You may have heard its jazzy rhythms and techno beats reverberating through the stony subterreanea of Babylove or the ecclesiastical expanse of Freud’s. If you were lucky enough to spend Valentine’s weekend at Catz Ball (and if the unlimited free booze didn’t completely rob you of your consciousness) you may have seen one of this genre’s main players, Swing Republic, taking headline stage. It is electro-swing, the latest music craze to hit the world and, a few months later – Oxford.
Electro swing fuses the fluid sounds of 20s and 30s jazz and swing with the heavy beats of house, hip-hop and electronic dance music. It’s Louis Armstrong meets Swedish House Mafia. It’s Etta meets Guetta.
These two seemingly disparate musical movements may have more in common than one might think. For example, the ‘Lindy Hop’, a staple dance in the swing era is, in fact, an early precursor of breakdance – both were invented as forms of street dance by young African Americans in New York.
Far from being the new kid on the music block, electro swing really traces its roots to the late nineties/early noughties, when there appeared sporadic hits such as Jurassic 5’s “Swing Set”, Gry & F.M. Einheit’s and “Princess Crocodile”. Mr. Scruff’s “Get A Move On” is a tune which I, personally, will always associate with the scene in ‘What a Girl Wants’ when Amanda Bynes inexplicably tumbles off a catwalk.
However, many will agree that the genre really hit the ground swinging with the 2006 album of record label G-Swing. With a self explanatory title, Swing for Modern Clubbing, the songs feature looped extracts of vintage swing intermingled with modern techno. For the first time, the modern clubber could dance to Nina Simone and Duke Ellington.
It was only a few years later – in 2009 – that the genre started to be defined and its name coined, with the appearance of compilation albums such as Freshly Squeezed Music’s “White Mink: Black Cotton (Electro Swing versus Speakeasy Jazz)” and Wagram’s ‘Electro swing’. London Time-Out was quick to sing electro swing’s praises, ecstatically stating: ‘Yes, this really is a new genre, and an exciting one at last!’
“Suzy” – Caravan Palace
The video for this song features a robot and a flapper having a boogie, which epitomizes electro swing’s fusion of the modern and the neo-vintage.
“Kisskiss” – Parov Stelar
In this track the monotony of a looped swing sample is broken by some trumpeted interjections, jazzy riffs and electro beats.
“I’ve Got That Tune” – Chinese Man
The opening tune of pure swing reoccurs throughout the track with different electro embellishments, running as an underscore to some 20s-style female vocals infused with contemporary influences.
“Bang Bang” – Will.i.am
Arguably the best product of the Great Gatsby OST, this song is an upbeat mélange of jazz instrumentals and synthpop. It contains elements of the Charleston and Louis-Armstrong-inspired lead male vocals.
“Swingy Mama” – DJ Farrapo
This track is something of a swing sandwich. It begins and ends with uninterrupted electro beats, which frame a melody of jazz, ragtime and rap.