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The Essential… Ram Records

It’s fair to say that Ram Records is the most popular drum & bass record label of all time. Still going strong after nearly 20 years they have the sales and the awards to prove it. So we thought it about time to run through our favourite 20 Ram tunes of all time…

20. Nightbreed – Pack of Wolves

This unusual beast has to be in the top 20 somewhere, and it’s hard to place. The proto-metal production highlights how Ram is willing to push new sounds and all things original. Equally at home in a beardy mosh pit and a hooded elbow fest, Pack of Wolves bridged genres with a dirty and memorable axe hook that was later remixed by Pendulum for a commission that annihilated dance floors around the world.

19. Origin Unknown – Truly 1 Remix Part 1

It’s easy to forget how funky Ram productions are, what with waves of darkness shrouding their legacy. But even the most sinister Ram roller has an undercurrent of funk to make you shake your booty. Truly One remix Part 1 wore funk on its sleeve, boasting the classic Funky Worm break in its armoury partnered with live fills and robotic, groovy bass. It was a huge smash and a clever take on the original.

18. Ram Trilogy – Screamer

Screamer is a lesson in how to make drum & bass music. An epic intro bleeds into an unmistakable vocal hook and then come – crucially – immaculate drums and basses. Screamer conjured up cute “talking synths” from a synthesizer but sounded like a person talking into a vocoder’s robot preset saying “oh, oh, oh, ohhh, oh, woah!” What’s not to love?

17. Ram Trilogy – Evolution

This had to be the first non-nightmarish DnB tune in a couple of years, coming from the masters of bad dreams themselves, Ram, on the Molten Beats LP. It still had roughness, but generally was uplifting. The structure was special, in that it wasn’t your typical build-up-then-smash affair; it moved on and up. Evolution sounds as strong today as it did back then, the sign of a fine record.

16. Moving Fusion – Atlantis (Bad Company remix)

This track was the seed DJ Fresh sewed that blossomed into the style he is famous for today and sounded absolutely insane in a club. The Atlantis remix came out shortly before Fresh’s genre-defining Planet Dust on Grooverider’s Prototype label, which was cut from the same blueprint.

15. Shimon & Andy C – Skirmish

Originally called Scooby Doo, Skirmish was a grower. It was one of those popular anthems that didn’t force you to tweak out with an impact drop. Rather, it made people go nuts because when they recognized it in the mix they felt that A) they knew cutting-edge drum & bass and B) they were part of the scene. Ram has released a lot of rollers – Sound In Motion, Milky Way and Undergrowth – Skirmish is surely the spookiest.

14. Concept 2 – Cause N’ Effect

If there is such a thing as beautiful drum & bass, this is it. Andy C sampled the beat off a cassette tape recording of a pirate radio station. The hook was made of a therapeutic sine wave and was impossibly transparent within the song, it really sounded like it was supposed to be there. Cause N’ Effect is a great example of how dance music is more than just melody – it’s also about technicality. Every element of Cause N’ Effect not only sounds good on a big sound system but feels good, making a sonic sensation.

13. Chase & Status – Eastern Jam

Chase & Status seem to be taking over the world right now, branching into new genres with big success, probing the UK Top 40 charts. Ram Records leveraged their momentum, with which they’re still under contract for one more album. Nowadays, every producer and their dog has “a dubstep remix” or are doing “some dubstep”. Chase & Status and Ram were the first notable figures to cross over from DnB to dubstep, kicking off the trend before it became clichéd. Eastern Jam was even covered by Snoop Dogg for a mixtape.

12. Andy C – Roll On

Roll On was on a double A-side released by Andy C, partnering the unforgettable atmospheric excellence of Cool Down. Roll On is a moving masterpiece, with pads that can bring a tear to the eye and cagey beats that sound like sex to the subcultured ear.

11. DJ Fresh – Signal

Is this Fresh’s harshest, hardest track? For a man famed for dealing with the dark side, that the answer might be yes is frightening. Fresh pushed the sub-genre from which Signal stemmed as far as it could go, with devastating drum patterns contrasting a dreamy intro. The raging lead synth sounded overwhelming on a heavy sound system. Fresh has released a lot of special tunes on Ram because it’s an inspiration for him and played its part in making him what he is today.

10. Shimon – Hush Hush

Released on the classic Ram Raiders III EP that contained other gems such as Equinox, Mind Killer, Black Hole and Fly Away, Hush Hush boasted spastic drums, an overweight bass line and mega-warmth. Shimon had been in Andy C’s shadow for a long time, with the latter producer often taking credit from fans for co-productions, and so Hush Hush was vindication, nothing short of a masterstroke.

9. Moving Fusion – The Beginning

This is dark, devastating drum & bass capable of raping dance floors. The Beginning lives up to its name – nothing can improve its introduction apart from another track in the mix. It’s evocative, capable of capturing the imagination and stimulating visual scenes in the narcotised mind. It doesn’t come much harder or more potent – The Beginning is one of the reasons DnB was so popular in 1999.

8. Shimon & Andy C – Quest

Quest is one of those tracks that sounds great any which way. A midnight drive through the countryside, a head-down beeline through a rough part of town or sleeping to low music are three scenarios in which Quest constitutes the perfect sound track. Saying that, you certainly are missing the point if you only experience Quest on iPod headphones. Its bass line is lead weight … you can feel it deep in your chest under the right conditions.

7. Ram Trilogy – No Reality

With Ram Trilogy Chapter 1, 2 and 3, Ant Miles, Andy C and Shimon really cemented their logo and brand into underground culture’s consciousness, displaying it prominently as artwork. The first two chapters were exceptional, and, some years later, 4, 5 and 6 impacted the scene. They’re the audio equivalent of the Star Wars movies. Chapter 1, No Reality deserves a Top 20 spot for epitomising everything interesting about the Ram sound. It goes off like a bomb in a rave and its progressive synthesis shows how passionate Ant Miles, Andy C and Shimon are about making music.

6. Ed Rush & Optical – Pacman (Ram Trilogy remix)

OK, so technically this isn’t a Ram release but we just had to include it. Ed Rush & Optical were behind a breathtaking remix of Mindscan on a limited vinyl sampler for Ram’s Molten Beats, with Evolution on the A-Side. Ram returned the favour a few years later with a remix of Virus’ Pacman. After Shimon had written the hook, Andy C and Ant Miles came in to help. What followed was an unstoppable anthem – a product of years of experience at the top of the game – that received major and prolonged play on the circuit.

5. Sub Focus – X-Ray

Ram Trilogy doesn’t make music as a trio any more, and their legacy is continued with force by a new wave of producers lead by Sub Focus. Copied endlessly and one of the top names in the industry, Sub Focus broke through with X-Ray, which evolved the Ram sound and gave him the momentum to dominate the scene until the present day.

4. Moving Fusion – Turbulence

This got people into drum & bass and kept them hooked. A sampler to the dark Sound in Motion LP that rubbed shoulders with the classic eponymous track from there, Turbulence was also released as a rare one-sided sampler on vinyl. With a build up to die for, Turbulence is a science fiction inspired destroyer, the sonic equivalent of a TIE fighter with a kamikaze Darth Vader as pilot.

3. Shimon & Andy C – Body Rock

Never has a drum & bass record divided opinion or received more rewinds than Body Rock or, post Alex Reese’s genre-defining Pulp Fiction, twisted so many heads, and sounded this original. Everyone remembers where they were the first time they heard it. On the original dubplate, before Body Rock even had a name, the words Triplets were written on the white label in fat marker, signifying the style of the drum pattern. It hit number 28 in the UK Top 40, with no music video.

2. Ram Trilogy – Titan

This is drum & bass. Like the best music, the first time people heard Titan they didn’t get it. DJ Hype was one of its first supporters; he used to mix it into the reworking of Shy FX’s Original Nuttah. You can feel something coming about ten seconds before impact. It builds, bigger and bigger, and suddenly crashes down over your head, wreaking devastation all around. Titan is the sonic steroid of the DJ world – inject it into any track to make your mix bigger, stronger and better.

1. Origin Unknown – Valley of the Shadows

A bridge between hardcore and drum & bass, this genre-defining track from 1993 started it all. The two famous vocal samples used in it come from interesting sources. “Felt that I was in this long dark tunnel” was taken from a 1989 episode of the BBC documentary series Q.E.D. concerning out-of-body experiences and “31 Seconds” is from the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing countdown. Most of the samples used in the tune were actually taken from the free CD that came with the first issues of Future Music magazine.