In 1989, a robotics scientist from MIT wrote an academic paper titled “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control: A Robot Invasion of the Solar System,” predicting that the future lies in arrays of tiny robots that will function like swarms of mechanical insects. Just a few years later, dance music got its own fast, cheap, and out-of-control movement — jungle — in which bootlegged funk breaks were sped up, looped, and paired with thundering dub bass lines and unhinged MC chat until the whole riotous affair seemed ready to go completely off the rails. Probably just coincidence, but jungle’s careening robot funk also had its own insectoid qualities: voices pitched helium-high, hi-hats twitching like antennae, snares that rattled as though there were a centipede sitting behind the drum kit.
Nineties jungle was a singles-based phenomenon, and it was largely a sub-rosa affair, too; why bother clearing a sample for a record whose natural habitat was the white-label 12″? All of this means that classic jungle hasn’t necessarily fared very well in the streaming era, but Resident Advisor’s Classic Jungle playlist does a great job of compiling classic cuts. There’s a little something for everyone here: LTJ Bukem’s “Atlantis (I Need You)” pairs Detroit techno’s jazzy, optimistic sensibilities with breaks that roll like a mountain stream; Congo Natty’s “Junglist” nods to roots reggae; and cuts from Source Direct and Photek go in hard on sci-fi affect. Origin Unknown’s “Valley of the Shadows,” meanwhile, samples the Apollo 11’s Lunar Module landing from 1969, taking apart yesterday’s high-tech dreams like so many scissor-handed nanorobots.