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Hardcore (electronic dance music genre)

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Hardcore (electronic dance music genre)

Hardcore is a subgenre of electronic dance music originally European from the emergent raves in the 1990s initially designed at Rotterdam in Netherlands, derived from techno.[3] Its subgenres are usually distinct from the other electronic dance musics by a higher rapidity (160 to 200 BPM or more[4]), the intensity of the kicks and the basses (in some subgenres),[5] the rhythm and the atmosphere of their theme (sometimes violent),[6] the usage of saturation and experimentation close to industrial dance music.



To understand the emergence of hardcore, one has to go back to the 1970s to find signs of a hard electronic dance music with industrial music. Groups like Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK, Foetus and Einstürzende Neubauten have produced music using a wide part of electronic instruments. The message diffused by industrial is then very provocative. Some of the musical sounds and experimentation of industrial have directly influenced hardcore since the beginning of the movement.

In the mid-1980s, under the influence of the Belgian group Front 242, electronic body music (EBM), a new genre more accessible and more dancing inspired by industrial and new wave, appeared.[7] This style is characterized by minimalism, cold sounds, ridden of the Afro-American influences unlike disco, funk or house, powerful beats, generally combined with aggressive vocals and an aesthetic close to industrial or punk music.[7] When EBM has met new beat, another Belgian genre, and acid house, the music has changed to a harder sound, techno.[8] All the elements were here for the arrival of hardcore.

Origins of term

The term hardcore is not new in music. It was first used to designate a more radical movement of the rock punk (Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains...) which, in addition to harden the music, also attached importance to their attitude and their way of life as in the street where it was born: violent, underground, but engaged and sincere. The term has then been reused when the hip-hop emerged in the late 1980s, designating the harder part of the hip-hop, with the same characteristics: a harder sound, engaged lyrics and a whole way of life dedicated to the respect of the values shown by rappers like KRS-One or Public Enemy. The term hardcore techno has first been used by EBM groups like à;GRUMH..., Pankow[9] and Leæther Strip[10] · ,[11] in the late 1980s, although their music had nothing to do with hardcore. à;GRUMH...'s Sucking Energy (Hard Core Mix), released in 1985, was the first track ever to use the term hardcore, within an EDM context. In 1990, the German producer Marc Trauner also kown as Mescalinum United is the first to claim to make hardcore techno with his track We Have Arrived, largely considered as a track founding the genre.[12]

However, in the early 1990s, the terms hardcore and darkcore were also used to designate some primitive forms of breakbeat and drum and bass which were very popular in England and from which have emerged several famous producers like The Prodigy, Lords of Acid and also Goldie. It introduced sped up hip-hop breakbeats, piano breaks, dub and low frequency basslines and cartoon-like noises, which has been retrospectively called 'old skool' hardcore, and is widely regarded as the progenitor of happy hardcore (which later lost the breakbeats) and jungle (which alternatively lost the techno style keyboard stabs and piano breaks).

Around 1993, the style became clearly defined and was simply named hardcore, as it left its influences of the techno of Detroit.[13]


Paul Elstak, the founder of Rotterdam Records.

The official birth of the hardcore is supposedly[12][14] known as the release of the track "We Have Arrived" from the German producer Mescalinum United, from Frankfurt, that has become one of the bastions of the hardcore at its start.[10][15] Acardipane founded the label Planet Core Productions in 1989 and has produced more than 500 tracks, including 300 by himself till 1996.[10] Another important name of the hardcore scene has started at PCP: Miroslav Pajic, better known as Miro. Among other things, the group PCP has popularized a slow, heavy, minimal and very dark form of hardcore that is now designated as darkcore or doomcore. In the United States, the New Yorker pioneer of techno Lenny Dee launched the label Industrial Strength Records in 1991[15] that has federated a large part of the American scene, making New York one of the biggest place of the American hardcore. Among others, there were Delta 9, Laura Grabb, D.O.A. and The Horrorist, but the label has also produced producers from other nationalities like the English Caustic Visions, the Australian Nasenbluten and even few tracks of Marc Acardipane. At the same time at Rotterdam, the DJs and producers Paul Elstak[16] and Rob Fabrie have popularized a speedier style, with saturated bass-lines quickly known as gabber (now called early hardcore), and its more commercial and accessible form, the happy hardcore[15][17]

Paul Elstak founded Rotterdam Records in 1992, which became the first label of hardcore of the Netherlands.[18] In 1992 at Utrecht, a giant rave called The Final Exam[19] has lead to the creation of the label ID&T which launched in 1993 the concept of Thunderdome which has quickly popularized hardcore music in Europe with a list of compilations and events attracting thousands of young people, then launching the gabber movement. Just during the single year 1993, four compilations were released with an increasing success.[20][21][22][23] Lots of artists on those compilations have then become famous stars like 3 Steps Ahead, DJ Buzz Fuzz, The Dreamteam, Neophyte, Omar Santana, and Charly Lownoise and Mental Theo in the gabber/happy hardcore registry. The same year, the label Mokum Records is created[15] by Freddy B which has had success thanks to artists and groups like Technohead[24][25][26][27] Tellurian, The Speedfreak, Scott Brown,[28] and the Belgian musician Liza N'Eliaz[29] pioneer of the speedcore.

In England, the members of the sound system Spiral Tribe,[30] including Stormcore, 69db, Crystal Distortion and Curley have hardened their acid-breakbeat sound, becoming the pioneers of the tribe, acidcore and hardtechno genres. In 1994, they founded the label Network 23 which among others has produced Somatic Responses, Caustic Visions, Unit Moebius, establishing the basis for the musical and visual bases of the free party hardcore. At the same time, another scene has increased around the DJ The Producer, Traffik, Bryan Fury and Hellfish (Deathchant, 1994).

In France, the pioneers of hardcore include: Laurent Hô,[31] DJ Charly & DJ Davyd, DJ Kirin, DJ La Carotte, Atomic Compressor, King Smoke, The Killer Clowns, LKJ, PatCash (with their label Gangstar Toons Industry,[10] 1994), DJ Olive, Manu le Malin, Psy4X Soundsystem with Tieum and DJ Tof, then Dr. Macabre. They have quickly been followed by SpeedyQ's, Armaguet Nad, La Peste (founder of Hangars Liquides, a speedcore label), Sarin Assault, XMF in which works The Hacker. Manu le Malin has given a great visibility to the genre in France. He has regularly appeared in TV shows. From the beginning, the French hardcore is distinct by its harder and darker industrial and acid sounds, which are very different from the sound of the Netherlands except G.T.I. (Gangstar Toons Industry) that is closer to the sound of the Netherlands and England. As the free party movement was growing in the country, other producers and sound systems have become famous: the Teknokrates, Heretik System, including the members Popof, Beuns, KRS and Nout have produced a large number of hardtechno, hardcore and speedcore tracks. Micropoint, composed by Radium and Al Core, which exists since middle 1990s has had a great success with their album Neurophonie in 1998.[32] This album is often considered as the start of the subgenre frenchcore, leading to a huge attraction for the hardcore in France, matching with a high media appearance of the free party phenomenon.


In the late 1990s, hardcore progressively changed. The early hardcore progressively died, leaving the place to other more accessible styles like mákina and hardstyle. Under the influence of this last one and the industrial hardcore new scene featuring DJ Promo and its label The Third Movement and producers like Ophidian and Mindustries, the mainstream hardcore has appeared in the early 2000s with a modern, mature, slow and sophisticated form,[14] which has quickly had success in Europe, especially in Netherlands and Italy,[14] among producers and groups like Endymion, Kasparov, Art of Fighters, The Stunned Guys and DJ Mad Dog. Happy hardcore continues its movement underground and has evolved bringing out other related genres such as eurobeat, UK hardcore, Freeform hardcore and Full-on Hardcore.

The list of compilations Biomechanik mixed by Manu le Malin has given a great visibility to darkcore, which has created a keen interest early 2000s: labels like Enzyme Records, Crossbones and Bloc 46 have produced artists from this genre, like Ruffneck, Fifth Era and The Outside Agency.

As the free party movement has an increasing success in all the Europe, freetekno has appeared: there are numerous producers and labels for the tribe, the hardtechno and the frenchcore: Epileptik, Audiogenic, Les Enfants Sages, Tekita, Breakteam, Mackitek, B2K and Narkotek.

Production techniques

Hardcore is usually composed using music sequencers, and many earlier tracks were produced on home computers with module tracker software. Some examples of the software used are FL Studio, Ableton Live, Cubase, Logic, Nuendo and Reason. The wide availability of computers, combined with the absence of financial remuneration, means that many hardcore musicians write for their own enjoyment and the pleasure of innovation.


Hardcore spawned several subgenres and derivative styles, including:

  • Breakbeat hardcore (often referred to as 'old skool' hardcore) – This retrospective term is usually reserved for tracks produced in the early 1990s, a large period of growth for the UK rave scene. These tracks are characterized by piano sections, bouncy basslines, breakbeats, and high-pitched vocals.
  • Darkcore (not to be confused with darkcore jungle) or doomcore – Broad categorical description characterized by elements of breakbeat, hardcore, and dark musical themes. Emerged in response to the happy party sound of UK hardcore.
  • Digital hardcore – Hardcore punk/hardcore techno fusion. Closely related to hardcore punk music.
  • Freeform hardcore – Sub genre of UK hardcore with strong influence of trance, mainly instrumental.
  • Full-on Hardcore – A fusion of full-on psychedelic trance and hardcore, it's known to be energetic and melodic/uplifting in nature using faster tempos.
  • Frenchcore (or Tribalcore) – Originated in the French rave scene of the early 1990s. Involves the re-creation of a distorted bass drum sound with a synthesizer. It is also considered a type of free tecno.[33] Frenchcore achieved wider recognition in 1998 with the release of Micropoint's first album Neurophonie.
  • Hardcore breaks (a.k.a. nu rave) – A genre written in the style of breakbeat hardcore and produced using modern technology and production techniques.
  • Gabber
  • Happy hardcore – Form of dance music known for its high tempos, usually around 165–180 bpm, often coupled with male or female vocals and sentimental lyrics. Popular in the UK, Australia and Spain, amongst other countries.
  • Mákina – Fast electronic dance music from Spain, fairly similar to happy hardcore.
  • Speedcore (not to be confused with thrashcore or speed metal) – Subgenre of gabber, distinguished by very fast tempos (300 bpm to 500–600 bpm), infused with heavily distorted percussion and aggressive themes.
    • Splittercore – Microgenre of speedcore, usually 700–800 bpm.
    • Extratone – Applied when the tempo exceeds 1000 bpm; the individual beats can no longer be distinguished and are perceived as audio tones.
  • Terrorcore – Faster, darker form of gabber with highly aggressive themes.
  • UK hardcore – Modern adaptation of happy hardcore, distinguishable from its predecessor by a style that is less "happy" and features harsher sounds such as saw leadlines.

See also


  1. ^ Jon Savage. "Machine soul - A History Of Techno". Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  2. ^ "New sub-genre of Hardcore EDM". Noisecreep. 
  3. ^ David Robb (2002). "Techno in Germany:Its Musical Origins and Cultural Relevance". pp. 134–135. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "PSYCHEDELIC FREESTYLE ||=awave". Retrieved 12 may 2012. 
  5. ^ Dirk Moelants (13 September 2003). "Dance Music, Movement and Tempo Preferences". p. 2. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Ishkur. "Ishkur's guide". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "EuroPopMusic : Electronic Body Music". EuroPopMusic. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Johannes Ripken (10 May 2012). "Dance Music History – First electronic sounds, via Disco, House, Dance to current developments". Johannes Ripken. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  9. ^ SPEX music magazine: Hardcore-Techno-Beat aus Florenz!, p.49, issue 9/89, September 1989
  10. ^ a b c d Reynolds Simon (1998). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture.  
  11. ^ "New Life-Soundmagazine october/november". New Life-Soundmagazine. october-november. 
  12. ^ a b "Mescalinum United - Biography". Planet Lyrics. Retrieved 8 May 2013. Trauner was co-founder of record label Planet Core Productions and has been credited with creating the first hardcore techno/gabber track in 1990, We Have Arrived, under the name of Mescalinum United 
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b c "Gabba Hardcore Dance Music". fantazia. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c d Peter Shapiro (1999). Drum 'n' bass: the rough guide : [jungle, big beat, trip hop]. p. ?. 
  16. ^ "DJ Paul Elstak". (in Nederlands). Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Vladimir Bogdanov (2011). All music guide to electronica: the definitive guide to electronica. 
  18. ^ "Mid-town History".  
  19. ^ "EVENTS.the past".  
  20. ^ 5th Raider (31 December 2004). "Thunderdome I : Fuck Mellow, This Is Hardcore From Hell Review". Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  21. ^ 5th Raider (19 July 2001). "Thunderdome II : Back From Hell! Review". Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  22. ^ 5th Raider (30 July 2001). "Thunderdome III : The Nightmare Is Back Review". Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  23. ^ 5th Raider (22 August 2007). "Thunderdome IV : The Devil's Last Wish Review". Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  24. ^ British and American hit singles: 51 years of transatlantic hits. p. 2071. 
  25. ^ "Banana-Na-Na". Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  26. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Technohead - I Wanna Be a Hippy)". (in Deutsch). Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  27. ^ "Daniel Leeflang Bio".  
  28. ^ Wyburn, Claire (April 1996). "Scott Brown: The King of Scottish Hardcore". M8 (85): 10–11. 
  29. ^ Des pratiques artistiques des jeunes (in Français). 2003. p. 43. 
  30. ^ Stéphane Hampartzoumian (2004). Effervescence techno: Ou la communauté trans(e)cendantale (in Français). p. 153. 
  31. ^ Morgan Jouvenet (2006). Rap, techno, électro...: Le musicien entre travail artistique et son organisation (in Français). pp. 137–138. 
  32. ^ "Biographie Micropoint" (in Français). Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  33. ^
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