Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Beat

Apparently in late 1980's Belgium, there was a genre called "New Beat" which straddled the divide between New Wave european dance music and the electronica genre that would ride to popularity in the 1990s with raver culture.

The 'new' aspect of the beat came from it's contrast to the HiNRG ('high-energy') sound that dominated most New Wave Dance music of the time (i.e: Dead or Alive - You Spin Me Right Round).

While not specifically New Beat, this fan video for French Coldwave act Trisomie 21 certainly captures the aesthetic of the era.

Like any genre of music, there's quite a range within New Beat. A lot of New Beat sounds very much like New Order backing tracks from the '80s, while others feel like playing them will suddenly cause sweaty dude dancing in front of industrial fans to appear.

The first New Beat track I heard was Tragic Error - Tanzen (in English, "Dance"). The video is beyond strange, but taps into my love of '80s dark synth dance music.

It's little wonder that Front 242's early works (including 'Headhunter') are often considered "New Beat":

A fellow on YouTube's posted a few mixes of music played in Belgian clubs in this era. They're well mixed and have a good track selection. However, some do include 'edgy' 1980s German dance tracks that reference WWII though. Your mileage may vary.

It has consistently surprised me how many samples from these tracks I recognize, and how familiar the "New Beat"-beat was. For example, Pleasure game - Le dormeur is a pretty clear example of the "New Beat"-beat structure, and it sounds eerily similar to the classic "Mortal Kombat Theme song". 

I did some research and figured out why: the guy who wrote the Mortal Kombat theme was Praga Khan, a Belgian techno, and originally New Beat musician. It's fun to find odd cultural connections like this - and goes a long way in explaining why this style of music seemed so familiar. I don't think I was in any Belgian dance clubs when I was 5 years old, but who can really be sure?

Further listening:

For more "New Beat", check out this Youtube playlist on the topic

A Split Second - Flesh [Link]

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