, giving a similar effect to a wah-wah pedal on a electric bass. The concept of infused funk music, distortion on bass and brass instrumentation was innovated by Miles Davis during his late 1960s period after listening to The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Sly & the Family Stone, becoming a significant feature in his development of jazz fusion. The pioneering ideas implemented by Miles Davis as a stylist, to best expose his input on prototype style neurofunk, are the stop-time driven beats on "Black Satin" from On The Corner and the sustained, low pitched drones on "Rated X" from Get Up With It, running parallels to "Dozer" by Ed Rush & Optical from Wormhole and "Climate" by Matrix & Fierce from their 12" single on Metro Recordings, respectively .

Another influence on Ed Rush & Optical's techno-funk sound was producer George Clinton's complex, recording studio techniques for Parliament and Funkadelic during the 1970s. He then, redefined the funk genre by incorporating the skills of virtuosic musicians in the vein of Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins and Eddie Hazel, his essential collaborators in the making of P-Funk mythology themes and its long-range instrumentals as tools for his progressive, psychedelic influenced productions, arrangements and concept albums. Bassist Bootsy Collins' extravagant playing style, featuring his instrument in lead rather than in rhythm section only, originated a reverberating, low-frequency bass sound highly influential on the emergence of hip hop, techno and, by extension, the early foundations of neurofunk.


  • Ed Rush & Optical - Compound (1998)
    Excerpt from "Compound", from the album Wormhole on Virus Recordings (VRS001LP), by Ed Rush & Optical. Exhibiting the early experimental stages of neurofunk.
    Ryme Tyme - We Enter (Optical vocal remix) (1999)
    Excerpt from "We Enter" (Optical vocal remix) from the 12" single on No U-Turn records (NUT022), by Ryme Tyme. Exposing the lyrical futurism of the style.
    Matrix & Fierce - Climate (2000)
    Excerpt from "Climate", from the 12" single on Metro Recordings (MTRR007), by Matrix & Fierce. The blending of multiple influences ranging from funk, techno, house and jazz.
    Cause 4 Concern - Peep Show (2001)
    Excerpt from "Peep Show", from the 12" single on Virus Recordings (VRS009), by Cause 4 Concern. Techno at the forefront of production in 2001.
    Sinthetix - Cryogenic (2002)
    File:Sinthetix - Cryogenic.ogg
    Excerpt from "Cryogenic", from the compilation Spy Technologies - Volume 1 on DSCI4 Records (DSCI4LP002), by Sinthetix. The use of harder stabs over the bassline among producers in 2002.
    Phace - Hot Rock (2005)
    Excerpt from "Hot Rock", from the 12" single on Subtitles Music (SUBTITLES047), by Phace. The stripped-down, minimalist approach to production adopted by second-wave artists.
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  1. ^ Interview with Noisia from (retrieved June 2007).
  2. ^ a b c Interview with Phace from (retrieved January 2007).
  3. ^ a b c No U-Turn Records (the pioneering sounds of techstep and neurofunk).
  4. ^ Simon Reynolds Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. (Picador, ISBN 0-330-35056-0) (excerpt)

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