Dance music is about the beat—no one denies it. Beyond the beat, electronic dance music has, over the last decade or so, also been about the BPM and the occasional mixing of genres, as when Diplo embraced trap and moombahton. But as the major commercial wave of EDM has rolled back a bit, other sounds in the broader electronic genre have begun to get more attention.
Some of these sounds being heard in 2019 come from more recent underground scenes. Others that have existed in other niche genres for a while, or even had their heyday in other decades. And while house and its sub-genres arguably remain the most popular styles of today’s EMD production, below, we take a look at a few artists who are helping to define this year’s exciting array of electronic dance music sounds.
1. The return of lush, melodic production
In a lot of the electronic dance music of the last decade-plus, the emphasis has been more on the beat and the bass than anything, and on creating sonic mayhem, whether it’s a mainstream act like Skrillex or someone more experimental like Oneohtrix Point Never. And if the results aren’t bombastic, then they might be something like the minimalist techno coming out of Berlin, which largely eschews melody. But a look back at Jamie Principle and Frankie Knuckles iconic house track “Your Love” also shows the value of a great melodic hook in creating a lasting dance record, but also a song that can get people moving on the dance floor.
2. Afrobeat influence
Like the Gqom genre aesthetic, Afrobeat has been around for a while. A blend of hip-hop, funky house, and local African music from London (via Africa diaspora), Ghana, and Nigeria, Afrobeat had originally been fairly limited to parts of the African continent and the UK, but it’s catching fire internationally. British-Ghanian artist Mista Silva’s “Murda” is a great example of the Afrobeats vibe, which sounds almost like a more rhythmically and sonically diverse musical cousin of Reggaeton.
3. Trance lives again
Originating in the UK and Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before devolving into self-parody, trance is by no means fashionable. The Field might have released a sliced and diced variant of trance back in the late 2000s, but it’s not as if people are clamoring for the sound. And yet, Tale of Us recently dropped an amazing remix of “Cafe del Mar,” an iconic trance track produced by Energy 52.
4. Experimental dance
Both house and techno are four decades old now, so a big part of keeping these genres and their various offshoots fresh, is experimentation. In 2019, plenty of artists are doing just that, whether it’s finding refreshing sounds and textures, or collapsing genres to find new forms of expression.
Take the track “Oral Couture.” An industrial bassline throbs rhythmically until a crystalline synthesizer arpeggio enters the mix. While a lot of artists might quickly drop the beat, JASSS lets this mixture unfold like a music cue from a science fiction or horror film, and brings the beat in around the 2-minute mark. It’s a masterful approach to dancefloor sounds, and really seems like the electronic dance music that permeate the clubs of the future.