You know how they say what’s old is new again? Dance music has a habit of revisiting its past during periods of “creative fatigue” with mixed results. It’s how we got (re)introduced to disco house, electro and the resurgence of the classic bouncy hard house sound. Good fun all around right? It is also how we end up with 20 new remixes of Sweet Dreams each year. Seriously…enough already. Updating old styles and letting those styles evolve have led to some amazing musical creations but is there any other way of getting fresh sounds without going back to the older styles? There is always talk about “forward thinking” producers making new and innovative music. In reality, it seems to be what they are doing is either combing two older styles (ex: electro and hard dance into hard electrik) or stripping away musical layers on established styles to bring things down to a more minimal level. This usually means you end up with something that requires the arbitrary “tech” or “minimal” prefix on whatever name the new styles ends up with. Is this really all that forward thinking? Isn’t it just a combination or removal of existing elements? Don’t get me wrong, the results can be outstanding and in many cases, an improvement over the original. I’m simply wondering if there is some OTHER way to get some fresh sounds in dance music these days? What is perhaps more frustrating is that with each “new” style, there comes some strange new sub-genre name. We’re literally at sub-sub-sub genres in some cases (brostep..I’m looking at you).
Let’s take a quick look at a couple of these newer styles that have been brewing over the last couple of years. Some of them I think are pretty innovated and pushing boundaries while others just feel like they ran out of ideas (and genre names).
Tech Dance is the baby of Yoji (formally Yoji Biomehanika) where you basically take the driving and pulsating beat found in hard techno and throw in some hard trance / tech trance elements. He’s been toying with this style for years and clearly its been working for him as he has almost completely dropped the trance elements from his shows. He is one of those producers that I really do consider to be “forward thinking”. Hints of it were showing in his earlier work like Hardhouse Raver back in 2002 or his insane remix of X-Bass in 2004. Tech Dance really blew up at some point in 2007-2008 and it hasn’t really slowed down. DJs like Alex Kidd have made name for themselves with this sound with entire festivals actually be devoted to it. Personally I don’t think I could listen to more than a set or two worth of it but clearly other people think this stuff is better than sliced bread.
(Note: This video looks like it was made in 1993 but it was actually made in 2008!)
I’m pretty sure this is one of those “we ran out of ideas so let’s just make a dubstep remix” concepts. So what is it actually? Dubstep made with hardstyle sounds? Hardstyle made with weird dubstep breakdowns? I honestly don’t know about this one. From what I’ve been reading, no one seems to be super sure either except that a lot of hardstylers and dubsteppers have united in how much they hate it. I strongly dislike dubstep but I love hardstyle so I’m torn. I guess it’s either making it more accessible to broader audiences or it’s totally ruining both styles. I suppose it depends on where you sit on the fence for this one. It’s not that popular yet only really having come into it’s own around 2010, but it’s getting more recognition with some of the bigger names in hardstyle like Head Hunterz making more of these tunes. If you are digging this stuff, there is at least one website devoted to all things dubstyle. I went through a lot of tracks trying to find some examples and with few exceptions, all the decent stuff ISN’T on soundcloud.
Bonus points to Ephixa for being Canadian 😉
This tune is a better idea of the fusion of the dubstep and hardstyle and it’s a free download (via MediaFire):
I’ll admit that this isn’t that much of sub-genre as it’s one of Jon Doe’s strange but awesome creative diversions. This guy basically was like “hmm, I’ve mastered hardcore, trance, dnb and everything in between…what to do?”. Well, somewhere in there is hardscape which is pretty much his own brand of hard trance and hardcore fused into…well…hardscape. It’s somewhat on the minimal side but still full of huge banging energy and it’s faster than most hard trance but not full on hardcore speed. I really wish I could describe it better so I’ll let you decide. His site has a whole section devoted to it so go check out some of many examples. You can also see that others have been making their own hardscape tunes now.
I already wrote an article about why this style is awesome and who is responsible. I won’t repeat myself other than it’s full of hot ear sex.
My personal feelings are that in the next round of “forward thinking” hard dance styles, I hope someone will go wake up Hennes and Cold from whatever cryogenic sleep pod they are in and get them back in action. You can thank those guys for the entire hardstyle sound and some of the best hard trance ever. I don’t mean to sound bitter and as I said before, there has been some amazing music coming out. I think I just miss some of the older stuff I really liked and hope it comes back in its more original form rather than another reinvention. If it ain’t broke…