Precursors in the 1970s
Early examples of electronic dance music include Jamaican dub music in the 1970s the synthesizer-based disco music of Giorgio Moroder in the late 1970s, and the electronic music of Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra in the late 1970s.
Author Michael Veal considers dub music, a Jamaican music stemming from roots reggae and sound system culture that flourished between 1968 and 1985, to be one of the important precursors to contemporary electronic dance music. Dub productions were remixed reggae tracks that emphasized rhythm, fragmented lyrical and melodic elements, and reverberant textures. The music was pioneered by studio engineers, such as Sylvan Morris, King Tubby, Errol Thompson, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Scientist. Their experiments included forms of tape-based composition that Veal considers comparable to musique concrète, with its emphasis on repetitive rhythmic structures being comparable to minimalism. Dub producers made improvised deconstructions of existing multi-track reggae mixes by using the studio mixing board as a performance instrument. They also foregrounded spatial effects such as reverb and delay by using auxiliary send routings creatively.
Despite the limited electronic equipment available to dub pioneers such as King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry, their experiments in remix culture were musically cutting-edge. Ambient dub was pioneered by King Tubby and other Jamaican sound artists, using DJ-inspired ambient electronics, complete with drop-outs, echo, equalization and psychedelic electronic effects. It featured layering techniques and incorporated elements of world music, deep bass lines and harmonic sounds. Techniques such as a long echo delay were also used.
In 1974, George McCrae's early disco hit "Rock Your Baby" was one of the first records to use a drum machine, an early Roland rhythm machine. Its use of a drum machine was anticipated by Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair" (1971), which anticipated the sound of disco, with its rhythm echoed in "Rock Your Baby". The use of drum machines in "Family Affair" and Timmy Thomas' "Why Can't We Live Together" (1972), which used a 1972 Roland rhythm machine, influenced the adoption of drum machines by later disco artists. Disco producer Biddu used synthesizers in several disco songs from 1976 to 1977, including "Bionic Boogie" from Rain Forest (1976), "Soul Coaxing" (1977), and Eastern Man and Futuristic Journey (recorded from 1976 to 1977).
European acts Silver Convention, Love and Kisses, Munich Machine, and American acts Donna Summer and the Village People were acts that defined the late 1970s Euro disco sound. In 1977, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte produced "I Feel Love" for Donna Summer. It became the first well-known disco hit to have a completely synthesised backing track. Other disco producers, most famously American producer Tom Moulton, grabbed ideas and techniques from dub music (which came with the increased Jamaican migration to New York City in the seventies) to provide alternatives to the four on the floor style that dominated. During the early 1980s, the popularity of disco music sharply declined in the United States, abandoned by major US record labels and producers. Euro disco continued evolving within the broad mainstream pop music scene.
The early 1980s also saw the emergence of an electronic South Asian disco scene in India and Pakistan, popularized by Biddu, Nazia Hassan, R.D. Burman, and Bappi Lahiri. A notable experimental record to emerge from the Indian disco scene was Charanjit Singh's Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (1982), which anticipated the sound of acid house music, years before the genre arose in the Chicago house scene of the late 1980s.
Synth-pop (short for synthesizer pop; also called techno-pop) is a subgenre of new wave music that first became prominent in the late 1970s and features the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument. It was prefigured in the 1960s and early 1970s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock, electronic, art rock, disco, and particularly the "Krautrock" of bands like Kraftwerk. It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk era as part of the new wave movement of the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.
Early synth-pop pioneers included Japanese group Yellow Magic Orchestra, and British bands Ultravox, the Human League and Berlin Blondes; the Human League used monophonic synthesizers to produce music with a simple and austere sound. After the breakthrough of Gary Numan in the UK Singles Chart in 1979, large numbers of artists began to enjoy success with a synthesizer-based sound in the early 1980s, including late-1970s debutants like Japan and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and newcomers such as Depeche Mode and Eurythmics. In Japan, Yellow Magic Orchestra's success opened the way for synth-pop bands such as P-Model, Plastics, and Hikashu. The development of inexpensive polyphonic synthesizers, the definition of MIDI and the use of dance beats, led to a more commercial and accessible sound for synth-pop. This, its adoption by the style-conscious acts from the New Romantic movement, together with the rise of MTV, led to success for large numbers of British synth-pop acts (including Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet) in the United States.
Hip hop music has played a key role in the development of electronic dance music since the 1970s. Inspired by Jamaican sound system culture Jamaican-American DJ Kool Herc introduced large bass heavy speaker rigs to the Bronx. His parties are credited with having kick-started the New York hip-hop movement in 1973. A technique developed by DJ Kool Herc that became popular in hip hop culture was playing two copies of the same record on two turntables, in alternation, and at the point where a track featured a break. This technique was further used to manually loop a purely percussive break, leading to what was later called a break beat. In the 1980s and 1990s hip-hop DJs used turntables as musical instruments in their own right and virtuosic use developed into a creative practice called turntablism.
Dance music in the 80s
During the post-disco era that followed the backlash against "disco" which began in the mid to late 1979, which in the United States lead to civil unrest and a riot in Chicago known as the Disco Demolition Night, an underground movement of "stripped-down" disco inspired music featuring "radically different sounds" started to emerge on the East Coast.[Note 1] This new scene was seen primarily in the New York metropolitan area and was initially led by the urban contemporary artists that were responding to the over-commercialisation and subsequent demise of disco culture. The sound that emerged originated from P-Funk the electronic side of disco, dub music, and other genres. Much of the music produced during this time was, like disco, catering to a singles-driven market. At this time creative control started shifting to independent record companies, less established producers, and club DJs. Other dance styles that began to become popular during the post-disco era include dance-pop, boogie, electro, Italo disco, house, and techno.
In the early 1980s, electro emerged as a fusion of electro-pop, funk, and boogie. Also called electro-funk or electro-boogie, but later shortened to electro, cited pioneers include Ryuichi Sakamoto, Afrika Bambaataa, Zapp, D.Train, and Sinnamon. Early hip hop and rap combined with German and Japanese electropop influences such as Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra inspired the birth of electro. As the electronic sound developed, instruments such as the bass guitar and drums were replaced by synthesizers and most notably by iconic drum machines, particularly the Roland TR-808. Early uses of the TR-808 include several Yellow Magic Orchestra tracks in 1980–1981, the 1982 track "Planet Rock" by Afrikaa Bambaataa, and the 1982 song "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye. In 1982, producer Arthur Baker with Afrika Bambaataa released the seminal "Planet Rock", which was influenced by Yellow Magic Orchestra, used Kraftwerk samples, and had drum beats supplied by the TR-808. Planet Rock was followed later that year by another breakthrough electro record, "Nunk" by Warp 9. In 1983, Hashim created an electro-funk sound with "Al-Naafyish (The Soul)" that influenced Herbie Hancock, resulting in his hit single "Rockit" the same year. The early 1980s were electro's mainstream peak.
In the early 1980s, Chicago radio jocks The Hot Mix 5 and club DJs Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles played various styles of dance music, including older disco records (mostly Philly disco and Salsoul tracks), electro funk tracks by artists such as Afrika Bambaataa, newer Italo disco, B-Boy hip hop music by Man Parrish, Jellybean Benitez, Arthur Baker, and John Robie, and electronic pop music by Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Some made and played their own edits of their favorite songs on reel-to-reel tape, and sometimes mixed in effects, drum machines, and other rhythmic electronic instrumentation. The hypnotic electronic dance song "On and On", produced in 1984 by Chicago DJ Jesse Saunders and co-written by Vince Lawrence, had elements that became staples of the early house sound, such as the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer and minimal vocals as well as a Roland (specifically TR-808) drum machine and Korg (specifically Poly-61) synthesizer.
"On and On" is sometimes cited as the 'first house record', though other examples from around that time, such as J.M. Silk's "Music is the Key" (1985), have also been cited. House music quickly spread to other American cities such as Detroit, New York City, and Newark—all of which developed their own regional scenes. In the mid-to-late 1980s, house music became popular in Europe as well as major cities in South America, and Australia. Chicago House experienced some commercial success in Europe with releases such as "House Nation" by House Master Boyz and the Rude Boy of House (1987). Following this, a number of house inspired releases such as "Pump Up The Volume" by MARRS (1987), "Theme from S'Express" by S'Express (1988), and "Doctorin' the House" by Coldcut (1988) entered the pop charts.
Techno, acid house, rave
In the mid 80s house music thrived on the small Balearic Island of Ibiza, Spain. The Balearic sound was the spirit of the music emerging from the island at that time; the combination of old vinyl rock, pop, reggae, and disco records paired with an “anything goes” attitude made Ibiza a hub of drug-induced musical experimentation. The scene was mainly centered around a club called Amnesia where its resident DJ, Alfredo Fiorito, pioneered Balearic house. Amnesia became known across Europe and by the mid to late 1980s it was drawing people from all over the continent.
By 1988, house music had become the most popular form of club music in Europe, with acid house developing as a notable trend in the UK and Germany in the same year. In the UK an established warehouse party subculture, centered on the British African-Caribbean sound system scene fueled underground after-parties that featured dance music exclusively. Also in 1988, the Balearic party vibe associated with Ibiza's DJ Alfredo was transported to London, when Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold opened the clubs Shoom and Spectrum, respectively. Both places became synonymous with acid house, and it was during this period that MDMA gained prominence as a party drug. Other important UK clubs included Back to Basics in Leeds, Sheffield's Leadmill and Music Factory, and The Haçienda in Manchester, where Mike Pickering and Graeme Park's spot, Nude, was an important proving ground for American underground dance music.[Note 1] The success of house and acid house paved the way for Detroit Techno, a style that was initially supported by a handful of house music clubs in Chicago, New York, and Northern England, with Detroit clubs catching up later. The term Techno first came into use after a release of a 10 Records/Virgin Records compilation titled Techno: The Dance Sound of Detroit in 1988.
One of the first Detroit productions to receive wider attention was Derrick May's "Strings of Life" (1987), which, together with May's previous release, "Nude Photo" (1987), helped raise techno's profile in Europe, especially the UK and Germany, during the 1987–1988 house music boom (see Second Summer of Love). It became May's best known track, which, according to Frankie Knuckles, "just exploded. It was like something you can't imagine, the kind of power and energy people got off that record when it was first heard. Mike Dunn says he has no idea how people can accept a record that doesn't have a bassline." According to British DJ Mark Moore, "Strings of Life" led London club goers to accept house: "because most people hated house music and it was all rare groove and hip hop...I'd play 'Strings of Life' at the Mudd Club and clear the floor".[Note 2] By the late 1980s interest in house, acid house and techno escalated in the club scene and MDMA-fueled club goers, who were faced with a 2 a.m. closing time in the UK, started to seek after-hours refuge at all-night warehouse parties. Within a year, in summer 1989, up to 10,000 people at a time were attending commercially organised underground parties called raves.
Dance music in the 90s
Trance emerged from the rave scene in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s and developed further during the early 1990s in Germany before spreading throughout the rest of Europe, as a more melodic offshoot from techno and house. At the same time trance music was developing in Europe, the genre was also gathering a following in the Indian state of Goa. Trance is mostly instrumental, although vocals can be mixed in: typically they are performed by mezzo-soprano to soprano female soloists, often without a traditional verse/chorus structure. Structured vocal form in trance music forms the basis of the vocal trance subgenre, which has been described as "grand, soaring, and operatic" and "ethereal female leads floating amongst the synths". Trance music is broken into a number of subgenres including acid trance, classic trance, hard trance, progressive trance, and uplifting trance. Uplifting trance is also known as "anthem trance", "epic trance", "commercial trance", "stadium trance", or "euphoric trance", and has been strongly influenced by classical music in the 1990s and 2000s by leading artists such as Ferry Corsten, Armin Van Buuren, Tiësto, Push, Rank 1 and at present with the development of the subgenre "orchestral uplifting trance" or "uplifting trance with symphonic orchestra" by such artists as Andy Blueman, Ciro Visone, Soundlift, Arctic Moon, Sergey Nevone&Simon O'Shine etc. Closely related to Uplifting Trance is Euro-trance, which has become a general term for a wide variety of highly commercialized European dance music. Several subgenres are crossovers with other major genres of electronic music. For instance, Tech trance is a mixture of trance and techno, and Vocal trance "combines [trance's] progressive elements with pop music". The dream trance genre originated in the mid-1990s, with its popularity then led by Robert Miles.
AllMusic states on progressive trance: "the progressive wing of the trance crowd led directly to a more commercial, chart-oriented sound, since trance had never enjoyed much chart action in the first place. Emphasizing the smoother sound of Eurodance or house (and occasionally more reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre than Basement Jaxx), Progressive Trance became the sound of the world's dance floors by the end of the millennium. Critics ridiculed its focus on predictable breakdowns and relative lack of skill to beat-mix, but progressive trance was caned by the hottest DJ."
Breakbeat hardcore, jungle, drum and bass
30 second sample illustrating the combination of basslines, broken beats, rave melody and aesthetics.
30 second sample. Notice the subtle usage of drums and melodic elements, as contrasted to previous music samples. It still contains a fast broken beat but the beat is less audible.
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By the early 1990s, a style of music developed within the rave scene that had an identity distinct from American house and techno. This music, much like hip-hop before it, combined sampled syncopated beats or break beats, other samples from a wide range of different musical genres and, occasionally, samples of music, dialogue and effects from films and television programmes. Relative to earlier styles of dance music such as house and techno, so called 'rave music' tended to emphasise bass sounds and use faster tempos, or beats per minute (BPM). This subgenre was known as "hardcore" rave, but from as early as 1991, some musical tracks made up of these high-tempo break beats, with heavy basslines and samples of older Jamaican music, were referred to as "jungle techno", a genre influenced by Jack Smooth and Basement Records, and later just "jungle", which became recognized as a separate musical genre popular at raves and on pirate radio in Britain. It is important to note when discussing the history of drum & bass that prior to jungle, rave music was getting faster and more experimental.
By 1994, jungle had begun to gain mainstream popularity and fans of the music (often referred to as junglists) became a more recognisable part of youth subculture. The genre further developed, incorporating and fusing elements from a wide range of existing musical genres, including the raggamuffin sound, dancehall, MC chants, dub basslines, and increasingly complex, heavily edited breakbeat percussion. Despite the affiliation with the ecstasy-fuelled rave scene, Jungle also inherited some associations with violence and criminal activity, both from the gang culture that had affected the UK's hip-hop scene and as a consequence of jungle's often aggressive or menacing sound and themes of violence (usually reflected in the choice of samples). However, this developed in tandem with the often positive reputation of the music as part of the wider rave scene and dance hall-based Jamaican music culture prevalent in London. By 1995, whether as a reaction to, or independently of this cultural schism, some jungle producers began to move away from the ragga-influenced style and create what would become collectively labelled, for convenience, as drum and bass.
Dance music in the 00s
Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London in the late 1990s. It is generally characterized by sparse, syncopated rhythmic patterns with bass lines that contain prominent sub-bass frequencies. The style emerged as an offshoot of UK garage, drawing on a lineage of related styles such as 2-step, dub reggae, jungle, broken beat, and grime. In the United Kingdom the origins of the genre can be traced back to the growth of the Jamaican sound system party scene in the early 1980s.
The earliest dubstep releases date back to 1998, and were usually featured as B-sides of 2-step garage single releases. These tracks were darker, more experimental remixes with less emphasis on vocals, and attempted to incorporate elements of breakbeat and drum and bass into 2-step. In 2001, this and other strains of dark garage music began to be showcased and promoted at London's night club Plastic People, at the "Forward" night (sometimes stylised as FWD>>), which went on to be considerably influential to the development of dubstep. The term "dubstep" in reference to a genre of music began to be used by around 2002 by labels such as Big Apple, Ammunition, and Tempa, by which time stylistic trends used in creating these remixes started to become more noticeable and distinct from 2-step and grime.
Electro house is a form of house music characterized by a prominent bassline or kick drum and a tempo between 125 and 135 beats per minute. Its origins were influenced by electro, electroclash, electropop, synth-pop, and tech house. The term has been used to describe the music of many DJ Mag Top 100 DJs, including Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Hardwell, Skrillex, and Steve Aoki. Italian DJ Benny Benassi, with his track "Satisfaction" released in 2002, is seen as the forerunner of electro-house who brought it to the mainstream. By the mid 2000s, electro-house saw an increase in popularity, with hits such as the Tom Neville remix of Studio B's I See Girls in 2005 (UK #11). In November 2006, electro-house tracks "Put Your Hands Up For Detroit" by Fedde Le Grand and the D. Ramirez remix of "Yeah Yeah" by Bodyrox and Luciana held the number one and number two spots, respectively, in the UK Top 40 singles charts. Since then, electro-house producers such as Feed Me, Knife Party, The M Machine, Porter Robinson, Yasutaka Nakata and Dada Life have emerged.