Aah, electronic dance music, metal's natural enemy. Back in the days, many of my friends and colleague-metalheads despised the electronic beats and jolly melodies of house and techno music. While I mostly agreed with them, I did have a few favorites, recorded on a C-90 cassette. Later, at Pukkelpop, I often spent more time in the dance hall and boiler room than in front of the main stage, dancing my ass off. In the end, I started realizing that electronic music had been captivating me just as much as analog music and that more songs remain enjoyable than I previously imagined. So, today, it looked like a good idea to focus an edition of rerooting to electronic dance music and get jiggy again with those old tunes.
In the late eighties two Belgians (Serge Ramaekers & Dominic Sas) took the music industry by storm when they started releasing heaps of songs under loads of monikers. Probably best known for being the producers of songs by Confetti's, Highstreet, T-Spoon and so on, these synth-gurus quickly became a fixed value in the world of new beat. The genre was invented by a DJ who played a 7" on the wrong speed, making it slower and darker. When I discovered new beat, I forgot about rock and metal for a while. Several years later, I started my own little project, which still often produces these old school sounds.
Pretty much a constant on all new beat overview compilations, Snowy Red was already a bit of an outsider before he became a new beat deity . This song was released before the whole craze even started but quickly became an absolute landmark in the Belgian music industry. Like many of his fellow countrymen, including Front 242, Praga Khan/Lords Of Acid and A Split Second, Snowy Red can be seen as a massive influence for the entire EDM scene, or at least the darker regions of it.
Shortly after new beat faded away, techno started taking over. The majority of the tracks lacked the atmosphere and ingenuity of new beat, gradually making me turn my back to the entire scene. However, in 1993, this little explosion suddenly blasted through the speakers of my stereo while I was looking for a radio-channel. I was hooked immediately. turned up the volume and invited my neighbours to a little dance party. This was different and for me, this was the exact moment when trance was born.
Another country that seemed to know its way around electronic dance music, was Italy. The first time I heard this song, I was shopping in a toy store with a friend of mine. I was still a metalhead, not very fond of EDM but this one was fun, even though it's probably one of the most silly songs ever to have been produced. In a way, at that moment I decided that dance music was ok as long as it was silly, stupid and fun, or as long as I was drunk, that's also a possibility.
Speaking about silly, for years this one has been my absolute number one as far as retro-techno goes. That pumping bass, that immersive and minimal melody, there had been nothing as danceable as 'James Brown Is Dead'. It was horribly remixed after James Brown actually died and back in the days it was followed by tracks like 'James Brown Is Still Alive' and 'Who The Fuck Is James Brown'. Those were crazy days.
At one point, my then-girlfriend started evolving from Emperor & Cradle Of Filth fan into a eurodance fan. She started taking me to parties, where I had to listen to countless of tracks from Milk Inc, Fiocco, Culture Beat, Haddaway and so on. While most of them didn't meet my musical requirements, a few actually did. Eventually, the whole eurodance/trance/house scene, for me, highlighted in this tune by Belgian act Absolom.
As far as live performances are concerned, dance music still has a lot to learn from their colleagues in the rock and metal sector. However, that does not count for Maurice Engelen and his band of jolly beats-mongers. I saw them live at a little festival in the small Belgian town of Lummen, where they headlined after Bloodhound Gang and some other rock bands. However, the energy and intensity of this Praga Khan gig exceeded every expectation. From that moment on, Praga Khan became one of my favorite live-acts.
To me personally, Praga Khan managed to create a bridge between the on average unimaginative house music and alternative techno. That performance at Zwemdokrock opened a lot of new doors, leading to acts like Underworld, Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Headrillaz and even Zion Train. Orbital's 'Satan' was one of the smashers, a track I immediately adored when I heard it live at another festival. This one still gets me off my feet.
Another one of those Belgian dance gurus is CJ Bolland and it's right behind Orbital for a good reason, their song 'Sugar Is Sweeter'. After hearing that, I quickly bought the full-length 'The Analogue Theatre', which also contains the awesome track 'The Prophet'. There it was again, that pumping bass, that hypnotic repetitive nature. My interest in dance music had been raised again, leading me to newer territories.
That new direction included psytrance or Goa-trance, a genre that somehow worked like a drug. For a while, I devoured countless of compilations, all thanks to this one track by Israelis Astral Projection. Eventually, my interest in the genre faded away, as most of the tracks became increasingly similar and unoriginal or simply because I had grown out of it. Yet, this one (and the next) can still get me on the dancefloor (when nobody's watching).
This is the other constant that survived my personal psytrance-extinction. Eat Static, a psychedelic trance side project for former Ozric Tentacles member Merv Pepler has everything that made this genre great, including fierce beats, immersive bass lines, minimal melodies and hypnotic sequencers. For me, those were the glory days of psytrance.
When one doors closes, another opens. I actually discovered this track on Music 2000, music creating software for the Playstation. To this day, it's one of the few drum & bass tracks I know by name (apart from my own, obviously). In the end, this track became the number one source of inspiration for my own drum & bass escapades but also thought me a thing or two about atmospheric dance music.
Atmosphere has always been a decisive feature in the music I listen to, starting with the very first song I can remember listening to (Golden Earring's 'Ce Soir'). So when I discovered ambient music, I was the happiest person alive (we'll get to that in another edition of 'Rerooting'). Suddenly, in 1990, this delightful little tune popped up, beautifully combining ambient and dance music. After experiencing it live (once again at Pukkelpop I think), I became an Orb fan for life. That was magical.
Some time ago, I started getting interested in dubstep, something which equally quickly faded away. After listening to a heap of tracks, only a few seemed to have enough power to entertain me. Then, this cooperation between Cypress Hill & Rusko suddenly showed up and turned the wrongs into rights. From today's dance scene, this ep is the only one that often appears in my day-to-day playlist and it always wins.
Ok, this one is cheating but I have to because I really wanted to mention both these acts. Both have been influencing my appreciation for electronic dance music. I've always been fond of the Prodigy, even after I suddenly found myself face to face with a furiously screaming Keith (at Pukkelpop), which for a moment scared the shit out of me. I also liked this Pendulum remix which eventually caused me to buy their 'Live At Brixton Academy' album. Both of them rock, and that's pretty rare in the EDM scene.