Electronic body music

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Electronic body music (EBM) is a genre of electronic music [1] that combines elements of industrial music and synth-punk with elements of disco and dance music. [2] [3] It developed in the early 1980s in Germany and Belgium [2] and came to prominence in Belgium at the end of the decade. [1] EBM was generally considered a part of the European new wave and post-punk movement and the first style that blended synthesized sounds with an ecstatic style of dancing (e.g. pogo). [4]

Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments and circuitry-based music technology. In general, a distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means, and that produced using electronics only. Electromechanical instruments include mechanical elements, such as strings, hammers, and so on, and electric elements, such as magnetic pickups, power amplifiers and loudspeakers. Examples of electromechanical sound producing devices include the telharmonium, Hammond organ, and the electric guitar, which are typically made loud enough for performers and audiences to hear with an instrument amplifier and speaker cabinet. Pure electronic instruments do not have vibrating strings, hammers, or other sound-producing mechanisms. Devices such as the theremin, synthesizer, and computer can produce electronic sounds.

Industrial music is a genre of experimental music which draws on harsh, transgressive or provocative sounds and themes. AllMusic defines industrial music as the "most abrasive and aggressive fusion of rock and electronic music" that was "initially a blend of avant-garde electronics experiments and punk provocation". The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by members of Throbbing Gristle and Monte Cazazza. While the genre name originated with Throbbing Gristle's emergence in the United Kingdom, concentrations of artists and labels vital to the genre also emerged in America, namely in Chicago.

Disco music genre

Disco is a genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s from the United States' urban nightlife scene.


In the second half of the 1980s, a youth-cultural scene emerged from EBM [5] whose followers describe themselves as EBM-heads or (in North America) as rivetheads. [6] EBM is unrelated to Goth, although in some local scenes both subcultures may share the same music clubs and festivals [7] (along with other alternative subcultures such as punk and psychobilly).

A rivethead or rivet head is a person associated with the industrial dance music scene. In stark contrast to the original industrial culture, whose performers and heterogeneous audience were sometimes referred to as "industrialists", the rivethead scene is a coherent youth culture closely linked to a discernible fashion style. The scene and its dress code emerged in the late 1980s on the basis of electro-industrial, EBM, and industrial rock music. The associated dress style draws on military fashion and punk aesthetics with hints of fetish wear, mainly inspired by the scene's musical protagonists.

Goth subculture Contemporary subculture

The goth subculture is a subculture that began in England during the early 1980s, where it developed from the audience of gothic rock, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The name, goth subculture, was derived directly from the music genre. Notable post-punk groups that presaged that genre and helped develop and shape the subculture, include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus and The Cure. The goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify and spread throughout the world. Its imagery and cultural proclivities indicate influences from 19th-century Gothic literature and gothic horror films. The scene is centered on music festivals, nightclubs and organized meetings, especially in Western Europe.

Punk subculture Anti-establishment culture

The punk subculture includes a diverse array of ideologies, fashion, and other forms of expression, visual art, dance, literature and film. It is largely characterised by anti-establishment views and the promotion of individual freedom, and is centred on a loud, aggressive genre of rock music called punk rock. Its adherents are referred to as "punks", also spelled "punx" in the modern day.

Origin of the term

The term electronic body music was coined by Ralf Hütter of the German electronic band Kraftwerk in November 1977 [8] , and later again in 1978 to explain the more physical sound of their album The Man-Machine . [9] "Body music" had been used in 1972 by Robert Christgau to describe the amplified beat and art rock component of hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople, Black Sabbath, and Slade: "Bands like Led Zep... make body music of an oddly cerebral cast, arousing aggression rather than sexuality." [10]

Ralf Hütter German singer and musician

Ralf Hütter is a German musician and composer best known as the lead singer, keyboardist, founding member and leader of Kraftwerk. Since the departure of Florian Schneider in 2008, he is the band's sole remaining founding member.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Kraftwerk German electronic music band

Kraftwerk is a German band formed in Düsseldorf in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider. Widely considered as innovators and pioneers of electronic music, they were among the first successful acts to popularize the genre. The group began as part of West Germany's experimental krautrock scene in the early 1970s before fully embracing electronic instrumentation, including synthesizers, drum machines, vocoders, and custom-made musical instruments. On commercially successful albums such as Autobahn (1974), Trans-Europe Express (1977), and The Man-Machine (1978), Kraftwerk developed a self-described "robot pop" style that combined electronic music with pop melodies, sparse arrangements, and repetitive rhythms, while adopting a stylized image including matching suits.

In 1980/1981, DAF from Germany used the term "Körpermusik" (body music) to describe their danceable electronic punk sound. [11] [12] The term was later used by Belgian band Front 242 in 1984 [13] to describe the music of their EP of that year called No Comment , [14] [15] using it alongside their preferred description "Electro Disco Terrorist Music." [16]

Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft German band

Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft or D.A.F. is an influential German electropunk/Neue Deutsche Welle band from Düsseldorf, formed in 1978 featuring Gabriel "Gabi" Delgado-López (vocals), Robert Görl, Kurt "Pyrolator" Dahlke, Michael Kemner (bass-guitar) and Wolfgang Spelmans (guitar). Kurt Dahlke was replaced by Chrislo Haas in 1979. Since 1981, the band has consisted of Delgado-López and Görl.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

Front 242 band

Front 242 is a Belgian electronic music group that came into prominence during the 1980s. Pioneering the style they called electronic body music, they were a profound influence on the electronic and industrial music genres.


From its inception, the style has been characterized by relentless, programmed electronic beats, repetitive bass lines, and sequenced instrumentation. [17] Typical EBM rhythms alternate between the 4/4 beats of disco and more abrasive rock-inspired backbeats. [18]

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

The EBM sound was derived from a combination of post-punk sources, including: the industrial music of Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, the synthesizer-based tracks of New Order and the Killing Joke, the work of DAF and Kraftwerk, and the Eurodisco dance sound pioneered by Giorgio Moroder. [19] Daniel Bressanutti of Front 242, who helped coin the term EBM to describe their music, named the synthesizer music of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze as additional influences along Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle's Chris Carter, the "extended rhythmic disco of [Giorgio] Moroder," and the punk scene. [20]

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.

Cabaret Voltaire (band) British music group

Cabaret Voltaire are an English music group formed in Sheffield in 1973 and initially composed of Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk, and Chris Watson. The group was named after the Cabaret Voltaire, the Zürich nightclub that served as a centre for the early Dada movement.

Throbbing Gristle English band

Throbbing Gristle were an English music and visual arts group, officially formed in September 1975 in Kingston upon Hull by members Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson and Chris Carter. They are widely regarded as pioneers of industrial music. Evolving from the experimental performance art group COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle made their public debut in October 1976 on COUM exhibition Prostitution, and, the following year, released their debut single, "United / Zyklon B Zombie", followed by an album, The Second Annual Report (1977).

At the time the genre arose, important synthesizers were the Korg MS-20, Emulator II, Oberheim Matrix and Yamaha DX7. Samples, e.g. metal rod, machine and alert sounds, are often used to create a "factory ambiance". Other samples include political speeches and excerpts from science fiction movies.



Emerging in the early 1980s, the genre draws heavily on the music of bands such as Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, DAF, Die Krupps, [21] Liaisons Dangereuses, Portion Control, and the danceable electropop of Kraftwerk. Archetypes of the genre are "Verschwende Deine Jugend" and "Der Mussolini" (DAF), "Wahre Arbeit, Wahrer Lohn" and "Für einen Augenblick" (Die Krupps), "Etre assis ou danser" and "El Macho y la Nena" (Liaisons Dangereuses), and "Body to Body" and "U-Men" (Front 242).

Front 242 characterized their approach as somewhere between Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk. [15] Nitzer Ebb and Skinny Puppy, both influenced by DAF [22] and Cabaret Voltaire, followed soon after. Groups from this era often applied socialist realist aesthetics, with ironic intent. [23] Other prominent artists include Vomito Negro, Borghesia, The Neon Judgement, [24] à;GRUMH..., [25] A Split-Second, [26] and The Invincible Spirit. [27]


In the second half of the 1980s, the genre became popular in Canada (Front Line Assembly [28] ) and the U.S. (Ministry, [29] Revolting Cocks, [30] Schnitt Acht [31] ) as well as in Sweden (Inside Treatment, Pouppée Fabrikk, Cat Rapes Dog) and Japan (2nd Communication, DRP). North American bands started to use typical European EBM elements and combined them with the roughness of (hardcore) punk and thrash metal (cf. industrial metal). Nine Inch Nails continued the cross-pollination between EBM and rock music [32] resulting in the album Pretty Hate Machine (1989).

Meanwhile, EBM became popular in the underground club scene, particularly in Europe. In this period the most important labels were the Belgian Play It Again Sam and Antler-Subway, the German Zoth Ommog, the North American Wax Trax! and the Swedish Energy Rekords. At the time, significant artists included And One, [33] Armageddon Dildos, [34] Bigod 20, [35] Insekt, [36] Scapa Flow, [37] Orange Sector, [38] Attrition, [39] and Oil In The Eye. [40]

Between the early and the mid-1990s, many EBM artists split up, or changed their musical style, borrowing more distorted "industrial" elements or elements of rock or metal. The album Tyranny For You by EBM pioneers Front 242 initiated the end of the EBM epoch of the 1980s. Nitzer Ebb, one of the most important artists, became an alternative rock band. Without the strength of its figureheads, the original electronic body music faded by the mid-1990s.


In the late 1990s and after the millennium, Belgian, Swedish and German groups such as Ionic Vision, Tyske Ludder, and Spetsnaz [41] had reactivated the style. In the same time period, a number of artists from the European techno scene started including more elements of EBM in their sound. This tendency grew in parallel with the emerging electroclash scene and, as that scene started to decline, a number of artists associated with it, such as The Hacker, DJ Hell, [42] Green Velvet, and Black Strobe, [43] moved towards this techno/EBM crossover style. There has been increasing convergence between this scene and the old school EBM scene. Bands and artists have remixed each other. Most notably, Terence Fixmer joined with Nitzer Ebb's Douglas McCarthy to form Fixmer/McCarthy. [44]

Derivatives and alternative terms


Electro-industrial is an outgrowth of the EBM and industrial music that developed in the mid-1980s. While EBM has a minimal structure and clean production, electro-industrial has a deep, complex and layered sound, incorporating elements of ambient industrial. The style was pioneered by Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and Front Line Assembly. In the early '90s, the style spawned the dark electro genre, and in the end of the decade a strongly techno- and hard-trance-inspired style called "hellektro" or "aggrotech".

Industrial dance

Industrial dance is a North American alternative term for electronic body music and electro-industrial music. Fans associated with this music scene call themselves rivetheads .

See also

Related Research Articles

Hardcore is a subgenre of electronic dance music that originated in the Netherlands from the emergent raves/gabber in the 1990s. Its subgenres are usually distinguished from other electronic dance music genres by faster tempos, the intensity of the kicks and the synthesized bass, the rhythm and the atmosphere of the themes, the usage of saturation and experimentation close to that of industrial dance music.

Nitzer Ebb band

Nitzer Ebb are a British EBM group formed in 1982 by Essex school friends Vaughan "Bon" Harris, Douglas McCarthy (vocals), and David Gooday (drums).

Dark ambient is a genre of post-industrial music that features an ominous, dark droning and often gloomy, monumental or catacombal atmosphere, partially with discordant overtones. It shows similarities towards ambient music, a genre that has been cited as a main influence by many dark ambient artists, both conceptually and compositionally. Although mostly electronically generated, dark ambient also includes the sampling of hand-played instruments and semi-acoustic recording procedures, and is strongly related to ritual industrial music.

Die Krupps band

Die Krupps is a German industrial metal/EBM band, formed in 1980 by Jürgen Engler and Bernward Malaka in Düsseldorf.

Industrial techno is a subgenre of techno and industrial dance music that originated in the 1990s. Characteristically, it incorporates influences from the bleak, noisy sound and aesthetics of early industrial music acts, particularly Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle. American industrial music label Wax Trax! also had a profound influence over the genre's development. The genre has seen a resurgence in the 2010s, spearheaded by acts such as Adam X and Ancient Methods, and others later like Blawan and Karenn. As a result, it has gained a significant fanbase from the post-dubstep audience. It is not to be mistaken with Techno Industiral, which is in essence similar to the power noise/rhythmic noise subgenre. The different terminology is used depending if one is coming from a techno perspective or industrial perspective, with Industrial Techno having more techno-inspired rhythmic section with lots of reverb and wall-of-noise or sci-fi effects, while Techno Industrial is closer to rythmic noise in composition with a distorted rhythmic section.

<i>20 Jazz Funk Greats</i> 1979 studio album by Throbbing Gristle

20 Jazz Funk Greats is the third studio album by British industrial music group Throbbing Gristle, released in December 1979 by the band's label Industrial Records. It is known for its tongue-in-cheek title and artwork, and has been hailed as the band's best work, with UK magazine Fact naming it the best album of the 1970s.

Electro-industrial is a music genre that emerged from industrial music in the mid-1980s. While EBM has a minimal structure and clean production, electro-industrial has a deep, complex and layered sound. The style was pioneered by Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, and other groups, either from Canada or the Benelux. In the early 1990s, the style spawned the dark electro genre, and in the mid-/late-1990s, the aggrotech offshoot. The fan base for the style is linked to the rivethead subculture.

Industrial dance music is a North American alternative term for electronic body music and electro-industrial music. Fans who are associated with this music scene, refer to themselves as rivetheads.

Techno is a form of electronic dance music that emerged in Detroit, Michigan, in the United States during the mid-to-late 1980s. The first recorded use of the word techno in reference to a specific genre of music was in 1988. Many styles of techno now exist, but Detroit techno is seen as the foundation upon which a number of sub-genres have been built.

Futurepop is an electronic music genre, an outgrowth of EBM, that evolved in the late 1990s with groups like VNV Nation, Covenant, and Apoptygma Berzerk. It is characterized by the heavy use of sampling and an absence of vocal modification that is popular in many other forms of electronic music, such as Aggrotech.

New Beat is a style of Belgian underground music and subculture that fused techno and acid genres that flourished in Western Europe during the late-1980s. It is a type of electronic dance music and electronic body music that was played at a slower speed and influenced the evolution of industrial dance music.

Electronicore is a fusion genre of metalcore with elements of various electronic music genres, often including trance, electronica, and dubstep. Notable artists of this genre have originated from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, and Japan.

Rossetti's Compass is a synthpop and EBM music band created in November 2010 by British musician Mark Warner. It was conceived out of a desire to explore different directions in the electro musical sphere, from pure synthpop to dark and menacing electro and EBM. In 2013 the band released three albums, including a limited edition semi-live recording session. True to its self-imposed remit of exploration, the Rossetti's Compass catalogue of works includes track remixes for bands from across the genre, including A.W.o.L. Angst Pop, Kant Kino, HNN, Technomancer, Shatoo, Attrition, and Naked Lunch.

High Functioning Flesh

High-Functioning Flesh is an American industrial music duo, formed by Susan Subtract and Gregory Vand in Los Angeles, California. Forming in late 2012 following a Youth Code show, Subtract and Vand have released three studio albums, the most recent being 2017's Culture Cut. The duo are known for mixing dystopian, science fiction inspired lyrical concepts with 1980s musical sensibilities. They often refer to their music as being "electro-punk."

Youth Code

Youth Code is an American EBM duo, formed in 2012 by Sara Taylor and Ryan George in Los Angeles, California. The duo's musical style, following the model of early Wax Trax! Records, has been described as industrial music infused with "hardcore angst." Following their self-released Demonstrational Cassette in 2012 and a chance meeting with Psychic TV, Youth Code were invited to release their first single, "Keep Falling Apart", through Angry Love Productions. Since then, they have released two full-length studio albums, an EP, and two additional singles.


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