Stop Saying EDM: The Rookie’s Guide To Electronic Music (Part II)
31 August 2015
***The Rookie’s Guide To Electronic music picks up from Part I. We recommend you read it first before moving on.***
Last I left you, we were talking about IDM in Part 1 of the Rookie’s Guide, and as promised here’s the rest of the list with more genres and videos for you to peruse at ease. Keep in mind that while we’ve tried to cover as many genres as possible, we’ve also had to keep it relevant to the history of elecronic music and the Indian scene, simply because we don’t have the time or inclination to write an encyclopedia.
Sure, there’s a lot we’ve left out but we’re willing to continue expanding the list if you’d like us too. Leave a comment below to tell us what you think (and let's keep it clean).
Notable artists: Goldie, Ray Keith, Congo Natty, Remarc
Notable subgenres: ragga jungle, drum n’ bass, darkcore
Average bpm: 150-170
House and techno had already been around for a couple of years when jungle started creeping into the culture of London’s urban youth in the early 90s. Unlike electronic genres, jungle (which was influenced heavily by hip-hop) wasn’t driven by 4/4 repetition and groove. It was a new, edgier, more unruly sound characterised by its fast pace and frantic contorted drum patterns. Most samples in fact came from one of the most important breaks in music – called the ‘Amen’ loop, which you can read more about here.
Succinctly, jungle represented the sound of a cyberpunk, dystopian future, thriving best on pirate radio and in clubs. Though we haven’t heard much jungle in India, the genre eventually evolved into the now, more popular drum n’ bass (though many still use the terms interchangeably).
Drum & Bass
Notable artists: Ox7gen, Noisia, Dillinja, Digital, Bad Company
Notable subgenres: drumstep, liquid , techstep, neurofunk, jump-up
Average bpm: 160-180
We’ll give you three guesses to figure out the two core elements of drum n’ bass (spoiler: it’s drum and bass).
DnB (also stylised D&B, Dn’B, drum n’ bass etc.) evolved from jungle, as we mentioned earlier, and has seen an increase in popularity in India in the last couple of years. Like dubstep, DnB is severely misunderstood and there’s a big difference between the chaotic, addictive beats of good DnB and aggy EDM influenced DnB. The genre is typically characterised by its high bpm and the sound of the Roland TR-808 kick drum, an important element of the genre. Thanks to properties like BASS CAMP Festival and promoters like KRUNK and BASSFoundation, DnB has found a sizable, willing audience in the country.
Notable artists: Sandunes, Todd Edwards, Artful Dodger, M.J. Cole, So Solid Crew, Disclosure
Notable subgenres: UK garage, speed garage, 2-step, bassline
Average bpm: 130bpm
Two kinds of garage exist. The first is US garage (aka New York House), which was developed by largely gay, black communities inspired by disco and emerged in the early 80s. UK garage (commonly abbreviated to UKG) soon followed in the early-mid 90s as an offshoot and amalgam of house, old-skool jungle and contemporary R&B.
If it wasn’t obvious already, these are two distinct genres that sound vastly different from one another – US garage, is normally a lot slower and sounds like house (it's in fact often clumped in the same category). UKG on the other hand was a lot more sensual and featured “shuffling” hi-hats, beat skipping kick drums and chopped up, pitch shifted vocals - is what it’s known best for.
Notable artists: Tempa T, Dizzee Rascal, Skepta, Wiley
Notable subgenres: 8-Bar, eskibeat, dubstep
Average bpm: 140
Grime was also known as 8-bar (for the 8 bar verse patterns) and first emerged in London on UK pirate radio stations, a bit like jungle. While the genre hasn’t quite reached Indian shores, we’re predicting an upsurge in its popularity in the next couple of years considering - well, just how much fun it is. While the genre is often compared to UK garage, it is in reality quite distinct – its mood darker and sound more robust. Grime is really an amalgam of a jumble of genres from 2-step garage, electro and hip-hop to dancehall and dub.
The distinctive feature of grime is the role of the MC’s. Think Skepta (who’s going strong in the UK even now), Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and more.
Notable artists: Su Real, CRNKN, Carnage, Mayhem, UZ,
Notable subgenres: N/A
Average bpm: 140
Original trap music came out of Southern America and is characterised most prominently by 808 kick drums, extended bass lines, forceful sound and lyrical content. While it was first born in the 90s, trap re-emerged in 2012. The post 2012, heavily electronic influenced trap saw mainstream success on Billboard charts with the likes of Young Jeezy, Future, and most recently – Fetty Wap’s hit single ‘Trap Queen’. ‘EDM’ megastars like Diplo and Baauer (‘Harlem Shake’ and the madness that followed certainly helped) have also dabbled in the genre.
Notable artists: Dave Nada, Sabo, Bro Safari, ETC!ETC!, David Heartbreak, Sazon Booya, Dillon Francis, Tittsworth
Notable subgenres: moombahsoul, moombahcore
Average bpm: 110
The fable goes that while DJing at his cousins high school house party in Washington DC circa 2009, Dave Nada decided to slow down Afrojack's remix of Silvio Ecomo and Chuckie's song "Moombah" from 128 BPM to 108 BPM.
Lo and behold - moombahthon – a portmanteau of moombah and reggaeton. The genre really took off once other producers caught wind of the 110 phenomenon. Moombahthon is characterised by spread out, thick basslines, two step pulses and the occasional ravey synths and rap samples.
Notable artists: Oceantied, Iyer, DJ Rashad, Traxman, DJ Spinn, DJ Earl
Notable subgenres: N/A
Average bpm: 150-160
Footwork (which emerged from juke) is at once a genre of music and corresponding style of dance that emerged in Chicago in the 80s, and clocks in at a speedy 150-160 bpm. Footwork’s been gaining popularity in India recently with artists like Oceantied (a.k.a. Ketan Bahirat of Until We Last) exploring its rapid tempo, irregular beats, thumping kicks and snapping snares. We’re quoting Kode9 when we say that, “Rhythmically, it’s totally crazy”.
To be perfectly honest, footwork’s sound makes much more sense when you’ve actually seen its frantic, unbelievably quick paced and complex dance, which is concentrated largely to the feet, as the name suggests. We suggest you watch this mini documentary about footwork in Chicago on via THUMP’s channel on YouTube.
Notable artists: Hybrid, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, Stanton Warriors
Notable subgenres: acid breaks, breakcore, broken beat, nu-funk, progressive breaks
Average bpm: 140
The word ‘breakbeat’ could come from the fact that the drum loops came from isolated segments in classic funk and soul records. It could also come from the word ‘broken’ since the beat is irregular and unpredictable compared to other genres. Breakbeats have been used far before the emergence of electronic music in the 20s by jazz and swing bands.
In modern ‘EDM’ however, the genre is heard most often in popular acts like The Chemical Brothers and Stanton Warriors, who used the breakbeat sound as a foundation for their music.
Notable artists: Sulk Station, Moby, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Nightmares on Wax, Air
Notable subgenres: lounge, trip-hop
Average bpm: 90-120
It’s an odd fact that downtempo music began when raves and parties (in Ibiza, particularly) were hitting their peak.
Apparently, raves had special “chillout” zones, where attendees could escape the aggressive beats of various rooms for some respite in a calmer environment. In Ibiza, tempos were lowered with energy levels upon approaching sunrise. Austrian duo Kruder & Dorfmeister played a big role in the popularity of downtempo with their remixes of pop, hip-hop, and drum and bass tracks.
Despite a slower, calmer pace downtempo is still very much rooted in dance music (unlike ambient, which it’s often confused with), retaining to a large extent, the same aesthetics and grooves of its more energetic cousins.
A popular derivative of downtempo (and one of our favourite subgenres of electronic music) is trip-hop (Massive Attack, Potishead).
Notable artists: Pippin (‘1010’), Burial, James Blake, (early) Mount Kimbie, Jamie XX, Bonobo
Notable subgenres: N/A
Average bpm: 130
Something that must have been obvious to you while reading The Rookie’s Guide To Electronic Music is that genre names are a weird thing. Some of them are downright lazy and stupid (moombahthon, brostep), make no sense at all (‘IDM’), or are so off the mark that they need a 4000 word, two-part article to get the point across. However, cataloguing and identifying is instinctive to human nature and somewhere down the line, genre names (even if they are a little off) can be useful.
Post dubstep is one of those hated terms, mostly because it doesn’t really bind together any of the artists that fit into its imaginary box, other than the fact, of course, that their music uses elements of dubstep, particularly its sub bass frequencies. Another common factor (at least to us) is that most music that falls under the category happens to be very, very good (case in point, by two of our favourite artists Four Tet and Burial embedded below).
Notable artists: Mount Kimbie, Sulk Station, James Blake, Aphex Twin, Burial, _RHL
Notable subgenres: post dubstep, 2 step, trip-hop
Average bpm: 60 and above
Electronica is a vague umbrella term used to describe some downtempo, some post dubstep, some IDM… well, you get the drift (or not). Consider it an in between term for the more alternative, less fast paced side of electronic music that doesn’t quite fit into any of the genres mentioned above.
Words: Diya Gupta
Main image: The Eclipse in Coventry, 1990