Neurofunk/hard DnB from LA, you say? That’s right. In the late 90s when the Los Angeles scene was still forming in the hot magma of the drum and bass explosion, LA was almost completely a darkstep, techstep and dark jungle town. From the DJ styles at events that could turn even a jump up track into something grinding and evil to the dub-heavy jungle releases on RAW’s N20 imprint, everywhere you looked the sound was heavy and dark. It was a glorious time for the LA and for drum and bass.
LA has maintained its hard edge over the years but it’s also become more inclusive and for a while that meant a pretty hefty liquid and jump up phase in the early 00s and even into today. Diversity is the name of the game in LA DnB but there are pockets of neuro-and-dark goodness still not only surviving but thriving. John Reen is at the center of one of those pockets. Aside from holding down his own regular DnB night in his hometown of Lancaster (about 45 minutes from DTLA), Reen is very active at some of the biggest club nights in LA: he’s played Respect multiple times as well as Killahurtz and Xcellerated. And we haven’t even gotten to his production yet.
Thus far, Reen has released tracks on Counterpoint, Ordinance, Ronin and Abducted Records. His unreleased track “Subdue” was even featured on Noisia Radio. Big things for this Socal kid, to say the least. Reen’s first track since mid-2018, “Cerebral” will be Divinations fifth release since their inception and it’s another deep, dark one for both parties.
“Cerebral” toys with neurofunk but overall it’s more in the realm of darkstep. While the beat is steppy and danceable, the snares are definitely darkstep throwback style. The intro and ambient sound design are also very dark and may remind some old schoolers of tracks like John B’s “USA” track, released in 1996 before John B was even called John B! There are also some really interesting sub bass and sound design tweaks at the phrase transitions, giving the track a lot of movement even though it’s largely minimal drum and bass. The track was also mastered by U.S. dark and techstep legend Hive.
It’s great to see producers like Reen and Labels like Divination lighting up the U.S. and Los Angeles drum and bass scene and showing them for what they are: diverse, vibrant and full of talent. Fans of darkstep and skanking will definitely want to pick up this instant classic.