For simplicity, we are going to refer to all of these genres as Ethereal Drum & Bass (Liquid Drum & Bass + Atmospheric Drum and Bass + Breakcore).
Scattered with imagery of low-poly video game graphics and VHS textures, Ethereal Drum and Bass has been blowing up on YouTube. With nostalgia for early 2000s content at an all-time high, thousands of ambient D&B mixes are being uploaded to YouTube each day.
The atmospheric and ethereal nature of these works evokes an emotional response, with listeners often recounting introspective, nostalgic experiences. Ethereal D&B visuals can take several forms, making you feel like you're roaming around the Chao Garden or speeding through the streets on Need for Speed. These genres are categorized by syncopated breakbeat patterns coupled with a generally fast BPM (160-180 beats per minute) with subtle stylistic variations.
If you look at the graphics below, you can see the frequency at which tracks are being uploaded to DSPs (Digital Service Providers) with Liquid Drum & Bass + Atmospheric Drum and Bass + Breakcore tags.
In both charts, you can see a peak between 1996-2005 before another peak in 2022-2023. Aside from the nostalgia mentioned above, people have been using these mixes like Lofi music for study and work. Apart from long-for mixes, short-form TikTok content has also blown these genres up. I've seen numerous artists using these same video game / low-poly graphics to tease clips of new songs.
These genres have always been considered 'sub-genres' in electronic music and experienced highs in popularity during the late 90s and early 2000s. During this window, the genres became popular in nightclubs and underground music scenes in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Germany.
In 2023, we're experiencing another high due to a mix of short and long-form content on social media. Rather than play in underground clubs, this resurgence has come from the internet. Given the online popularity of these genres, it will be interesting to see if significant players in the music industry start to take notice or if more significant in-person events take place.
Regarding another EDM genre following suit, we've seen a rise in international recognition and resurgence of techno music with artists like Klangkuenstler or Brutalismus3000. Techno has always appealed more than Ethereal D&B but is again becoming increasingly popular. Rather than being solely an online resurgence, techno festivals/events have been attracting millions from across the globe.
One of the largest transmission channels of techno music is Boiler Room, sitting at 1.2 billion views on YouTube (as of 10/16/2023). With events from across the globe, Boiler Room has been at the forefront of showcasing electronic and underground music.
Boiler Room has always been willing to support new artists/genres, and we would love to see an ethereal D&B-focused event. There have been several ethereal D&B adjacent artists who have already performed at the Subculture Party events in LA. Even though a lot of the viewership of ethereal D&B is older, a large audience of 18-25 y/o's could still be in their target demographic.
The rise of genres like Drum & Bass, Atmospheric Drum and Bass, and Breakcore echo a larger creative revitalization of the late 90s and early 2000s nostalgia. One instance is outside of EDM, with the resurgence of Memphis Rap, made famous by Juicy J (Triple Six Mafia) and Tommy Wright III which has again become popular in the 2020s.
This approach to music production is signaling a larger trend of creating transformative sounds based upon older micro-genres matching their aesthetics, visuals and tones. The appeal of these mixes/tracks is not solely on the music, but the aesthetics and auras around them.
Many creatives use obsolete software to create aesthetics to match a particular location or time. Whether it be Bryce7 to create the modern aesthetics of vapor wave - recreating old 90s sounds on Windows MIDI sequencer to replicate aged sounds, old software still has practical uses. The limitations of this software's (speed + features) mean you have to be more intentional with the work you're creating which can absolutely be viewed as a net benefit.
Even outside of music, many photographers use analog (film) cameras instead of digital, and illustrators refuse to create solely digital works.
It's not to say any approach is correct (because there is no right way to produce art), but it's always essential to study the history of your medium. No matter what type of art you produce, you can learn from the past, and there may be aesthetics you cannot reproduce on modern digital software.
Great art comes from knowing the formal elements and deliberately breaking the rules of your medium. A hyper-realistic face is 'technically' impressive, but how does that differentiate itself from the thousands who can repeat it?
To conclude, look to the past and see what grabs you. Try to match those aesthetics and make them your own. All art is derivative of prior works, and looking to the past will always be a source of inspiration and creativity.