Clubbers’ Decktionary: EBM

15 November 2011

EBM, proper noun, aka electronic body music, also industrial dance

European, characterised by minimal composition, synthesised sound, metallic tones, socialist realist and sexual aesthetics and often a lot of irony, c. 1978 – 1987; heavily influenced by (and usually classified with) industrial; some cross over with Belgium’s consequent ‘new beat’ sound; widely identified as a European pre-cursor to house and techno.

Origins: Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hutter allegedly first used the term ‘electronic body music’ to describe the band’s seventh album, The Man Machine, in 1978, Belgian outfit Front 242 used it to describe their No Comment EP, in 1984 (although they allegedly preferred ‘electro disco terrorist music’).  Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire were hugely influential, as were some of the key British post punk, new wave and synth pop artists of the time (Killing Joke, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, Joy Division/New Order, The Human League, Gary Numan, Fad Gadget), plus Germany’s Neue Deutsche Welle scene, especially post-industrial Berliners Einstürzende Neubaten and Dusseldorfers DAF, who called their dance-floor-oriented, electro-punk ‘body music’.

Key figures: Belgians Front 242, A Split Second and à;GRUMH, Essex legends Nitzer Ebb (pictured) and Germany’s Die Krupps are EBM’s most famous protagonists, with Belgians The Neon Judgement and Neon, Germans Liaisaons Dangeureuses, Swiss one-hit wonders Grauzone (behind 1981’s immortal Eisbär) and Londoners Portion Control among the more obscure.  EBM morphed in to the slower New Beat style, c. 1987-’88, late Eighties / early Nineties industrial acts such as Nine Inch Nails consequently brought their own take, while it was revived by artists on the techno and electroclash scenes ten years later.  DJ Hell, Miss Kittin & The HackerGreen Velvet, Terence Fixmer, Black Strobe and Dave Clarke are all among its more die-hard champions, while Derrick May, Richie Hawtin and Tiga also acknowledge EBM’s legacy.

This feature was originally published in March 2011 by The List magazine.  The article has been reproduced with their permission.

Further reading: Richard Clouston compiled a great 20 Beat EBM & Industrial Chart for FACT Magazine in 2006.  Read it here.

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