Bold and ferocious, but possessing infinitely eerie depths, both the DJ sets and productions of Manchester staple, Djinn, have become essential listening in the brooding underbelly of drum & bass.
The last decade and a half have seen Djinn transform into a stalwart of the Northern scene, a regular at London’s revered Rupture club nights, and an increasingly sought-after name internationally, having previously toured the US and making her Australian debut in May with a four-date tour. Meanwhile, a mere handful of releases have earned her a permanent residency in the record box of any self-respecting junglist — her highly technical, yet wondrously freeform weapons proving devastating on each and every release.
After falling in with a crew of breaks fanatics as a teenager in the early noughties, Djinn cut her teeth with borrowed records, hopping on at house parties or knuckling down for marathon sets with friends, taking every opportunity to perfect her craft. As the decade progressed she made forays into drum & bass, and the then sound du jour, dubstep — but in the end, it was the rapid-fire rhythms of the former which prevailed.
The rise of rolling minimal, the mechanical half-time of Amit, ruffneck compilations such as the 2008 Scientific Wax collection ‘The Alliance Of Science’ and, later, Renegade Hardware’s steely ‘Horsementality’ double-pack, and, of course, the indomitable Metalheadz, all shaped Djinn’s style. “I just wanted to focus on one thing and I think the energy of drum & bass is more what I’m about,” she tells DJ Mag over the phone. “I’d still love to make some more 140, but at the moment my heart’s definitely in drum & bass.”
In 2015, Djinn scored releases on a comp from recently revamped outlet Repertoire (‘Red Rain’), and Skitty’s Foundation X Black (‘Shadows’), paving the way for her first solo EP and debut vinyl release ‘Dark Reference’ through the latter’s parent label, Foundation X, last year. The record was a breakthrough moment to say the least. The sheer animalistic savagery with which Djinn delivered the clattering breakbeats across each track garnered critical acclaim and mean they’re still on regular rotation. “With breaks, I think there’s almost an element of rebellion in programming them,” she muses. “The conventional thing is 2-step — kick-snare-kick-snare, whatever — but it’s almost like you’re breaking the rules a little bit, cos you’re like, ‘Well, I’m just gonna stick a mad edit in there’.”
There’s a natural soul to breaks too, she says, a live feel and ability to twist on a hairpin that enables her to keep things interesting and unpredictable. “Some of them are a little bit crusty and a bit dirty,” she adds, “and obviously you wanna clean up the break but you don’t wanna take that character out of it.” In the studio, Djinn arranges her breaks in audio, before freestyling with double hits, reversals and time-stretching. Then, using a midi controller, or, more recently, the XY-configured touchscreen of a Kaoss pad, she records herself manipulating her edits in real time using a range of filter and distortion FX.