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Stylistic origins: House, Techno, Electronic art music, Musique concrete, Experimental music, Rock music
Cultural origins: early-1990s, United Kingdom, United States
Typical instruments: Synthesizer - Drum machine - Sequencer - Keyboard - Sampler (traditional instrumentation such as guitar, bass, drums often featured more regularly than other electronic genres)
Mainstream popularity: Large, especially from 1996 onwards
Derivative forms:
Big beat - Bitpop - Chip - Downtempo - Glitch - IDM - Nu jazz - Post-rock - Trip hop
Other topics
Electronic musical instrument - Computer music - Record labels - Notable artists and DJs
Electronica is a rather vague term (which appears to have originated in the United States) that covers a wide range of electronic or electronic-influenced music. The term usually relates to modern electronic music that is not necessarily designed for the dance-floor, but rather for home listening. It was originally used to refer to a list of then-uncategorizable post-rave music that drew upon different genres and sounds that did not necessarily have a steady dancefloor beat. It currently covers a wide variety of styles from the bristling and experimental styles or for home listening such as IDM, glitch, to the dub-oriented downtempo and downbeat to the more jazz-inflected styles of trip-hop and nu jazz. The categories such as IDM, glitch and chip music share much in common with the art and musique concrète styles which predate it by several decades.

Since the early 1990s electronica has been invading clubs in Europe and North America, and although known for being more abstract and experimental than techno, it often has an underlying rhythm.

Table of contents
1 History


With the explosive growth of computers music technology and consequent reduction in the cost of equipment in the early 1990s, it became possible for a wider number of musicians to produce electronic music. With the advent of hard disk recording systems, it became possbile for any home computer user to become a musician, and hence the rise in the number of "bedroom bands", often consisting of a single person.

Post-rave fusions

Artists that would later become commercially successfully under the "electronica" banner such as Fatboy Slim, the Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method, Underworld began to record in this early 1990s period. Underworld with its 1994 dubnobasswithmyheadman released arguably one of the defining records of the early electronica period with a blend of club beats, wedded to song writing and subtle vocals and guitar work. A focus on "songs", a fusion of styles and a combination of traditional and electronic instruments often sets apart musicians working in "electronica"-styles over more straight-ahead styles of house, techno and trance.

The more experimental Autechre and Aphex Twin around this time were releasing early records in the "intelligent techno" or so-called intelligent dance music (IDM) style, while other Bristol-based musicians such as Massive Attack and Portishead were experimenting with the fusion of electronic textures with hip-hop, R&B; rhythms to form what became known as trip-hop. Later extensions to the trip hop aesthetic around 1997 came from the highly influential Vienna-based duo of Kruder & Dorfmeister;, whose blunted, dubbed-out, slowed beats became the blueprint for the new style of downtempo. Rock musicians were also not slow to pick up on the trends in electronic music, and by the mid-1990s so-called "post-rock" bands such as Stereolab and Tortoise incorporating electronic textures into their music.

Growing commercial interest

Around the mid-1990s with the success of the big beat-sound exemplified by the Chemical Brothers in the United States (due in part to the attention from mainstream artists like Madonna), music of this period began to be produced with a much higher budget, production values, and with more layers than most dance music before or after (since it was backed by major record labels and MTV as the "next big thing").

By the late 1990s artists like Moby were pop stars in their own right, releasing albums and performing regularly (sometimes in stadium-sized arenas, such had the popularity of electronic dance music grown). In fact, the status as the next big thing turned out to be shortlived, and some argued that this period exemplifies the notion of record labels and MTV attempting to force a trend upon an audience. During this period, MTV aired shows about the rave lifestyle, started purely electronic music shows such as AMP, and featured many electronica artists. However, the popularity of electronica was never sustained in the United States.

In the United States and other countries like Australia, electronica (and the other attendant dance music genres) remains popular, although largely underground, while in Europe, and in particular the UK, it has arguably become the dominant form of popular music.

See also: IDM - List of electronic music genres

Electronic music | Genres
Ambient | Breakbeat | Electronica | Electronic art music | House | Techno | Trance | Industrial | Synth pop