Scaling the musical landscape can be a treacherous task without a guide to act as your ears to lead you down the path to discovering the true hidden or not so hidden gems, and with the explosion of global streaming services this has allowed otherwise unknown songs, musicians and genres to now becoming not only more commonplace within general listening circles but also to gain resurgence in international markets with ‘The Beginners Guide To’ be prepared to finding new favourites or possibly solace in knowing your not alone in your mutual appreciation.
Sometimes music can be perplexing, confusing and chaotic however in the same respect can still be something to be admired which in the case of Electro swing is my personal feelings but these same feelings differ a lot from the majority of electronic music enthusiasts who from my experience share an utter disdain for the style and everything it stands for. Around the time I began writing this guide I decided to take a proper good old nosy around to see why Electro swing is so controversial amongst the scene and also how it became one of the newest emerging genres of the late 90’s.
Like any comic book character every music genre has an origin story and this one is a hell of a doozy with the birth of swing music back in the 1920’s, with the explosion of the big band craze musicians were looking for new ways to captivate listeners and dancers back to their dancehalls with swing eventually gaining a solid amount of traction within the 1930’s with punters piling in to hear the latest collectives imitating predecessors or joining forces with other groups to produce some absolute toe tappers. Even back in the day swing was viewed as an uncouth style of music due to what would become it’s signature hallmarks such as an emphasis on improv, fast tempos and dirty lyrics (how naughty).
Although swing had a meteoric rise through the ranks with it becoming the emerging style of the 30’s decade it swiftly declined due to a multitude of reasons including bizarrely enough WW2 of all events who would’ve thunk it. Alongside this inconvenience was the fact that musicians were also weirdly following the same plight they’ve suffered for millennia that being trying to get paid fair royalties which resulted in a huge government board representing these musicians banning radio stations from playing this hot commodity due to the commercial stations refusal to pay their royalty fees which ultimately resulted in a rather ridiculous stalemate. It would be decades later that finally the ban would be lifted however by this point the golden era of swing had already petered out with new interpretations such as pop swing, country swing and of course the easily recognisable rock swing featuring classic artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Elvis becoming the new taste.
Fast forward a few decades and we reach the grunge filled 90’s with plaid shirts and all, a couple of electro artists became disenfranchised with the face chewing breakbeats of Drum and bass and were looking for something with a bit of charm and energy which saw the birth of this fusion genre we now know as Electro swing. The origins of this scene aren’t well documented but one artist who was truly at the forefront was Parov Stelar an Austrian producer who was gracing the decks and paving the way with his first album Shadow Kingdom which was released in 2001. However the artists that really brought the genre to great prominence more recently are the French band Caravan Palace and of course we couldn’t forget the Aussies Yolanda Be Cool who created one of the biggest bangers of 2010 ‘We No Speak Americano’ which became an inescapable floor filler at clubs around the world and probably soon became of the most hated songs of the year. A mostly overlooked element of the resurgence of this genre in the later years was the advent of the Great Gatsby themed parties which became a staple for most nightclubs and swanky bars on a monthly basis for close to 2 years after the 2012 release of the film starring Leonardo Caprio and by lord did promoters beat that one to death. Although for all it’s twee cheesiness Electro swing does evoke a sort of playful innocence that whenever a solid old timey banger is spun it’s usually guaranteed to get most people in the club moving which is a far cry from the sometimes monotonous thumping of French house.
Top 4 Tasters:
Parov Stelar – Catgroove (TSC – Forsythe)
Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP – We No Speak Americano (Official Video)
Caravan Palace – Lone Digger
Deluxe – Tall Ground (Official Video)