Electronic Dance Music

Electronic dance music (EDM) is any music with electronic sounds. You probably know it as either techno or house. If you cal it that in front of EDM fans, they will try (and fail) to kill you.

Just The Facts

  1. EDM has been around since the 1970s.
  2. Nobody actually cared about it until the 1990s.
  3. The term EDM is the only umbrella term that everyone will agree to.
  4. There are hundreds of thousands of shitty, indistinguishable subgenres of EDM, many of which exist to describe only one song.
  5. If you get a song's subgenre wrong, you will forever be branded an emofag.


Dance music is what you hear on the radio. It's what makes it high on the charts. It's what all the teenage girls with fake IDs start screaming over when the DJ starts playing it. Every succesful song from the last ten years has a club-friendly dance remix somewhere on YouTube with a couple hundred thousand plays. Dance music is hooky, mainstream, commercial hell-pop with random synthesizers included.

All real EDM fans claim to hate mainstream dance music, but this is untrue. Like the creeping black maw of death itself, good dance music has a powerful and inexorable pull. You can try to resist it, but eventually it will take hold of you. Then, before you know it, you'll be dancing like an idiot, surrounded by sweaty white guys in Express polos and Ed Hardy button-downs, asking everyone around you who the artist is so you can BitTorrent the song later.



Characterized by a strong bass and rhythmatic drums, house music is what happened to disco in the thirty years after you stopped paying attention. Just like EDM itself, house is crippled by the problem of ridiculous amounts of subgenres, and pretty much the only thing that connects them is that they all have drums.

You can think of the evolution of house as a family tree. After disco died, there came into existance classic house (also called Italo House, for some reason, even though practically none of its creators were Italian.) From there, it split. In America, gay black people (no, seriously) created funky house, which has ultimately morphed into the hip-hop, big-bass, every-other-lyric-demanding-more-shaking-of-booty disaster we know today. In Europe, a bunch of pompous, self-elevated former trance fans created progressive house, which basically means nothing because every subgenre of EDM to ever exist has had the word "progressive" stuck in front of it at one point or another.

Progressive house splintered into a million subgenres that nobody ever really listened to, until all of a sudden a few European DJs had the brilliant idea of turning house into commercial pop music with heavy drums. Thus, today, we have Eurodance, which is what most people think of when they hear the word "techno." Mention Cascada, Basshunter, DJ Sammy, or any of the other mainstream Eurodance groups, and prepare to subject yourself to a thirty minute rant about the death of EDM.

Of course, there are other, niche movements within the house world: acid, electro, dark, hard house. There's not really much to say about them. They're basically just fusions of house and another subgenre. Because every subgenre ever has been fused with every other subgenre at some point. There's just way too many to keep track of.




Some people like to call all EDM techno. If you are one of those people, everyone in the EDM world hates you. No, seriously.

True techno originated in 1980s Detroit when, for some reason, middle-class black teenagers decided to start emulating the few nancy-boy Europeans who were still making "disco." The techno that came out of 1980s Detroit sounds like it was made by machines - as in, machines using the machines. Its spread to other American cities like Chicago and New York helped create modern house, but true techo died in the late 80s. A few people out there are still trying to loop shattering glass and a guy getting slapped for two hours and calling it techno, but nobody is really listening.

The only dose of true techno most people will ever get is old school VGM -- video game music. Like Mario and Pokemon. That is techno. The dance remix of Lil Wayne's A Milli is not.



Trance is the melodic anthemy crap that faggy Europeans listen to. It's the stuff that people lift their hands in the air to for five hours, screaming and glorifying the DJ every time he makes a slight change to the music even though he's basically nothing more than a glorified jukebox operator.

All modern trance comes from the Netherlands. Rumor has it that there are still some British people making trance, but those are yet to be confirmed.

Originally, trance was an offshoot of house that reduced the drums, emphasized the melodies, and replayed the same thirty second loop for six hours. But then some Dutch guys in the mid '90s started making epic, angelic, flighty music with Dutch songstresses singing about love in heavily accented English, and modern Anthem Trance was born. Classic Trance fans call Anthem Trance "McTrance." Unfortunately, everyone outside their little hardcore fanclub calls Classic Trance "crap."

Most Americans hate trance, because it's so gay. But in Europe, it's impossible to escape it. Some speculate that trance is the next hip-hop, the next sudden mainstream explosion cultural phenomenon. Maybe, but the DJs are going to have to figure out how to stop making every song sixteen minutes long if they ever want huge mainstream success.

Trance has no stars. Every trance producer ever makes one (maybe two) hugely succesful tracks and then produces crap for years, until they create a new pseudonym and release another single hugely succesful track. The only exception is Tiësto. Every trance fan must idolize Tiësto. It's a requirement.



Also known as rave (depending on who you ask.) This genre was born in the late 80s when some of the mor e"serious" EDM fans got sick of all the bright, happy house and trance coming out of Europe. Defined by massive bass, harsh acid, and screaming synths.

Then somewhere in the mid '90s, the genre split. Half of it went to the brutal, raging realm of powercore, which is basically death metal with the guitars replaced by synths. The other half went the route of insanely high BPM, sugary synths, and sickeningly optimistic lyrics known as happy hardcore. Nobody really knows why these two are grouped under the same subgenre or how the hell they came to exist, but one thing is for sure. They sound nothing like original rave music.




By definition, ambient music is something that is designed to be ignored. While most music strives toward the goal of making its listeners dance, or jam out, or evoke emotion, ambeint music strives to be barely acknowledged

Anything made with the intention of being in the background is ambient. It can be as dark, creepy, chill, intense, or psychedelic as it wants. Terrifying background music for horror movies falls into this category. So does that pretentious high-brow chillout crap that postmodern hipster poets love to talk over. So does the airy new age music that Enya and several hundred no-names that nobody cares about make. It doesn't even have to necessarily be electronic to qualify as ambient, though most ambient music is.

People who claim to like ambient music are usually just trying to look hip and pseudo-intellectual. There's nothing wrong with the music itself; it's good for certain situations. Unfortunately, the hipsters hijacked it. And just like irony and androgynous haircuts, mainstream society is never going to get it back.

Drum & Bass

House without melodies.

No, seriously, that's what it is. Drum & Bass is nothing but drum and bass. DJs make a relatively funky or danceable four second drum beat, and then they just loop it for an hour and a half.

The entire genre was spawned by a six-second drum break from the B-side of some long-forgotten 60s album, known as the Amen Break. You've heard it before. Guaranteed. You've probably heard it so many times that you don't even acknowledge it anymore. This break has been sampled so many times, on so many different songs that the copyright has basically been expired by popular demand.

Drum & Bass exists to try and create a drum break as spastic and funky as the Amen Break. It will never succeed. Ever.


Breakbeat is a fancy, EDM way of saying rap. All rap has electronic elements, and EDM fans like to think that that's thanks to them. Basically, "breakbeat" is a way of saying that hip-hop owes its existence a group of skinny, androgynous European electro-disco producers in the early 70s called Kraftwerk.

Of course, somewhere along the line some skinny, androgynous European stuck the word "progressive" in front of breakbeat and spawned a whole mess of electronic subgenres of rap. Then a few years later someone merged these subgenres with stuff like trance, creating music that is basically trance with random gaps inserted in the middle of the synth lines.

Technically, every time some French guy remixes a rap song and calls it the "electro-dance remix," he's actually creating breakbeat. Since, you know, Kraftwerk invented rap.



Nu Rave

This doesn't exist. This is an artificial creation by the British press to describe all the completely unrelated crap that was being played at British raves during the later '00s. "Nu" is a term that gets slapped onto every subgenre ever created when the Brits get a hold of it (unless the Brits invented it in the first place, in which case it gets the "Nu" label once everyone realizes that it sucks and some douchebags decide that they can make it good.) Unfortunately, Nu Rave as a term makes no sense because there is no such thing as "rave" music. The kind of music played at raves is completely dependent on the type of rave, and it can be anything from candy-pink, chipmunky-vocal world peace garbage with a BPM in the thousands to beatless emo sound poetry that you'd only expect to hear at a Nihilism convention.


Goa Trance

This is legitimate, brain-melting, shroom-downing insanity. The makers of Goa Trance make it while tripping. Its fans listen to it while tripping. The DJs play it while tripping. Simply put, there is no concievable way you could enjoy -- or even understand -- this music without being on something.

Also known as psychadelic music, Goa Trance comes from Goa, India, a place that has become famous as a refuge for hippies and druggies. Almost everyone who makes it is from Israel for some reason. The few tracks that have vocals are all either electronically deepened voices reciting Bible verses or random lines from famous speeches. There are unspeakable amounts of subgenres to Goa Trance, and most people just completely ignore them. Basically, if you can "see" the music every time you play it, it's Goa.