Alternative dance

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Alternative dance (also known as indie dance[ citation needed ] or underground dance in the US) [3] is a musical genre that mixes alternative rock with electronic dance music. Although largely confined to the British Isles, it has gained American and worldwide exposure through acts such as New Order in the 1980s and the Prodigy in the 1990s.



AllMusic states that alternative dance mixes the "melodic song structure of alternative and indie rock with electronic beats, synths and/or samples, and club orientation of post-disco dance music". [4] The Sacramento Bee calls it "postmodernEurosynthtechnopopNew Wave in a blender". [2]

The genre draws heavily on club culture for inspiration while incorporating other styles of music such as electropop, house, and EBM. The performers of alternative dance are closely identified with their music through a signature style, texture, or fusion of specific musical elements. [4] They are usually signed to small record labels. [5]



Many of the alternative dance artists are British, "owing to the greater prominence of the UK's club and rave scenes in underground musical culture". New Order are cited by AllMusic as the genre's first group because of their 1982–83 recordings, which merged post-punk with electro/synth pop in the style of German group Kraftwerk. Alternative dance had a major impact on Britain's late-1980s Madchester scene (adapted from Manchester, New Order's home city) and 1990s trip hop and rave scenes. [4] The Haçienda club in Manchester, founded by New Order and Factory Records, became the hub of the genre in 1980s Britain. [6]

The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers are prominent examples of British artists [7] [8] in the post-Madchester-era, who crossed over from the dance music world to alternative, [9] with most of their releases falling under the big beat music genre in the mid 1990s. [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] Of the three acts, the Prodigy had the first international alternative dance hit when their third studio album The Fat of the Land debuted at number one in 25 countries, including the US, in 1997. [7] Also finding international success in the 1990s was Icelandic musician Björk, a former member of indie band The Sugarcubes, whose solo albums Debut and Post , incorporated alternative dance elements and featured production from artists like Tricky, Howie B and 808 State's Graham Massey. [16] Meanwhile, indie-orientated acts such as Saint Etienne, Dubstar, Space and White Town also explored dance beats and rhythms in their music.

In the US, Chicago's Liquid Soul to San Francisco's Dubtribe expanded dance music "beyond its old identity as a singles-driven genre with no identifiable, long-term artists". [3] The American scene rarely received radio airplay and most of the innovative work continued underground or was imported. [5]


As computer technology and music software became more accessible and advanced at the start of the 21st century, bands tended to forgo traditional studio production practices. High quality music was often conceived using little more than a single laptop computer. Such advances led to an increase in the amount of home-produced electronic music, including alternative dance, available via the Internet. [17] According to BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, part of the strength of the scene in the new millennium was "the sense of community"; she noted, "Websites, blogs and Myspace pages all get people talking about records and checking out each other's recommendations. It's not like the old club scene, where these established DJs dictated what would be big. Word-of-mouth is so important now." [18]

In the early 2000s, the term "electroclash" was used to denote artists such as Fischerspooner and Ladytron who mixed new wave with electronic music. The Electroclash festival was held in New York in 2001 and 2002, with subsequent tours across the US and Europe in 2003 and 2004. [19] In the mid-2000s, the British music magazine NME popularised the term "new rave" ("new wave" and "rave") to describe the music of bands such as Klaxons, whose rock aesthetic includes paraphernalia from the 1990s rave scene such as glowsticks and neon lights. [20]

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electroclash</span> Music genre

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Alternative rock, or alt-rock, is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1990s. "Alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream or commercial rock or pop music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to musicians influenced by the musical style or independent, DIY ethos of late-1970s punk rock.

Madchester was a musical and cultural scene that developed in the English city of Manchester in the late 1980s, closely associated with the indie dance scene. Indie-dance saw artists merging indie music with elements of acid house, psychedelia and 1960s pop. The term Madchester was coined by Factory Records' Tony Wilson, with the label popularised by the British music press in the early 1990s, and its most famous groups include the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, the Charlatans, James and 808 State. It is widely seen as being heavily influenced by drugs, especially MDMA. At that time, the Haçienda nightclub, co-owned by members of New Order, was a major catalyst for the distinctive musical ethos in the city that was called the Second Summer of Love.

Popular music of the United Kingdom in the 1980s built on the post-punk and new wave movements, incorporating different sources of inspiration from subgenres and what is now classed as world music in the shape of Jamaican and Indian music. It also explored the consequences of new technology and social change in the electronic music of synthpop. In the early years of the decade, while subgenres like heavy metal music continued to develop separately, there was a considerable crossover between rock and more commercial popular music, with a large number of more "serious" bands, like The Police and UB40, enjoying considerable single chart success. The advent of MTV and cable video helped spur what has been seen as a Second British Invasion in the early years of the decade, with British bands enjoying more success in America than they had since the height of the Beatles' popularity in the 1960s. However, by the end of the decade a fragmentation has been observed, with many new forms of music and sub-cultures, including hip hop and house music, while the single charts were once again dominated by pop artists, now often associated with the Hi-NRG hit factory of Stock Aitken Waterman. The rise of the indie rock scene was partly a response to this, and marked a shift away from the major music labels and towards the importance of local scenes like Madchester and subgenres, like gothic rock.

Dance-punk is a post-punk subgenre that emerged in the late 1970s, and is closely associated with the disco, post-disco and new wave movements.

Baggy was a name given to a British alternative dance genre popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with many of the artists referred to as "baggy" being bands from the Madchester scene.

Candy Flip were a British electronic music duo from Stoke on Trent, who were associated with the indie dance music scene in the early 1990s. They are best remembered for their cover version of the Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever", which was a No. 3 hit on the UK Singles Chart in 1990.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Prodigy</span> English electronic dance music group

The Prodigy are an English electronic dance music band formed in Braintree, Essex, in 1990 by producer, keyboardist and songwriter Liam Howlett. The original line-up also featured MC and vocalist Maxim, dancer and vocalist Keith Flint, dancer and live keyboardist Leeroy Thornhill, and dancer and vocalist Sharky, until 1991. They are credited as pioneers of the breakbeat-influenced genre big beat, which achieved mainstream popularity in the 1990s. Howlett's rock-inspired drum rhythms infused with electronic rave music beats/breaks were combined with Maxim's omnipresent mystique, Thornhill's shuffle dancing style, and Flint's later modern punk appearance. The Prodigy describe their style as electronic punk.


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