HOW CARL SAGAN LEFT HIS MARK ON DRUM AND BASS

Jak Alan

April 28th 2022

Have you ever been at a rave and heard a vocal sample on a track and then wondered where it came from? Perhaps you haven’t, but for me it’s somewhat of a hobby, hence today I’m going to write about some of my favourites.

Let’s start off with a classic, ‘Valley of the Shadows’ by Origin Unknown (Andy C and Ant Miles), arguably one of the most influential jungle tracks of all time.

One minute into the track you can hear the eerie voice of a woman saying, “I was in this long dark tunnel”, this is repeated throughout the track and, interestingly, this is cut from a BBC documentary about near death experiences. You can watch the full documentary here, the exact sample used comes from around 07:13 in.

I enjoy the thought of Andy C watching this documentary about near death experiences in the late 80s or early 90s and thinking ,“you know what? That would sound great on a track”.

A more contemporary example, which I guarantee you will have heard before, is from DJ Hazard’s ‘Time Tripping’, just before the beat drops which you hear a soft voice saying, “Billy, are you time tripping again? I can always tell when you’ve been time tripping…”.

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This sample is from a film based on a book, called Slaughterhouse-Five, which came out in 1972. It’s an account of Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier captured and incarcerated by the Germans in the last years of World War II. Billy is able to move forward and backward through his lifetime, when he goes into the future he travels to another planet, hence the talk of ‘time tripping’. The film is hard to find, but you can see the exact clip of where the sample is from here.

Moving on, I am a big fan of Louis Theroux; I love his Weird Weekend documentaries from the late 90s. In the one about Black Nationalism (released in 1999), one of the Nationalists says to Louis, “we’re not going to stand here and speak hocus-pocus, some shazam. Some abracadabra magic.” You can see the clip here or you can watch the full documentary on the BBC iPlayer.

This quote can be heard in the introduction to Chase and Status’ ‘Hocus Pocus’ from their No More Idols album, which was released in 2011, 12 years after the documentary was originally aired in the UK.

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On the introduction to the Prototypes ‘Pale Blue Dot from their debut album ‘City of Gold’ (2014), we hear the words “from this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

This was taken from a reading of ‘Pale Blue Dot’, a book written by Carl Sagan, the American astronomer in 1994. The book was inspired by an image taken by the spacecraft Voyager 1 in 1990 and it examines the idea that humankind are not alone in the universe. You can listen to the extract from the book here.

These are just a handful of some of my favourite samples, I hope you’ve enjoyed my list, please let me know some of yours too.

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