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Wave is a genre of electronic bass music with an emphasis on emotion and melody, and a visual art style that emerged in the early 2010s[8] in online communities. It is characterized by atmospheric melodies and harmonies, melodic and heavy bass such as reese, modern trap drums, chopped vocal samples processed with reverb and delay, and arpeggiators.[5] Visually, it incorporates computer-generated imagery and animation,[9] and imagery from video games and cartoons.[7]

Wave music originated on online music platforms from a small group of disparate DIY artists who shared a common interest in emotional and melodic qualities.[3] Since then, wave music uploaded to streaming platforms such as YouTube has gathered millions of plays, which is partially attributable to the genre's broad influences.[7] Since 2016, the wave scene has experienced an increase in physical events.[1] From 2017 onward, the genre was further influenced by trance and hardstyle, and a subgenre of wave known as hardwave emerged.[5][10]


Musical qualities and influences

The main qualitative characteristics of wave are its emphasis on emotions such as melancholy,[2] dreaminess, femininity,[9] and otherworldliness that are comparable to genres like witch house and emo rap,[2] and on melodic and harmonic aspects using tools like arpeggiation and atmospheric pads.[5] This is combined with influences from styles such as trap and grime for interludes and drum beats.[5] The genre presents a science fiction style akin to grime,[2] with music producer enjoii associating the genre to cyberpunk.[5] Wave has experimentalism relative to the Los Angeles beat scene,[2] and incorporates elements from many other genres[1] such as hip-hop, dubstep, UK garage,[1][11] drill,[4] vaporwave, cloud rap,[7] video game music and sound design, ambient, house, techno, and jungle.[2]

[T]he genre is hard to replicate if you don't get the emotion right in the song. You can have all the sonics and sounds, understand how to arrange and mix the track, but if you aren't capturing the core emotion you'll have a hard time to pass it as wave. And if you are capturing those emotions, then you are welcomed, as you understand what we feel.


Production style

A genre of bass music,[6] wave is typically bass heavy,[9] and generally utilizes a filtered Reese style bass timbre.[5] The percussion features trap-style drums with fast hi-hats, with other elements like snare and pan-hits further processed using reverb. The percussive styles used can vary owing to the music's broad range of influences and various producer's willingness to experiment.[5] The beats per minute typically varies between 120 and 140,[9] but wave DJ sets can range from 100 to 200.[5] Vocals used are generally chopped samples, for which reverb and delay effects are applied to decrease and increase the pitch.[5]

Visual aesthetics

Wave's visual aesthetics incorporates digital art such as computer-generated imagery and animation. In the scene's origins, these art were combined with wave music on Tumblr, and later become used as visuals for physical events.[9] Wave can also display imagery taken from video games and cartoons.[7]


The development and spread of wave music as an independent genre began in the early 2010s[8] on online music platforms and social media (mainly SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Mixcloud, Reddit, and Tumblr), among a small community of artists—often teenagers[12][4] who were not associated with club culture and the mainstream[12][11]—who were making electronic music with different sonic influences but similar subjective qualities of "feeling".[3] Plastician has said that many of those early producers were either trying to achieve rap instrumentation akin to Clams Casino, or had grime influences but applied different tempos. As new artists attempted to reproduce the sound of these early tracks, wave producers began to be influenced mainly by each other, which allowed wave to develop distinguishable musical characteristics.[4]

Wave's direct origins can be dated to at least 2013 when UK-based producer Steven "Klimeks" Adams[6][9][7] began tagging his tracks on SoundCloud as 'wave',[3][9] and subsequently founded the prominent label Wavemob. In 2015, the label published its first release, the compilation album wave 001 with tracks by producers such as Klimeks, Skit, Spoze, and Nvrmore,[13] and followed this with wave 002 in July 2016. Other Wavemob producers included Øfdream, and Trash Lord who was originally from the witch house scene.[1][13]

In 2013, Plastician became an early embracer of the wave scene, led by his interest in music with trap elements from the LA beat scene, but less influenced by festival music which brought him to Klimeks' works.[3] In that year, Plastician started promoting the genre by featuring wave music on his then decade-active[14] radio shows on Rinse FM, and by releases on his label Terrorhythm Recordings, for instance Klimeks's remix of "Born in the Cold" on the compilation album Turquoise.[3][15] In December 2015, Plastician released The Wave Pool MMXV mix featuring a selection of wave music "on the dubbed out end of trap" with "shattered hip hop beats, jagged basslines", and atmosphere.[11] This mix popularized the term wave within the music press and further promoted its general usage.[3]

In early 2016, wave producer Jude "Kareful" Leigh-Kaufman became the first artist to release a full-length wave album, Deluge.[2][1] In 2017, Kareful, LTHL, and Oskar "Stohou" Barczak founded the Liquid Ritual label[16] and collective—named after Kareful's show on Radar Radio—for promoting wave music made by producers such as Deadcrow, Noah B, LAIRE, Vacant, Hefu, Stohou, and Dyzphoria.[17]

Since 2016, the wave scene—originally an online phenomenon—has experienced an increase in physical events. In that year, the main location for wave events was London, primarily Dalston.[1] In 2016, Plastician ran a club night at Phonox, in Brixton, named Survey London, which featured wave producers such as Kareful, Skit, and Glacci.[18][4] Other entities that supported the London wave scene were Mixmag featuring wave artists such as Skit at Ace Hotel,[9] and Kareful who hosted events in that city.[2] There are other local scenes in Europe, the United States,[2] Canada, Australia, Russia, and Poland.[4]

In 2017, Perth-based producers Skeler and Ytho began incorporating elements from trance and hardstyle into wave for appealing to the broader festival and club audiences and thus popularize the genre. This lead the wave scene to evolve into the emergent subgenre known as hardwave.[5][10]

Genre name origin

Use of the word wave to categorize a style of music is attributed to UK-based music producer Steven "Klimeks" Adams.[6] In c. 2013 he used the term as a keyword on SoundCloud.[9][7][3][2] It was adopted and popularized by Plastician while promoting the genre in his radio shows on Rinse FM, Wave Pool mixes,[11] at club events,[18][4] and through his label Terrorhythm Recordings.[2][3]


In May 2017, Vice published an article by Ezra Marcus who wrote that the wave community and bloggers were categorizing a wide range of music within a "constructed microgenre", without a distinctive or innovative sound, in order to strategically exploit algorithms on streaming platforms such as YouTube.[7]

Plastician responded to Marcus's article, arguing that most wave producers were generally younger people who lack the expertise to strategically influence algorithms for marketing purposes.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dave Jenkins (29 June 2016). "Kareful's Introduction To Wave Music". UKF Music. Wikidata Q106369449.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "Wave Music: Why You Need This Genre In Your Life Right Now". Highsnobiety. 11 August 2016. Wikidata Q106369425.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Robin Murray (9 August 2017). "Entering The Whirlpool: Glacci, Plastician And That 'Wave' Sound". Clash. ISSN 1743-0801. Wikidata Q106369424.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Joe Muggs (8 November 2017). "DJ Plastician on the Wave Musicians Giving the Genre Life". Bandcamp Daily. Wikidata Q106369445.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Matthew Meadow (8 February 2021). "Diving Into "WAVE," The New Genre That's Destined To Blow Up In 2021". Your EDM. Wikidata Q106369426.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Juliane Reil (6 May 2017). ""Wave" erobert Londons Underground". Deutschlandfunk (in German). Wikidata Q106466879.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Ezra Marcus (12 May 2017). "Wave Music Is a Marketing Tactic, Not a Microgenre". Vice. ISSN 1077-6788. Wikidata Q106369432.
  8. ^ a b Irina Koprivica (6 February 2018). "Have You Ever Listened to "Wave/Witch House"?". Youth Time. Wikidata Q106862775.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sapphire Plant (26 April 2017). "Wave: The emotive new genre with its own icy ecosystem". Mixmag. ISSN 0957-6622. Wikidata Q106369423.
  10. ^ a b Luke Bennett (30 April 2020). "The 15 Best Bass Music Tracks of April 2020". Magnetic Magazine. Wikidata Q106369428.
  11. ^ a b c d Robin Murray (11 December 2015). "Has Plastician Just Uncovered A New Genre?". Clash. ISSN 1743-0801. Wikidata Q106369451.
  12. ^ a b Dave Jenkins (22 August 2017). "Why Wavepool 2 is a critical moment for wave music". UKF Music. Wikidata Q106417465.
  13. ^ a b Mike Wood (17 February 2016). "Get to know brand new label Wave Mob as they release their debut compilation 'Wave 001'". Earmilk. Wikidata Q106417999.
  14. ^ Dave Jenkins (3 July 2017). "Plastician announces Rinse FM departure". UKF Music. Wikidata Q106417493.
  15. ^ "Plastician's Terrorhythm label releases new compilation Turquoise: download it for free inside". Fact. 18 December 2013. Wikidata Q106417499.
  16. ^ Luke Byatt (16 April 2021). "Creative Conversations 047: Forging A Genre With Liquid Ritual [Exclusive]". Futuremag Music. Wikidata Q106659799.
  17. ^ "Wave Wonder Kareful Initiates His Liquid Ritual". Clash. 22 May 2017. ISSN 1743-0801. Wikidata Q106369442.
  18. ^ a b "Survey London: bringing wave to the rave since 2015". International DJ Magazine. 30 August 2016. Wikidata Q106399586.

Further reading