January 10, 2020
After years as a niche interest, eclipsed by other trance and hardcore variants, gabber is finally having its moment in the mainstream
Gabber: return of dance music’s gloriously tasteless subgenre
“Strictly for the headstrong!” bellowed the rave MCs back in 92. In contrast to the smiles and hugs of acid house, the music, the dancing, the drugs were all becoming truly hardcore. This, in turn, birthed all kinds of mainly regional variations that have lasted from the 90s to today, most notably gabber – a relentless mix of superfast BPMS, distorted kickdrums and roared vocals that evoked the distilled nihilism of Rotterdam skinheads. While other equally aggressive techno and trance variants were given a platform in French “teknivals” and micro-enclaves in Moscow, Newcastle and Valencia, gabber was confined to its own diehard subculture. But now, following a gradual rise in underground interest, gabber and its hardcore cousins have become oddly popular again.
Of course, club culture is always porous: people like Hudson Mohawke have long repped their hardcore pasts. But 2019 saw gabber and hardcore boiling over into the mainstream. Siberian star Nina Kraviz put ever-higher BPMs into her Trip label and DJ sets. “It’s got that joyous energy that makes you want to jump around,” she says. “Some techno snobs say gabber is tasteless and overly simplistic. That makes me want play it even more!” Paul Woolford’s Special Request, meanwhile, packed shameless hardcore face-melters into his Vortex album. Indonesian duo Gabber Modus Operandi demolished arty festivals and grubby basement raves. Boiler Room hosted hard dance specials with young crews from across Europe, while American EDM’s absorption of Dutch hardstyle – a fusion of techno and hardcore – has reached truly terrifying levels through the likes of Guatemalan DJ Carnage.
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