When young people of the 2000s think of their grandparents, they often picture unfashionable plaid button-up shirts, the smell of mothballs, uninformed questions about technology, and all things outdated. One of those outdated things, usually, is music. However, the rise of a genre called electro-swing has made possible a shared taste in music between young people today and their grandparents. It is definitely a genre to look out for.
The original American swing music was most popular from 1935 to 1946, during a period known as the Swing Era. Bands were comprised of a section of brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones, and woodwinds such as saxophones and clarinets. Swing music often abandoned the string orchestra and used simpler, sometimes considered "edgier," arrangements with improvised melodies. With double-bass and drums underlying the brass and woodwinds, swing was characterized by its medium to fast tempos, and a swing-time rhythm that was easy to get up and dance to. The name “swing” came from the phrase “swing feel” which described the music’s emphasis on the off-beat, one of the components of swing that made it so different from classical music and gave it such groovy feeling.
By the late 1940s though, swing had either morphed into traditional pop music or evolved into new jazz styles such as jump blues or bebop. Be that as it may, the 1990s brought a surprising revival of swing, fusing it with modern music and creating the genre now called electro-swing. Electro-swing combines vintage swing with contemporary production techniques and the styles of house music and hip-hop. For this reason, it is also commonly referred to as “swing-house”. It incorporates loops, samples, and melodies that either reference or pull directly from the Swing Era, but layered with and supplemented by modern electronic music. Electro-swing creates a dance-floor focused sound catered to the modern ear but also retains the feeling of live brass, woodwinds, and most importantly the fun and energy of early swing. It is almost impossible to listen to electro-swing without smiling or feeling an urge to move with the music.
Two leading artists of the electro-swing movement are Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace. Austrian DJ and producer Parov Stelar released one of the first electro swing albums in 2004. The album is called Rough Cuts, and is considered to be the pioneer of electro-swing. Stelar has since released 8 albums and many other EPs. He is currently touring throughout Europe, and is known globally as a leader of swing-house. French electro-swing band Caravan Palace released their debut album in 2008, which reached #11 on the charts in Switzerland, Belgium, and France. They released another album in 2012 and went on an international tour, and are currently working on a third new album to be released sometime in 2015.
Though Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace are the big names of electro-swing, there are countless other producers entering the genre and gaining followers of their own. To mention a few: Boogie Belgique (Belgium), The Carlson Two (Germany), Shakti Bliss (U.S.), Grant Lazlo (France), Tallulah Goodtimes (UK), and Gangsterish (U.S.). These artists are part of a growing movement of electro-swing, bringing the liveliness of swing to the energy of electronic music. And who knows, perhaps soon it will not only be fans of EDM grooving to electro-swing, but nostalgic grandparents as well, who can show their grandkids what it was really like to get down to swing.
Written by: Ashley Pointdexter