Electro versus "electro" (electro house/pop/clash)
January 17, 2011 8:24 AM   Subscribe

What should we call real electro music now everyone refers to electro house / -pop / -clash as just "electro"?

I'm a DJ and promoter, and I love electro. I'd love to play an electro set at my regular night, maybe even put on a whole electro night. But the thing is, over the last few years, "electro" has become lazy shorthand for electro house, electropop, electroclash, and indie-electro house crossover (certainly in London at least, and globally if last.fm's "electro" tag is anything to go by).

Now it does pain me a little that the pre-existing genre has basically had its name stolen, but that's not really the issue here. My concern is that if I write "electro" in the blurb or on a flyer, I'll want to play stuff like this: Aux 88; Cybotron; I-F; and people will turn up expecting to hear this: Digitalism; Justice.

Given that space is often tight in blurbs and flyers, and listings often cut down what you write anyway, how can I concisely describe the 808-breaks + sci-fi genre, in such a way that it makes it obvious that it's not the stompy distorted synths genre?
posted by iivix to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Perhaps prefix it with 'vintage' or 'old-school', as a way of indicating that you mean the original stuff.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:35 AM on January 17, 2011


Yeah, "old-school" will work. And will also make you feel incredibly old when the kids start asking why you aren't playing old-school stuff like Miss Kittin.
posted by griphus at 8:39 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was considering "old school", but there's stuff from the 80s to tracks released just a few weeks ago, so I don't think that works. The way I see it, it's a genre with longevity, but not a retro one.
posted by iivix at 8:41 AM on January 17, 2011


Either the phrase "old school" or maybe a decade marker is definitely the way to go.
Speaking as a young person who likes a fair amount of what is currently called electro, I'd be a bit confused if I showed up somewhere and the old electro was playing!
posted by miraimatt at 8:41 AM on January 17, 2011


Detroit electro?
posted by Uncle Ira at 8:44 AM on January 17, 2011


I can't use a decade marker, as like I said, some of this stuff is brand new. It's not an old fashioned form of "electro" as in electro house etc, it's a separate genre that's still being produced. And that ambiguity is half the problem!
posted by iivix at 8:44 AM on January 17, 2011


As a 90s-emo fan, I feel your pain. We're relegated to calling it 90s Emo or Early Emo or Old School Emo.

But really you should be happy that the word is still around...in a way, even though it means that mainstream culture is trying to erase the memory of the origins of the thing, the presence of it as an artifact in the word (No not that Electro, THIS electro) keeps it alive in a way. I wish there was a cheesy dance pop genre called Shockabilly for instance, or C86.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:46 AM on January 17, 2011


OK I see that it's still being made...Append a praise-adjective to it!
Hardcore Electro?
Electro-Core?
Roots Electro?
Realectro?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:47 AM on January 17, 2011


Regarding your just-posted response, I think "old school" is still an acceptable designator.
There is not going to be an uprising that restores the original electro as the one true electro in the minds of the general population. Like it or not, to many (most?) people these days, electro means something else, and the older variety definitely sounds quite "old school". Fans of current electro will know to not expect their usual, and people such as yourself will probably perceive the correct genre of music as well. You might not like making the age the primary association, but I think it is the clearest way to communicate what you're playing.

(Electronic music is sometimes derisively called "fashion music", and in some ways it's kind of true. Things come in and go out extremely quickly. Nothing means anything to anyone who wasn't there a few years after the fact. I suppose all music is like that these days.)
posted by miraimatt at 8:49 AM on January 17, 2011


I guess what I'm saying is that even though the tracks themselves might not be old school, the style (relative to the progression of the word "electro") is old school. The vibe is old school.
posted by miraimatt at 8:49 AM on January 17, 2011


Assuming your set isn't 100% unique every time, how about inserting a space on the flyer where you list off whose music you will regularly spin.
posted by griphus at 8:50 AM on January 17, 2011


Yeah, "old-school" will work. And will also make you feel incredibly old when the kids start asking why you aren't playing old-school stuff like Miss Kittin.
I hate you now. So hard.

But, yes. "Old-school" electro makes sense as a style.
posted by verb at 8:59 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


'It's not an old fashioned form of "electro"'

To me, and this is not meant to be a judgment on its artistic merit, that's exactly what it is.
posted by caek at 9:00 AM on January 17, 2011


> To me, and this is not meant to be a judgment on its artistic merit, that's exactly what it is.

Well I don't want to get into a long debate in genre-ology, but I think the roots of "electro" are electropop and Daft Punk style French house, and it's unfortunate coincidence in naming that the adjective "electro" has been reused. The fundamental quality that all old school / real electro has is that busy 808 breakbeat with a snappy snare sound, something that you don't hear in "electro" at all (which is four-to-the-floor).
posted by iivix at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2011


I think I'm like most people in that I have no idea where the lines are that divide electro from house from dub step from drum n' bass. I just know when I like a song, and it's all lumped into 'techno.'
posted by boghead at 9:06 AM on January 17, 2011


In San Francisco I see promoters referring to your genre as Electronica.
posted by analogue at 9:11 AM on January 17, 2011


Thoughtful
Elegant
(X=how many) dimensional
(X=how many) pronged
posted by timsteil at 9:12 AM on January 17, 2011


Thanks for the suggestions so far :) Overall, I'm just not feeling "old school", it seems counter to the forward thinking sci-fi vibe of electro to me. Bear in mind that alongside some older tracks I'd be spinning stuff like this: 214 - The Curves Neck; which is from just last year, and has a fairly contemporary dark glitched up IDM feel, rather than an 80s hip-hop feel.
posted by iivix at 9:15 AM on January 17, 2011


Call it electro-funk, that's what it was actually called before if got shortened to just "electro". Check the wikipedia article, it's either electro-funk or electro-boogie.

To me, "Electro-funk" totally means something that Baambaata could be spinning, that would kinda be the point right?
posted by Tom-B at 9:17 AM on January 17, 2011


Wow, electro-funk is a VERY good suggestion in my opinion.
The funkiness is, I would say, one of the biggest distinctions between this and "today's electro".
posted by miraimatt at 9:28 AM on January 17, 2011


Electro-funk FTW. (Or electro-boogie, but... Yeah, electro-funk will do.)

Well I don't want to get into a long debate in genre-ology, but I think the roots of "electro" are electropop and Daft Punk style French house

Gosh, now I feel old. Cybotron, dude. Zapp. Kraftwerk, ffs. Seriously.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:48 AM on January 17, 2011


Oh, look, you mentioned Cybotron in your question. *slinks away*
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 AM on January 17, 2011


"Old School" for a style of music that has been continuously vital up to the present day is an anachronistic misnomer, akin to calling Belle & Sebastian a British Invasion band. Furthermore there are distinct eras that have emerged over the past 30 years and an evolution of production techniques that makes it as difficult to subsume current electro under the Old School banner as it is misplaced for more-current four-on-the-floor styles to be called Electro. Yet here we are.

Electro-house and the like only adopted the electro moniker because, coming out of the long dominance of minimal techno and tech-house, a name was needed to describe the Italo and Moroder-esque techno-house then being made. Since the idealized production techniques of Italo & Electro-house derived from the 70s, it seems to have made sense for the new style to adapt the name of a style that used many of the same sounds. The word "electro" is effectively a "close enough" syllogism in four-on-the-floor dance music.

So, I would recommend not fighting this and just managing expectations. "Electro" is not nearly as helpful, given the current vagueness of the term, and I would go for "Electro, Breaks & Bass" (or Miami Bass) with some kind of graphic to indicate that it's not just another Planet Rock "Old School & Classic Hip-Hop" night. "Electro-bass" would be a shorter version that combines Electro-funk (early New York hip-hop) and Techno-bass (what they call electro in Detroit). Not that many (if any) would get the connection, but it's a meaningful term that isn't exactly the same as the problematic. You could also include some kind of nod to the influence of synth-pop on electro that has cropped up over the past 10 years or so. You could also include IDM as a tag on the flyer, if you're comfortable with that.
posted by rhizome at 10:57 AM on January 17, 2011


Another vote for electro-funk. It covers both the classic and the new-school, Dam-Funk kind of stuff. Its an accurate term and the heads you are trying to attract to this kind of party will know the what you're talking about.
posted by Fred Wesley at 3:53 PM on January 17, 2011


Thanks for the suggestions everyone. It's a tricky one for sure. As you can tell, I'm not sold on "old school", and I'm also in two minds about "electro-funk" given that some of it is decidely cold, robotic and unfunky. To my mind "Detroit electro" has the right sort of connotations, "electro, breaks & bass" covers the territory (but potentially opens up a new level of confusion with new school breaks), while "electro-bass" or ""techno-bass" also do well to differentiate from four to the floor house.
posted by iivix at 9:34 AM on January 18, 2011


To my mind "Detroit electro" has the right sort of connotations, "electro, breaks & bass" covers the territory (but potentially opens up a new level of confusion with new school breaks), while "electro-bass" or ""techno-bass" also do well to differentiate from four to the floor house.

Yes, but you know what you're talking about. You're trying to appeal to people who aren't DJs, after all.:)

I don't think the term "breaks" is much of a problem since it's closer to the sound you're after, and make no mistake, Dynamix II uses break loops from time to time. That is, people will be much more disappointed to find bass beats when they're coming to hear electro-house than those who think it's a breaks night (and "electro" and "bass" puts breaks in a minority priority anyway). That is, "electro bass and breaks" describes the sound you have more than just "electro" or relatively-nerdy genres like "Detroit electro" & Techno-bass (unless you don't want women to show up). Also, one arcane aspect of Techno-bass (Detroit electro) is that it does allow for four-on-the-floor tracks in the style (per orthodoxy, natch).
posted by rhizome at 11:55 AM on January 18, 2011


of bigger concern to me as someone who has been occasionally throwing electronic music events since the mid90s - why would you be constrained in terms of how you could advertise your own event? website with downloadable mixes and track listings, twitter / facebook pages with music links, flyers of any size you want or no flyers at all, snail and e-mail mailing list, etc... plus advertising to people who understand the difference between justice and aux 88 to begin with via mailing lists, forums, attending similar events, etc...

a small flyer with a small genre name isn't what gets me through the door at an event, regardless of whether it's a genre name i love or hate
posted by groovinkim at 12:13 AM on February 6, 2011


« Older From what film are these snippets taken?   |   What is the most effective technique for making... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.