Dark wave

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Dark wave is a music genre that emerged from the new wave and post-punk movement of the late 1970s. [5] [6] Dark wave compositions are largely based on minor key tonality and introspective lyrics, and have been perceived as being dark, romantic, and bleak, with an undertone of sorrow. [5] [7] Common features include the use of chordophones such as electric and acoustic guitar, violin, and piano, as well as electronic instruments such as synthesizer, sampler, and drum machine. The genre embraces a range of styles including cold wave, [8] ethereal wave, [9] gothic rock, [8] [10] [6] neoclassical dark wave, [11] and neofolk. [10]

New wave is a genre of pop-oriented rock music popular in the late 1970s and the 1980s with ties to mid-1970s punk rock. New wave moved away from traditional blues and rock and roll sounds to create rock music or pop music (later) that incorporated disco, mod, and electronic music. Initially new wave was similar to punk rock, before becoming a distinct genre. It subsequently engendered subgenres and fusions, including synth-pop.

Post-punk is a broad type of rock music that emerged from the punk movement of the 1970s, in which artists departed from the simplicity and traditionalism of punk rock to adopt a variety of avant-garde sensibilities and diverse influences. Inspired by punk's energy and DIY ethic but determined to break from rock cliches, artists experimented with sources including electronic music and black styles like dub, funk, and disco; novel recording and production techniques; and ideas from art and politics, including critical theory, modernist art, cinema and literature. Communities that produced independent record labels, visual art, multimedia performances and fanzines.

Chordophone class of musical instruments that makes sound by way of a vibrating string or strings stretched between two points

A chordophone is a musical instrument that makes sound by way of a vibrating string or strings stretched between two points. It is one of the four main divisions of instruments in the original Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification.


In the 1980s, a subculture developed primarily in Europe alongside dark wave music, whose followers were called wavers [12] [13] or dark wavers. [14] [15] In some countries such as Germany, the movement also included fans of gothic rock [1] (so-called trad-goths). [16]


Origins in Europe

1980s: Foundations

Clan of Xymox Xymox 1989 220px.jpg
Clan of Xymox

Since the 1980s, [17] [18] [19] the term has been used in Europe to describe the gloomy and melancholy variant of new wave and post-punk music. [5] [20] At that time, the term "goth" was inseparably connected with gothic rock, [21] whereas "dark wave" acquired a broader meaning, including music artists that were associated with gothic rock and synthesizer-based new wave music, [6] [22] such as Bauhaus, [23] Joy Division, [19] [12] [24] The Cure, [12] [25] Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy, [12] Anne Clark, [26] Depeche Mode, [25] [22] Gary Numan, [22] and The Chameleons. [12]

Bauhaus (band) English gothic rock band

Bauhaus were an English rock band, formed in Northampton, England in 1978. The group consisted of Daniel Ash, Peter Murphy, Kevin Haskins (drums) and David J (bass). The band was originally named Bauhaus 1919 in reference to the first operating year of the German art school Bauhaus, although they shortened the name within a year of formation. One of the pioneers of gothic rock, Bauhaus were known for their dark image and gloomy sound, although they mixed many genres, including dub, glam rock, psychedelia and funk.

Joy Division English rock band

Joy Division were an English rock band formed in Salford in 1976. The group consisted of vocalist Ian Curtis, guitarist/keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris.

The Cure English rock band

The Cure are an English rock band formed in Crawley in 1976. The group has experienced several line-up changes, with vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter Robert Smith being the only constant member. The Cure first began releasing music in the late 1970s with their debut album Three Imaginary Boys (1979); this, along with several early singles, placed the band as part of the post-punk and new wave movements that had sprung up in the wake of the punk rock revolution in the United Kingdom. During the early 1980s, the band's increasingly dark and tormented music was a staple of the emerging style of music known as gothic rock.

The term darkwave originated in the 1980s as an indicator of the dark counterpart of new wave. Bands such as Cocteau Twins, Soft Cell, and Depeche Mode are exponents of this first generation of darkwave. Darkwave ... employs relatively slower tempos, lower pitches, and more minor keys in its musical settings of melancholy texts than new wave. [27]

Isabella van Elferen, Professor of Musicology, Kingston University, London

The movement spread internationally, developing such strands as ethereal wave, with bands such as Cocteau Twins, and neoclassical dark wave, initiated by the music of Dead Can Dance and In the Nursery. [28] [29] French cold wave groups such as Clair Obscur [30] and Opera Multi Steel [31] have also been associated with the dark wave scene; Rémy Lozowski, guitarist of French cold wave band Excès Nocturne, described his music as new wave noire ('dark new wave'). [32]

Ethereal wave, also called ethereal goth or simply ethereal, is a subgenre of dark wave music and is variously described as "gothic", "romantic", and "otherworldly". Developed in the early 1980s in the UK as an outgrowth of gothic rock, ethereal wave was mainly represented by 4AD bands such as Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, and early guitar-driven Dead Can Dance.

Cocteau Twins British band

Cocteau Twins were a Scottish rock band active from 1979 to 1997. They were formed in Grangemouth by Elizabeth Fraser (vocals), Robin Guthrie, and Will Heggie (bass), with Heggie replaced by multi-instrumentalist Simon Raymonde in 1983.

Dead Can Dance English-Australian neoclassical dark wave band

Dead Can Dance is an Australian-British musical project formed in 1981 in Melbourne by Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry. The band relocated from Melbourne to London in May 1982. Australian music historian Ian McFarlane described Dead Can Dance's style as "constructed soundscapes of mesmerising grandeur and solemn beauty; African polyrhythms, Gaelic folk, Gregorian chant, Middle Eastern mantras, and art rock."

Simultaneously, different substyles associated with the new wave and dark wave movements started to merge and influence each other, e.g. synth-wave [3] (a kind of new wave with synthesizers, also referred to as "electro-wave" [33] ) with gothic rock, or began to borrow elements of post-industrial music. Attrition, [34] Die Form (France), Pink Industry (UK), Psyche (Canada), Kirlian Camera (Italy), and Clan of Xymox (Netherlands) [35] performed this music in the 1980s. Other bands such as Malaria!, and The Vyllies added elements of chanson and cabaret music. This sort of dark wave music became known as cabaret noir (or dark cabaret, a term popularized by U.S. dark wave label Projekt Records). [20] [36]

Attrition are an electronic music band, formed in Coventry, England in 1980 by goth Martin Bowes and Julia Niblock. The band emerged from the experimental post-punk scene of the early 1980s and, along with other groups such as Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, and In the Nursery, greatly contributed to the development of industrial music in the UK. Still active 30 years later, Attrition have been a stanchion of darkwave and industrial music, influencing many younger bands in the genres while continuously fine tuning their own distinctive sound.

Die Form is a French post-industrial and electronic band formed in 1977-78. The name 'Die Form' means '(the) form/shape' in German, like the Bauhaus diary, and is a play on the English homonym 'deform' and on the French homonym 'difforme' (deformed).

Pink Industry were a post-punk band from Liverpool formed by Jayne Casey after her previous band Pink Military split up in 1981.

German dark wave bands were partially associated with the Neue Deutsche Welle (i.e. German new wave), [37] and included Xmal Deutschland, [38] Mask For, Asmodi Bizarr, II. Invasion, Unlimited Systems, Moloko †, Maerchenbraut [39] , Cyan Revue, [17] Leningrad Sandwich, [17] Stimmen der Stille, Belfegore, [40] and Pink Turns Blue. [41]

1990s: The 2nd Generation

The Frozen Autumn The Frozen Autumn.jpg
The Frozen Autumn

After the new wave and post-punk movements faded in the mid-1980s, [42] dark wave was renewed as an underground movement [43] [39] [44] by German bands such as Girls Under Glass, Deine Lakaien, [39] [45] Love Like Blood, Love Is Colder Than Death, [46] Diary of Dreams, [47] The Eternal Afflict, and Wolfsheim, as well as Project Pitchfork and its offshoot Aurora Sutra. [43] [39] Ataraxia and The Frozen Autumn from Italy, and the French Corpus Delicti also evolved from this movement and became the leading artists of the west Romanesque scene. [48] All of these bands followed a path based on the new wave and post-punk music of the 1980s. [12] [27]

In the 1990s, a second generation of darkwave bands became popular, including Diary of Dreams, Deine Lakaien, and The Frozen Autumn... The German band Deine Lakaien ... is audibly influenced by the dark synthesizer sounds of Depeche Mode. [27]

Isabella van Elferen, Professor of Musicology

At the same time, a number of German artists, including Das Ich, Goethes Erben, Relatives Menschsein, and Endraum, [49] developed a more theatrical style, interspersed with German poetic, metaphorical lyrics, called Neue Deutsche Todeskunst (literally New German Death Art). [49] [50] Other bands, such as Silke Bischoff, In My Rosary, [51] Engelsstaub, and Impressions of Winter [52] combined synthesizers with elements of neofolk and neoclassical dark wave. [28]

United States

After 1993, in the United States the term dark wave (as the one-word variant 'darkwave') became associated with the Projekt Records label, [22] because it was adopted by label founder Sam Rosenthal after leafing through the pages of German music magazines such as Zillo, and has been used to promote and market artists from German label Hyperium Records in the U.S., e.g. Chandeen and Love Is Colder Than Death. [53]

I first became aware of the term "Dark Wave" back in 1992. It appeared in German magazines – such as Zillo – describing a style of European music that followed other "waves" such as New Wave ... I found those two words ("dark" and "wave") quite interesting. This was something underground, submerged, obscure... which swept over you, immersed you, surrounded you. It was a poetic phrase that could describe many different sounds. At the time, I was looking for a name for my little mail-order company. I wanted something that would encompass the variety of music available in my catalog. [54]

Sam Rosenthal, Projekt Records, 2000

Projekt features bands such as Lycia, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and Love Spirals Downwards, some of these characterized by atmospheric guitar and synth-sounds and female vocals. This style took cues from 1980s bands like Cocteau Twins [55] [56] and is often referred to as ethereal dark wave. [57] Projekt has also had a long association with Attrition, who appeared on the label's earliest compilations. [58] Another American record label in this vein was Tess Records, which featured This Ascension, Faith and the Muse, [59] [60] and the reunited Clan of Xymox. [61]

Faith & The Muse (Monica Richards and Marzia Rangel of Christ vs. Warhol and Scarlet's Remains) Monica Richards & Marzia Rangel.jpg
Faith & The Muse (Monica Richards and Marzia Rangel of Christ vs. Warhol and Scarlet's Remains)

Joshua Gunn, a professor of communication studies at Louisiana University, described the U.S. type of dark wave music as

an expansion of the rather limited gothic repertoire into electronica and, in a way, the US answer to the 'ethereal' subgenre that developed in Europe (e.g. Dead Can Dance). Anchored by Sam Rosenthal's now New York-based label Projekt, dark wave music is less rock and more roll, supporting bands who tend to emphasize folk songcraft, hushed vocals, ambient experimentation, and synthesized sounds [...] Projekt bands like Love Spirals Downwards and Lycia are the most popular of this subgenre. [60]

See also

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  59. Matzke, Peter; Seeliger, Tobias: Das Gothic- und Dark-Wave-Lexikon, p. 146, 2002, ISBN   3-89602-277-6
  60. 1 2 Kilpatrick, Nancy. The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2004, ISBN   0-312-30696-2, p. 90.
  61. Issitt, Micah: Goths: A Guide to an American Subculture, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2011, ISBN   0-313-38604-8, p. 137


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