Big beat- an appreciation

April 5, 2007

I’ve recently been able to play tapes again after a long while. This has allowed me to play all sorts of stuff I haven’t heard in ages, including some very good compilations and some not so good grunge era albums, from when I was an avid tape-listening teenager.

My favourite rediscovery has been this mix, Beat Up the NME, which I got free with the titular magazine 10 years ago. It’s mixed by the now much-maligned Fatboy Slim, and is a riotous, bass heavy, banging selection of hip hop, speed garage, ragga and big beat. I’ve also been listening to some early 90s hardcore recently, of the glowsticks and vicks vapo-rub at a rave outside Milton Keynes variety.

These two genres, hardcore and big beat, seem a refreshing antidote to the current fashion in dance music for all things minimal, the archetype being the (often excellent) Kompakt label, or the coffee table trip hop feel of much dubstep. While I often like so-called “tasteful” dance music, and have some problems with big beat’s idea of “dance music as rock”, it is sometimes great to have someone playing fun, stupid records at a high volume that simply make you nod your head and grin.

I guess the most recent equivalent of this kind of stupid dance music is the bumping, distorted, riffing electro stuff that’s been around of late, as epitomised by the Parisian Ed Banger Records, which is no doubt as offensive to arbiters of tasteful dance music (not to mention music critics more generally) as hardcore was 15 years ago.

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5 Responses to “Big beat- an appreciation”

  1. tom Says:

    Quick and un thought through thoughts: I was thinking about big beat the otehr day and I recon that new rave (or is it nu rave? maybe they’re different things and I just can’t tell from where I’m standing a good 10 years from the heart of the scene) is proabbyl closer to the mark as a modern anaalogue.

    Perhaps not in terms of sound, but basically the principal behind both seems to be a rediscovery that something from the past is actually good after all and that “dance music? hey this stuff is alright actualyl, maybe the indie isn’t all there is to life” that and 99% of both genres is absolute garbage when unpacked from the mix format where the tunes tend to act as glue to more traditionally centralised/creative genres hip hop/acid house/ragga/electro etc.

  2. neilstewart Says:

    I thought of nu/new rave when writing the above post, but I think nu rave is basically indie/ emo with some superficial rave signifiers (glow sticks, smiley faces etc). Big beat, for all its failings, is definitely recognisably dancy- breakbeats, pulsing bass lines etc.- just maximal, and therefore in “bad taste”.

    Nu rave definitely has the “bad taste” elements of big beat/ harcore though- Enter Shikari sound like Lost Prophets with bits of Faithless tacked on, which is basically critical anthema.

  3. Kate G Says:

    I too have been listening to tapes from Uni and every time I hear the Chemical Brothers I can’t help a big grin. Also from back then, whatever happened to the Beastie Boys? I know, not technically dance as such. Also did you ever have a copy of Dance 92? Seminal.

  4. neilstewart Says:

    The Beastie Boys turned rubbish, basically! Diminishing returns after Paul’s Boutique, IMO. Is Dance 92 this?: http://www.discogs.com/release/750327

  5. Kate G Says:

    Ah yeah! CD2 being a particular favourite. Many a dance routine was made up to this chez Ryley, back in the day, I hasten to add!


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