DJ Die unearths the 1996 VIP mix of “Clear Skyz,” his seminal drum & bass anthem.
Back in March of 2021, during a GutterFunk show on SWU.FM, DJ Die dropped a world exclusive. “Never been heard before,” he said at the time. “This is the unreleased mix, the special VIP of ‘Clear Skyz.'” It was the last tune of the show, and the only jungle / drum & bass tune he played during the set. “Now this one never made the cut, for various mixdown troubles,” Die continued on, “but I’m going to let you hear it.” At the time he called it the “Clear Skyz VIP Mix,” and he let it ride to close out that session. [Ed Note: The “oh my gosh” Die utters as the tune gets going hit me.] That “special VIP” of “Clear Skyz” just dropped, and has been the only thing I’ve listened to for the last two hours.
“Here it is, for the history books. Out to the Bryan Gee. I know you’ve got a lot of unreleased dubs, but I don’t think you’ve got this one.” – DJ Die, Mar. 2021
What’s so special about “Clear Skyz”?
For fans of DJ Die, Krust, and the entire Full Cycle camp, tracks like “Clear Skyz” are iconic. Without knowing the answer from Die, the A-side of his 1998 Full Cycle single feels iconic, at least to him. The tune, which many should remember from Kemistry and Storm’s classic DJ-Kicks compilation in dubplate form, became the name of his label before GutterFunk. It’s his Twitter username. It’s the first tune on The Archives 1995-2000, a magnificent compilation from 2018 highlighting DJ Die’s biggest solo wins from that Full Cycle era. Finding this VIP of “Clear Skyz” must have been important for Die to drop, especially given the number of compilations featuring numerous unreleased remixes and VIPs come out on every year. For me, those Full Cycle dubs that I still can’t identify from Die’s 2001 Databass mix matter.
The Full Cycle Foursome
Reprazent—Roni Size alongside DJ’s Krust, Die, and Suv, who’d all release tunes on Bryan Gee and Jumpin Jack Frost‘s V Recordings imprint as well as Full Cycle Records—were so unique as a crew; Krust was straight from the future, but with the wisdom and movements of a samurai. Roni Size was the charisma and the big picture guy; he saw the potential in really diving into the jazz and letting the rhythm take the genre places. DJ Suv brought a more worldly vibe to the foursome. All of those influences from outside of the dnb scene, especially from far off lands that haven’t truly been tapped into yet? Suv had those locked down. And while all three of those individuals have and could easily produce some face melting material, DJ Die always felt like the one who had his finger on the pulse. Like he was the one who could go to the club, hear every banger being played, and then create the tune that was so unique, so necessary, so vital, that everyone had to have their hands on it, and had to play it. That was “Clear Skyz,” with the brief and intense intro, computer blips and distant echoes setting the tone. Die’s drums knock, with noisy cymbals accenting the funky pace. Once that memorable bass hits, we are locked into a groove that set off memories. This tune was 1998, and 1999. For those who really remember, Die reached those heights again with “Drop Bear,” but we don’t have a VIP of that tune to wax nostalgic about, do we? “Clear Skyz” embodied the Full Cycle vibe completely.
What makes this VIP of “Clear Skyz” so special?
Well, remember when I spoke on those drums in “Clear Skyz”? They kick in really early; we get drums barely a minute into the tune, and the drums are consistent throughout the seven-plus minutes of the anthem. We don’t even get a breakdown of that bass rumbling on it’s own, which is what this VIP rectifies. Instead of going into the drums a minute in, we get that bass, completely lacking drums, for about 50 seconds. If you’re familiar with the “devil mix” of the UK grime scene, that’s what it feels like, to me anyways. It’s also not how drum & bass is structured, back then or these days. Back then, tunes would clock in at seven-plus minutes on the regular. You could get two minutes of an intro before getting a proper drop, which made rewinds of particularly-noteworthy tunes the best; you learned the entire tune by the end of the night if three DJs play it then wheel it back. In the original “Clear Skyz,” DJ Die doesn’t even let that otherworldly loop play; we get subs and drums for a good chunk of the tail-end of that tune. These days, the tunes are so short, you may get a drop about a minute in, but you’re never getting a full bassline within 20 seconds of a tune starting. With the 1996 VIP, Die changes that, putting the emphasis on the Bristol bass, almost making the drums an after thought. Not an after thought, but we know the drums are going to be there; this is a celebration. This is the victory lap. I couldn’t imagine being in the dance and going to see DJ Die, and this being the first tune he plays? I’m calling for a reload instantly. And may call for another. Not even for the drop; just give me that first 50-ish seconds a few more times.
“When it comes to VIPs this is about as special as you can get. A forgotten VIP of a genre-defining record. Clear Skyz (1996 VIP) was written at the same time as the original and committed to DAT, it was then forgotten about until very recently when Die was going through old DATs and discovered this lost gem. No less potent than the original, the 1996 VIP shows that whatever form Clear Skyz takes, it will always be classic source material. Another chapter in essential jungle / d&b history from Bristol.” – GutterFunk, Feb. 2022
The above YouTube clip doesn’t do this VIP justice. The beauty is in the track before the drums. If you wanted the one-sided 10″ vinyl version, you lost, but it is available digitally on GutterFunk’s Bandcamp, as well as being available at Juno Download and Beatport. Last tune; it’s our time.
Bonus Beats Die – “Clear Skyz (Break Remix)” (Clear Skyz 004, June 2009 release)