What is hardstyle?
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To make a completely unresearched declaration, there are as many electronic dance music genres and subgenres as there are people living in Duckwater, Nevada. That means the deviations from type to type are, at times, going to be so menial that identifying them will only really be possible if you’re having a side-by-side conversation with the person who created them (screw you, German guy who coined “schranz”).
But while there won’t be a chiptune stage at EDC 2012, there will be one for hardstyle, which marks the first time European promoter Qdance has brought the exploding phenomenon to America — and with it, their reputation for massive visual productions. Here’s our guide for whether it’s worth your time, or whether you should flee from it.
From what fresh hell did hardstyle emerge? In short, the Netherlands (shocking). But its earliest (the late ’90s) incarnations came from the experiments of hardcore DJs, who began slowing their breakneck, 160-190 beat-per-minute productions to around 140 BPM and cleaning the distortion out of the kick drum.
What makes it hardstyle? Literally speaking, it’s “harder” versions of existing genres. There’s hard techno. Hard house. Hard trance. There’s usually a driving kick drum/clap underneath everything (easy comparison: the clappy “how low can you go?/How low, can you go?” part of Ludacris’ “How Low”), but with dissonant, distorted, stabby melodies.
Who would I recognize? Honestly? Besides Headhunterz, Americans might not recognize any hardstyle-affiliated DJs. The Prophet, the hardcore jock who was part of the first hardstyle wave at the end of the ’90s, only boasts a low five-figure Facebook following. Other hard hitters include Showtek, DJ Zany, and D Block & S-Te-Fan.
Can I dance to it? If you consider a faster, more fluid version of the moves in Dance Dance Revolution to be dancing, then shit yeah you can. The most oft-used hardstyle dancing is usually the Shuffle (think a more frantic Running Man) and Jumpstyle (same idea, but with more Karate Kid-style jumping kicks). But you should probably stretch first. Since most hardstyle music is about 150 BPM, that’s 2.5 steps a second.
Who do I need to check out before arriving at EDC? Fortunately for you, all of the big names in hardstyle — including the DJs mentioned above — are coming to Las Vegas this weekend. MAX PLENKE