Forming close artistic allegiances with fellow St Albans drum & bass maestro Photek, Source Direct focused on sweeping pads, haunting melodies, chest-crushing subs and the most twisted breakbeat work imaginable. They quickly found their tracks being played regularly by LTJ Bukem and, a year or so later, the whole family of DJ's that surrounded the Metalheadz stable. Although the pair only released a few 12"s on 'headz itself, their style of production was intrinsically bound up with the whole 'scene within a scene' that surrounded that iconic label. DJs like Kemistry & Storm, Loxy, Doc Scott and, of course, Goldie regularly played the duo's work at the Sunday Blue Note sessions and also the countless label tours that were undertaken all over the world at the time.
This was music steeped in dark romance; brooding, foreboding and cold, unbearably tense. Check 'Stonekiller' – a colossus of clammy-backed fear, like being stalked through the twisting, flicker-lit basement alleyways of Hong Kong's dilapidated Chungking Mansions by machete-wielding gangsters, through the kitchens with the live hens, past the gambling dens and barbers. Truth be told it's a bloody nightmare of a track, and one that illustrates the fact that, though often black as night, Source Direct never gave into the base nosebleed aesthetics that came to dominate drum & bass just a few years later. Their music was beautiful and, as they scarcely left the studio and were uninterested in pursuing the breakneck DJ schedule of many of their contemporaries, they had the time they needed to craft it to perfection.
But although Source Direct were, and remain, unsurpassed in their ability to conjure dark audio visions, their sound was not one-dimensional. 1996's 'Secret Liaison'/'Complexities' 12", for example, remains one of the most beautifully powerful explorations of time-stretched amen bliss put to vinyl. This was music that took time. It is rare to find a Source Direct tune below six minutes; most surpass eight.
The 12"s rolled on through the late 90s, alongside genre-defining music from like-minded compadres Hidden Agenda, Digital, Ed Rush & Optical, the No U Turn crew and Dillinja. But, as is so often the case with young partnerships, things turned sour once major label pressure and money entered the equation - and in those days the majors were taking a big interest in drum & bass. Tensions came to a head over a deal with Virgin, Aslett and Baker eventually parted ways in 2000.
With a back catalogue such as theirs however, interest has only grown since. A new generation of drum & bass producers, including Blocks and Escher, Ulterior Motive and Om Unit, to name but a few, have drawn audible inspiration from the beauty, cinematic power and ambition of the original Source Direct sound. Outside of that genre, many other artists have also been vocal in their appreciation of the duo's work, not least those affiliated to the Blackest Ever Black stable, such as Raime.
Jim Baker has recently started DJing again as Source Direct and, as anybody who has seen him play in recent years will attest, it is an absolute riot, drawing on classic era jungle, hardcore and all manner else, succinctly joining the dots between styles and eras. However, this is no nostalgia trip - Jim has also recently begun making music again after a near decade-long hiatus.