October 26, 2013


by Chris Randall

When I first began releasing instrumental music in, what, 98? (I think that was the first Micronaut record, but I'm sure about 85 people will correct me...) most of the instrumental music I made had one purpose: to appear in Bunnim-Murray produced shows for MTV, Red Bull extreme sports videos, and X-Box games. I was pretty good at this, and from '99 to about '05 ASCAP checks were half of my yearly income, as a result.

The style of music I made throughout this period was Big Beat. That genre is now almost 19 years old now, counting from the release of "Exit Planet Dust," the first real Big Beat record, in 1995 . Weirdly, many younger people don't really know about it as a genre; they know the biggest acts, but never seem to connect them in to a cohesive group. I only discovered this last night when I put up that video, mentioning in my Twitter and Facebook posts that I thought Big Beat was ripe for a comeback.

So, a primer: Big Beat is easily described as sample- and breakbeat-heavy electronic music done with rock arrangements and stylistic nods. The key acts are, of course, Chemical Brothers (Exit Planet Dust, 1995), Propellerheads (Decksandrumsandrockandroll, 1998), and Crystal Method (Vegas, 1997). There are a bunch more, many of which put out some pretty amazing shit. The thing about Big Beat is that it wasn't really something you could make in your bedroom; to do it right, you needed more of a band presentation. This greatly limited the number of artists involved, and ultimately the form died out when the easier-to-make EDM styles gained popularity.

Anyhow, one earmark of a Big Beat track is the attention paid to the song structure; most tracks in this genre have a clear ABABCAB format lifted straight from rock music. (Or, more specifically, the popular industrial rock tracks of the early 90s, when that genre ruled the roost. You're welcome.) Perhaps that's why the genre appealed to me, specifically; I easily understood its structure, and it utilized my already-extant skillset.

When I got some of my tools shoehorned in my new office this week, I sat down to play and make sure everything survived the move, and the above video is the result. While it only loosely deserves the "Big Beat" moniker, having no defined structure (it is, like almost all my "live" videos, a pure improvisation), it borrows that genre's sound palette. And once I'd made it, I wondered out loud whether Big Beat was ever coming back. In my opinion, it's time. Can I get an "amen"?


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Oct.28.2013 @ 7:43 AM
Chris Randall
Big Beat and Trip Hop are two peas in the same pod, separated only by tempo and amount of reverb.

I'm about half-way done with the first of the five songs I'm doing for this bitch. All the squelching gives me a headache, but, like any pro, I play through the pain!


Oct.28.2013 @ 9:07 AM
Adam Schabtach
I've done a lot of Audio Damage coding while listening to Big Beat, specifically The Crystal Method, Propellerheads, and Fluke. It occurrs to me that I was introduced to the genre mostly via the soundtracks for the first two Matrix films.

I, for one, welcome CR's foray in this direction.


Oct.28.2013 @ 10:06 AM
"Or, more specifically, the popular industrial rock tracks of the early 90s, when that genre ruled the roost. You're welcome."

So it's YOUR fault that my 5-year-old nephew won't listen to anything other than a damned Apollo440 track? DAMN YOU TO HELL RANDAAAALLLLLLLL

Oct.29.2013 @ 3:24 AM
raoul duke
There is a big beat elephant in the room here.... Fatboy Slim.

Not everyones cup of tea, but definitely one of the big players of the big beat era.

I would love to see a Big Beat and Trip Hop revival.

Maybe we should all just get it done with and move to Bristol?

Oct.29.2013 @ 8:19 AM
I'm happy to keep ignoring Fatboy Slim.

Now that we're talking about trip hop, which artists of the original trip hop wave are worth listening to?

There's the holy trinity: Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack. Beyond them, all I remember are cheesy imitators like Morcheeba, Thievery Corporation, Sneaker Pimps, Esthero, etc., who could process drum loops to death but basically couldn't write a good song to save their proverbials.

Oct.29.2013 @ 8:33 AM
Ah yes the "Chemical Brothers" they put out some EPs as the Dust Brothers before getting a US label and running afoul of the US Dust Brothers (who worked with the Beastie Boys). Those were a big deal in 92-94 on the IDM list. After "Exit Planet Dust" I kind of lost interest as they got a bit too big-room rockist for my taste.

You (Chris) are old enough to remember the early 90s, before the genre boundaries had solidified, and people didn't mind if you dropped "Chemical Beats" in a set with House & Techno records. That track can still demolish dance floors, especially when most of the crowd wasn't born when that track was made.

To me, though, the track in the video doesn't sound so much Big Beat as ... well I guess you're doing it right if you're a genre of one. It's kind of semi-Break-Beaty and semi-Acid... you better watch out, because you're verging on something they'd play in London these days. You'll have to get some safety orange sunglasses and do a set at Fabric.

Oct.29.2013 @ 8:51 AM
Oh, hells yes.

Oct.29.2013 @ 8:57 AM
raoul duke
r.e. Trip Hop acts.

Red Snapper were a really good band.

Encounters by Sofa Surfers is also another really good album that fits into the 'Trip Hop' niche.

Oct.29.2013 @ 9:32 AM
Darren "Gaylord" Halm
Meat Beat Manifesto's 99% was released in 1990.

If that record's not 'Big Beat'.....

Oct.29.2013 @ 11:32 AM
20 years is the cycle. It's all coming back around, as it does. Early 90s style Industrial is currently having a bit of an upswing as of late. Trip-Hop and Big Beat are starting to shamble out of the grave to do things other than sell Ford Crew Cabs. I think Chris might be a year or two early to really capitalize on it, but I'll be throwing him my money anyway. I never stopped loving that kind of stuff.

I've been slowly amassing a collection of 45s & LPs so that I could make my own 1st generation sample disk. I'm taking all of the breaks and sampling them at 16, 33, 45, & 78 RPM through a nice preamp as well as through the converters on a friends MPC 3000 and my S3000xl. I also know a guy with an SP-12. I might see if I could borrow that for a week and get that vibe as well.

- William

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