The Rise of Dark Downtempo

Like many programmers, I enjoy things made with computers, and sometimes like listening to music while focusing on my work. I don’t want pesky things like lyrics getting in the way, but some repetitiveness is fine. These factors funneled me towards my current enjoyment of electronic music.

One specific genre I enjoy quite a bit is called…I don’t know. I was going to call this post “The Rise of Dark Electro”, but it turns out that was already a thing. I’m not sure what the actual genre name is here, I just know that I like it, so you’ll have to figure it out from the examples I’m able to give.

I think the defining feature for all of these is some sort of dark, bassy, driving sound that pushes me to get my work done faster, while still being lots of fun to listen to (and especially fun to dance to).

The single song that typifies the “genre” is “Edge” by Rezz. At 43 seconds in, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is some obscenely high energy for being slow music (100bpm). It’s bass-driven, more than a little bit growly, and not all that hard to headbang along with.

Shapeshifting by 5haus is the runner-up in my book. The deep growling sounds start immediately, and never stop. Along with the “darkness”, it’s also downtempo, sitting at 100bpm, but that doesn’t stop it from being pretty aggressive.

At the risk of turning this post into a text-based DJing session, here’s “Unfixed”, also by 5haus. (Notice the nomological similarity to a certain character. 5haus claims both that (1) deadmau5 is one of his biggest influences and (2) the name comes from an entirely different source.) This one has a more relaxed section in the middle, which is what I’d naively expect downtempo to be, but most of this kind of music is anything but relaxed.

Another great tune is Notaker’s “Infinite”. This one seems to have more of the structure/flavor of a typical popular EDM song, but that doesn’t necessarily diminish its effect. The buildups and drops just tend to flow more-or-less exactly as expected, and the overall sound is a smidge less in-your-face. It has sections that represent what I’m trying to represent here though. (About a minute and a half in.)

I don’t think the key element to my enjoyment of these songs is the slowness, although that does provide a lot of great examples. The most important part is probably the bass-driven energy. Faster songs are fine, though they tend to come from genres other than the one I’ve been trying to gesture at in this post. “Bad Things” (No Mana, i_o, Fay) is up at 130bpm, and “bad at titles” (deadmau5, ATTLAS) sits right in the middle at 112. Maybe I just like “bad” music?

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