|Cultural origins||Mid-to-late 1980s, Belgium|
New beat is a Belgian electronic dance music genre that fused elements of new wave, hi-NRG, EBM, acid house and hip hop (e.g. scratching). It flourished in Western Europe during the late-1980s.
New beat spawned a subgenre called "hard beat" (a blend of EBM, new beat and acid house) and became a key influence on the evolution of European electronic dance music styles such as hardcore techno and gabber.
New beat originated in Belgium in 1987, and was popular in several music clubs across Western Europe. Sometimes described as "new wave disco beat" the genre has been characterized as a blend of new wave, hi-NRG, EBM (which also developed in Belgium), and acid house. New beat is the immediate precursor of hardcore electronic dance music, which developed in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany around 1990.
The genre was "accidentally invented" in the nightclub Ancienne Belgique (AB) in Brussels 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, new beat was also heavily influenced by other EBM acts such as Front 242, Signal Aout 42 and The Neon Judgement, as well as new wave acts such as Fad Gadget, Gary Numan, New Order, Boytronic and Anne Clark. Nightclubs such as the Boccaccio soon made the genre a major success.
In contrast to EBM, new beat records did not appear within a certain subcultural context and were mostly produced to enter the international music charts. In Belgium, compilations such as New Beat Take 1 sold 40.000 units. The Belgian sound was re-introduced to the United States market in 1989 as compilation album known as This Is the New Beat, released through Polygram Records.
From 1988 to 1990, new beat spawned two short-lived subgenres with hard beat, a style that incorporated more elements of EBM (e.g. The Concrete Beat – I Want You; Major Problem – I Still Have a Dream; Tribe 22 – Acid-New Beat), and skizzo, 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, who received heavy airplay on the MTV Europe show Party Zone. A memorable novelty song was Qui...? (1989) by Brussels Sound Revolution, who sampled parts of a press conference speech by former Prime Minister Paul Vanden Boeynants after he was kidnapped by the gang of Patrick Haemers.
Modern artists described as "new beat" include 1788-L, and Rezz. 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 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.
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 their home country Belgium but also in the rest of Europe and specifically Ireland and the United Kingdom. Roland Beelen (Bellucci 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.