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Thread: The Mess that is HARDSTEP

  1. #1
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    The Mess that is HARDSTEP

    Hey All.

    One of the reasons I joined DJF was to see if there was good information on genres, especially Drum & Bass subgenres, and especially Hardstep.

    While Hardstep is almost always listed as a Drum & Bass subgenre there appears to be little neatly expressed consensus on what it is.

    Well the wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardstep is one of the absolute worst ones ever and the links are all dead. Great job wikipedia!

    Using internet archive you can see https://web.archive.org/web/20021219...dstepmusic.htm whether it was 2002 or 2013 it said:
    Hard Step Music / Hardstepper Music: This is an evolution of jungle with a strong, heavy, offbeat bassline. The main percussive beat is also emphasized and made sparser and heavier making it more danceable than conventional jungle.

    Another Source https://dnbradio.com/this-is-drum-and-bass has it before Techstep (and after Jungle)
    "This is also Drum and Bass. Hardstep is a term made popular by the compilation of the same name by popular DJ Grooverider. Describes a sub-genre which rely's on stripped down, hard breaks with a "stepping", rhythmic quality. Some classify hardstep by the even heavier sound using taking the original hard breaks to a new level with new edits, heavier drums, and pounding kicks. Some classify this newer form of Hardstep saying This is drum and bass on steroids. "

    http://12edit.com/hardstep/ Has a very good write-up that's very similar but not a ton of artist examples
    In the beginning was the Word. In 1994 Grooverider used the word hardstep to refer to the music he was making at that time. According to an urban legend the name was suggested by Grooverider’s friend who tried to dance to his new tracks yet found it too difficult, confused by the complexity of the music. Thanks to Kickin’ Records label that was present since the times of lively British hardcore, the name was quickly assimilated into the language—that same year saw the release of the compilation Grooverider presents hardstep selection. Volume 1. (The second part was released the following year.)

    Hardstep came as the next stage of ragga’s development in jungle, yet the focus was now on the music rather than on the toasting and rapping. Generally, vocal samples were used in hardstep only to complement the chaotic execution of the music, adding a special feel to it. Although the title on the compilation’s cover says that the music is a “mixture of drum’n’bass and ragga styles of jungle”, hardstep is actually something that can be classified as post ragga jungle music. Once ragga grew out of syncopated rhythm patterns, it felt like there was a shellproof concrete wall between ragga jungle and hardstep, yet Jamaican tunes somehow made their way into the music.....(and it goes on from there)


    All these made it into RYM site definition and chart https://rateyourmusic.com/genre/hardstep
    Hardstep is a subgenre of Drum and Bass that was mostly popular in 1995-99. The name was coined by Grooverider through his DJ mixes.

    Most hardstep productions have overly compressed drumming; the atmosphere is mostly minimalistic to have a less melodic and more bassy structure and also uses a signature gritty style of production. The synth bass riffs are made from simple, deep and modulated patterns.

    The original scene of the genre was short-lived but left a strong legacy with other drum & bass producers through the mid-90s, with other genres developing the concept such as the more complex techstep and the more simpler-sounding Jump-Up. Soon after the late-90s genre-defining producers such as Ed Rush and Grooverider later changed to the newer and more contemporary elements of these two genres (with the later addition of Neurofunk), which began to take popularity through the new millennium.


    So I checked on DogsonAcid (THE DnB site and it was a bit clear that people had different ideas of what it was (although most seemed to focus on tunes before Techstep and around '95.
    https://www.dogsonacid.com/threads/h...rkstep.773409/ Hardstep vs Darkstep
    https://www.dogsonacid.com/threads/t...#post-11757797 Best Hardstep tune

    Ishkur says its post-jungle, pre-Techstep and most importantly uses a 2-step style beat through it (at Drum & Bass speeds). He also puts Darkstep as to what i believe is the correct use and artists involved.
    http://techno.org/electronic-music-guide/

    https://en.musicalized.com/genre/518/hardstep,Hardstep Musicalized Has a few picks and definitions similar to what we've discussed.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/1xtra/events/xt...ine.shtml?id=1 flash timeline no longer works BUT i have a backup https://rateyourmusic.com/list/TheSc...ss_timeline/2/
    "This was the time when drum & bass fully emerged in a myriad of variations. The fledgling forms of intelligent and hardstep/jump up became stronger and more defined. The darker vision of the music remained present and developed but ragga jungle lost its foothold. Instead the 'roller' gained popularity with tracks such as P-Funk Era and producers as E-Z Rollers coming through."

    So it might seem there's a consensus there, right? Post-Jungle, Pre-Techstep, On the way to Jump Up, Hard hitting beats, maybe a different 2-step rhythm to it with the drums. 95-96 likely, maybe hanging around a little later


    But wait a few experts haven't spoken yet. We have Simon Reynolds piece from 96 that goes deep into its link from Darkcore and later goes into Jump up but was a bit more gangsta and urban
    https://www.thewire.co.uk/in-writing...techstep_1996_

    The Global Darkness Timeline has it hitting at 96 and with some interesting opinions, https://www.globaldarkness.com/artic...and%20bass.htm

    1996 was also the year of drum 'n' bass style splitting. Grooverider's term "Hardstep" gains mainstream acceptance, which was a further re-fusion of jungle and hip-hop (what was earlier called the roller tune). The "step" was a rougher, stronger beat, and had more in common with 4/4 rhythm than breakbeat. Most people think that No U Turn should be credited for Techstep, which is in fact wrong. It was an album released on Emotif records (A daughter label of the now closed S.O.U.R) in 1995 entitled "Techsteppin'" that defined both the term and the music. The No-U-Turn posses fiddled with the "Terrorist" bassline (Ray Keith's 94 classic) to make it sound more acidic and analogue - the element that is most present in Drum & Bass today, and placed it over a tech-step 4/4 pumping technoid beat. "Intelligent drum & bass" classified tracks, which had ambient/jazz licks on top. "Dark" or "Darkstep" drum & bass was pushed by Grooverider, where the name speaks for itself. (again his Hardstep comp came out in 94 not 96 so he has the split coming a little late)

    Finally, yes there is a finally, this is a long fuckin post isn't it. There's my genre and rave loving fav dj Chrissy Trax who introduced me to a lot of these terms thru mixtapes in 2009.
    http://yearofmixtapes.blogspot.com/2...-hardstep.html
    "DJs picked up on the fact that Jungle could be tricky to dance to; by 1995 you had some people streamlining those drums to make something a little more dancefloor-friendly. They preserved the heavy bass, amped up the hip hop influence, and streamlined the classic jungle drumwork to something a little more danceable without completely homogenizing or sanitizing it (that would happen later). They called it hardstep (among other things), and it lasted from about 1995-1999." And it seems he too is consistent and linking this post-jungle music to pre-jump up too. A fair amount of that is verging on Jump Up.

    So what's my point........... well your Introduction to Drum & Bass is an amazing thread and very accurate
    http://www.djforums.com/forums/showt...light=hardstep

    BUT on Hardstep you guys actually wrote correctly about DARKstep. But It's really easy to swap out that name, change the definition a little, and voila you can keep everything.

    As for what to put under Hardstep.... I'm still a ways off from what artists and what labels really represent it but hope fully I've left a lot of breadcrumbs back to what there's a consensus on regarding the name and its history and I'd love if WE can get to that point.

    '95
    '95
    '95
    Last edited by freewave; 12-26-2018 at 03:41 AM.

  2. #2
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    For Darkstep I'd put something like

    Darkstep is a hard, uptempo style with sinister, claustrophobic atmosphere, and dissonant, often Industrial-style textures and distortion. It typically uses horror movie samples in conjunction with horror-themed artist names, track titles and artwork.

    Again that's how Darkstep is by 2005-2007 or so when the Therapy Session mixes really started showing off the artists and the style.
    https://www.discogs.com/label/698249-Therapy-Session

    Anyway I hope as new comer I hope I'm not pissing off anyone off by pointing out improvements and corrections. I think what you've got here already is pretty awesome.

  3. #3
    Yes I remember artists like Counterstrike, Limewax and Evol Intent etc doing stuff like that (they still do, it's evolved into much techier sound these days though)

    The basic recipe seemed to consist of picking an Amen, Sniper or Firefight break and chop it up, add distortion and stabs/reeses (edit : like punk music.. minus the political views, and it's electronic)

    mixcloud link (not mine)

    EDIT : but DoA is a good place to start.. pots, pans and kettles, as a pejorative term I remember people used to call it skullstep

  4. #4
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    Yeah i heard some skullstep with its gabber like drum pattern and it as pretty awful.

    I listed to Chrissytrax's mixtape and a lot of it has early Jump Up (or on its way to that simpler cookie cutter drum style). Tracklist here https://www.discogs.com/lists/Chriss...Mixtape/470271

    I wonder if some people use Jump Up and other's use Hardstep and they mean the same thing or if Hardstep is just the short priod before it BECAME the simpler Jump up (emphasis on the half step snare).

    Thoughts??

  5. #5
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    Chrissy wrote back to me: "to me I'd say hardstep is the more complex, earlier stuff, but I think that back in that era people used the terms interchangeably. "

    In that case, it makes some sense.

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