Tuesday, 28 February 2012

What is Electro-swing and who makes the stuff?

Electro-swing is an umbrella term for a style of music typified by the fusion of modern electronic dance music with the popular music of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The style only really became recognised as a new genre in its own right in 2009, with the release of a number of compilation albums. The one you are likely to have come across is “White Mink vs. Black Cotton”  (Electro-Swing versus Speakeasy Jazz), from the Brighton-based label Freshly Squeezed Music.
Having said this, there are a number of tracks that were made before this  that one could retrospectively classify as electro-swing. Mr. Scruff’s “Get a move on” is a one such track.
My first contact with electro-swing came via the Fabulous Miss Fox, who played me this by the Correspondents, a DJ/MC duo. Shortly after that I attended one of their gigs in a tiny room in Southampton. I was addicted – the energy in the room was astonishing, and never have I danced so hard in my life. I emerged blinking onto the street some time after, drenched in sweat and buzzing. I will not dwell on the Correspondents too much, as I plan to write a whole post about them at a later date, but so far as I am concerned, it is largely down to that one energetic and frantic performance that I find myself typing this blog.

As I stated at the beginning, electro-swing is a broad church – The Correspondents use a great deal of drum n bass, jungle and “a little thing [they] like to call dubstep”, but others owe more to house music, like DJ Typoboy. The genre has diversified and spread, so that now DJs and producers from other genres are starting to add some swing elements into their music, giving birth to sub-genres like swingstep. Swing-hop has been around for some time now in various forms, usually as an experiment for a hip-hop/rap artist, such as Nas or Jurrasic 5, but in recent times the growth of electro-swing has spawned groups such as the Swedish trio Movits.

There are also a number of groups making live electro-swing – these groups, like French outfit Caravan Palace, usually have a live singer and brass sections, as well as synthesisers and other electronic equipment. Many of these groups have roots in gypsy swing, Balkan house and people like Django Reinhardt.

One man who leads the field in the electro-swing world is Parov Stellar – some even describe him as a founder of the genre. Certainly he is responsible for several of the most well known tracks, especially with in continental Europe, where the genre is as strong as anywhere.
As is the case with a lot of house/dance music, many of the producers and DJs are originally from Europe – France and Italy being particularly well represented, by people like the Swingrowers (Italy) and incontrol (France) flying the flag.
Another great way to sample some of the finest electro-swing is to listen to this special feature that was broadcast on BBC Radio 1, on Rob da Bank's show
Hopefully this has given a decent overview and showcased some of the better known or more popular electro-swing producers, DJs and bands. I will regularly be blogging about new tracks and artists I have come across, as well as announcements about and reviews of electro-swing events. Watch this space, and remember: "It don't mean a thing..."