Genres are gnarly, twisting things. They hardly start with a name, but once a brilliant musical idea gets out there, there’s no holding it back: It develops, morphs, gets called names, morphs again, triumphs, dips, peaks again, and—oftentimes—returns 20 years later with renewed energy and curiosity.
So we decided to take a look at a few of today’s big genres—and, more to the point, their origins—and construct a series of charts around where they came from and how they’ve mutated over the years. Have a peek below to see the development of house, techno, trance, and dubstep music, and download all the charts speckled throughout the guide.
House is, by definition, a very basic premise: electronic music with an unbroken 4/4 tempo, off-beat hi-hats and a BPM ballpark of 100 to 140. But for house heads, however, the genre is something more esoteric—in line with Eddie Amador‘s famous lyrics, “a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing.” Both of these definitions barely scratch the surface. Even the untrained ear could identify the differences between speed garage and beatdown, or handbag house against progressive and acid, but all of these offshoots are direct descendants of house; it’s a mother genre with extensive roots and an inexhaustible, ever-growing system of branches. See its beginning origins in the first chart below, and then explore its many mutations.
The birth of modern trance music began in the early ‘90s. Hypnotic, fluid, and seemingly endless loops could be played for hours leaving dancers in a—you guessed it—trance! Rooted in a combination of acid and house, trance was the new techno for the spiritually conscious generation of the early ‘90s. Early labels like Sven Vath‘s Eye Q Records, and artists like Dance 2 Trance and Cygnus X released some of the biggest hits that can still be heard today blaring out as “one more choon” encores. Follow us through the decades and listen to the beginnings of what is arguably dance music’s most addictive gateway genre, and hear its evolution from meditative long players like F Communications‘ ”The Milky Way” (released in 1995) to Gareth Emery‘s ”Tokyo,” the only trance track to break into the Beatport overall Top Ten in 2011.
For most people with a passing interest in techno music, the very term “techno” is likely synonymous with Detroit, Michigan. The Motor City in the early ‘80s was something of a dystopian world, with the once-thriving place in serious economic downturn, and unemployment, poverty, crime, and urban and industrial abandonment on the rise. It’s against this backdrop that one of the most integral and influential forms of dance music emerged. Influenced by Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Prince, Parliament, disco, and late-night radio DJ The Electrifying Mojo, three high-school friends began to develop what is now considered the blueprint for techno. But what Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson spawned in their suburban homes would hardly stay in Detroit—rather, it sparked a revolution that spread around the world, hitting Manchester, Berlin, Toyko, and all points in between over the years. Read on to see charts from techno’s early days, and how its influence has spread over the last 25 years.
One of the biggest “overnight success stories” in electronic dance music is hardly an overnight success at all. While dubstep lately has been characterized by the likes of Skrillex and his ilk, the sound has grown immensely in the last decade, since Horsepower Productions‘ and Kode9‘s early experiments first took shape, leading to the Croydon sound popularized by Skream, Benga, and Digital Mystikz. But its roots can be traced even further back, when dubstep found its earliest strains in UK garage, where bass-centric dance music collided with hip-hop, R&B, and reggae influences. So check out the charts below to see where dubstep came from, and how it got to where it is now.