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New Beat is a style of Belgian underground music and subculture that fused techno and acid genres and flourished in Western Europe during the late-1980s. It is a type of electronic dance music and electronic body music that was played at a slower speed and influenced the evolution of industrial dance music.
The European new beat sound originated in Belgium in the late 1980s, especially in 1987 and 1988. It was an underground danceable music style, well known at clubs and discos in Western Europe. It is a crossover of electronic body music (EBM, which also developed in Belgium) with the nascent Chicago-originated acid and house music. new beat is the immediate precursor of hardcore electronic dance music (at the time known as rave), which developed in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and elsewhere around 1990.
The genre was "accidentally invented" in the nightclub Ancienne Belgique (AB) in Antwerp when DJ Dikke Ronny (literally "Fat Ronny") played the 45 rpm EBM record "Flesh" by A Split-Second at 33 rpm, with the pitch control set to +8. In addition to A Split-Second, the genre was also heavily influenced by other industrial and EBM acts such as Front 242 and The Neon Judgement, as well as new wave and dark wave acts such as Fad Gadget, Gary Numan, New Order and Anne Clark. Mega-nightclubs such as the Boccaccio soon made the genre a major underground success.
The Belgian sound was re-introduced to the United States market in 1989 as compilation album of various artists known as This is the New Beat.
In 1989-90, the genre spawned two short-lived subgenres or successor genres, hard beat and skizzo - the latter being a techno-influenced style, considerably faster than the original slow new beat style.
The most commercially successful new beat groups were Confetti's and The Lords of Acid, which received heavy airplay on the MTV Europe show Party Zone. MTV Europe's VJ Steve Blame was a great fan of new beat, and through his position on MTV News, he promoted Belgium's new beat sound via his reports. A memorable novelty song was Qui...? (1989) by Brussels Sound Revolution, which sampled parts of a press conference speech by former Prime Minister Paul Vanden Boeynants after his kidnapping by the gang of Patrick Haemers.
Many Europeans consider new beat as a forerunner of European house (Euro-house). Others consider new beat to have been the first European techno dance music style, less aligned with Italo disco/Euro house/Eurobeat and more aligned with acid house.
In the 2012 documentary The Sound of Belgium, director Jozef Devillé describes the rise and popularity of the genre. It features many pioneers and original producers of the era, complemented by an exemplary selection of tracks, as well as an explanation of the musical roots of the genre. The film was received very well by audiences at IDFA in the same year.
The rise of the new genre did not only launch new artists, a few new record labels also were set up, especially to release new beat records. They lived a golden era with, despite not being mainstream, massive sales, and not only in home country Belgium but also in the rest of Europe and specifically the United Kingdom. Roland Beelen (Bellicci of the above-mentioned Morton Sherman Bellucci) and Maurice Engelen (of Praga Khan) set up Antler-Subway Records. There was also R&S Records, launched by Renaat Vandepapeliere and his wife. Other labels include ARS, PIAS, ZYX Records and Music Man.
In 2016, a message on social media was posted to announce the rebirth of new beat. A few die hards put their shoulders underneath the project and started producing nu-new beat; creating the same atmosphere, but with modern influences. This got the attention of Willem Voet, who had lots of experience in the matter and who had hosted a radio show focused on new beat for years already, he in his turn set up a new record label Fenix Fire Records. Fenix Fire Records had its first release in December 2016: Fashion Victims Volume 1 a 12" record on red vinyl and a limited pressing of 303 copies. A few other releases followed. In the summer of 2017 FFR was asked to deliver some tunes, to be used in the soundtrack of a new Flemish film called Memento Mori. This soundtrack has been released on the 5th of februari 2018 and it contains tunes made by Xerensorex and Jack Matthew Tyson.
Modern new beat artists include 1788-L, Rezz and Notaker. Notaker described the subgenre as a "fresh sound that's been generally unexplored in the mainstream electronic realm", further commenting on the versatility of the subgenre, stating "the range of which you can produce in this tempo range can be extremely gritty and heavy to really melodic and beautiful to calm, relaxing and atmospheric." Rezz's new beat studio album Certain Kind of Magic peaked at number 12 on the US Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums and her previous album Mass Manipulation received the Electronic Album of the Year awarded at the Juno Awards.