Electronic body music

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Electronic body music (EBM) is a genre of electronic music[1] that combines elements of industrial music and synth-punk with elements of disco and dance music.[2][3] It developed in the early 1980s in Germany and Belgium[2] and came to prominence in Belgium at the end of the decade.[1] EBM was generally considered a part of the European new wave and post-punk movement and the first style that blended synthesized sounds with an ecstatic style of dancing (e.g. pogo).[4]

In the second half of the 1980s, a youth-cultural scene emerged from EBM[5] whose followers describe themselves as EBM-heads or (in North America) as rivetheads.[6] EBM is mostly musicaly unrelated to Goth, although in some local scenes both subcultures may share the same music clubs and festivals[7] (along with other alternative subcultures such as punk and psychobilly).


From its inception, the style has been characterized by relentless, programmed electronic beats, repetitive bass lines, and sequenced instrumentation.[8] Typical EBM rhythms alternate between the 4/4 beats of disco and more abrasive rock-inspired backbeats.[9]

The EBM sound was derived from a combination of post-punk sources, including: the industrial music of Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, the synthesizer-based tracks of New Order and Killing Joke, the work of DAF and Kraftwerk, and the Eurodisco dance sound pioneered by Giorgio Moroder.[10] Daniel Bressanutti of Front 242, who helped coin the term EBM to describe their music, named the synthesizer music of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze as additional influences along Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle's Chris Carter, the "extended rhythmic disco of [Giorgio] Moroder," and the punk scene.[11]

At the time the genre arose, important synthesizers were the Korg MS-20, Emulator II, Oberheim Matrix and Yamaha DX7. Samples, e.g. metal rod, machine and alert sounds, are often used to create a "factory ambiance". Other samples include political speeches and excerpts from science fiction movies.


Origin of the term[edit]

The term electronic body music was coined by Ralf Hütter of the German electronic band Kraftwerk in November 1977[12], and later again in 1978 to explain the more physical sound of their album The Man-Machine.[13] "Body music" had been used in 1972 by Robert Christgau to describe the amplified beat and art rock component of hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople, Black Sabbath, and Slade: "Bands like Led Zep... make body music of an oddly cerebral cast, arousing aggression rather than sexuality."[14]

In 1980/1981, DAF from Germany used the term "Körpermusik" (body music) to describe their danceable electronic punk sound.[15][16] The term was later used by Belgian band Front 242 in 1984[17] to describe the music of their EP of that year called No Comment,[18][19] using it alongside their preferred description "Electro Disco Terrorist Music."[20]


Emerging in the early 1980s, the genre draws heavily on the music of bands such as Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, DAF, Die Krupps,[21] Liaisons Dangereuses, Portion Control, and the danceable electropop of Kraftwerk. Archetypes of the genre are tracks Verschwende Deine Jugend and Der Mussolini by Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, Wahre Arbeit, Wahrer Lohn and Für einen Augenblick by Die Krupps, Etre assis ou danser and El Macho y la Nena by Liaisons Dangereuses, and Body to Body and U-Men by Front 242.

Front 242 characterized their approach as somewhere between Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk.[19] Nitzer Ebb and Skinny Puppy, both influenced by DAF[22] and Cabaret Voltaire, followed soon after. Groups from this era often applied socialist realist aesthetics, with ironic intent.[23] Other prominent artists include Vomito Negro, Borghesia, The Neon Judgement,[24] à;GRUMH...,[25] A Split-Second,[26] and The Invincible Spirit.[27]


In the second half of the 1980s, the genre became popular in Canada (Front Line Assembly[28]) and the U.S. (Ministry,[29] Revolting Cocks,[30] Schnitt Acht[31]) as well as in Sweden (Inside Treatment, Pouppée Fabrikk, Cat Rapes Dog) and Japan (2nd Communication, DRP). North American bands started to use typical European EBM elements and combined them with the roughness of (hardcore) punk and thrash metal (cf. industrial metal). Nine Inch Nails continued the cross-pollination between EBM and rock music[32] resulting in the album Pretty Hate Machine (1989).

Meanwhile, EBM became popular in the underground club scene, particularly in Europe. In this period the most important labels were the Belgian Play It Again Sam and Antler-Subway, the German Zoth Ommog, the North American Wax Trax! and the Swedish Energy Rekords. At the time, significant artists included And One,[33] Armageddon Dildos,[34] Bigod 20,[35] Insekt,[36] Scapa Flow,[37] Orange Sector,[38] Attrition,[39] and Oil In The Eye.[40]

Between the early and the mid-1990s, many EBM artists split up, or changed their musical style, borrowing more distorted "industrial" elements or elements of rock or metal. The album Tyranny For You by EBM pioneers Front 242 initiated the end of the EBM epoch of the 1980s. Nitzer Ebb, one of the most important artists, became an alternative rock band. Without the strength of its figureheads, the original electronic body music faded by the mid-1990s.


In the late 1990s and after the millennium, Belgian, Swedish and German groups such as Ionic Vision, Tyske Ludder, and Spetsnaz[41] had reactivated the style. In the same time period, a number of artists from the European techno scene started including more elements of EBM in their sound. This tendency grew in parallel with the emerging electroclash scene and, as that scene started to decline, a number of artists associated with it, such as The Hacker, DJ Hell,[42] Green Velvet, and Black Strobe,[43] moved towards this techno/EBM crossover style. There has been increasing convergence between this scene and the old school EBM scene. Bands and artists have remixed each other. Most notably, Terence Fixmer joined with Nitzer Ebb's Douglas McCarthy to form Fixmer/McCarthy.[44]

Derivatives and alternative terms[edit]


Electro-industrial is an outgrowth of the EBM and industrial music that developed in the mid-1980s. While EBM has a minimal structure and clean production, electro-industrial has a deep, complex and layered sound, incorporating elements of ambient industrial. The style was pioneered by Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and Front Line Assembly. In the early '90s, the style spawned the dark electro genre, and in the end of the decade a strongly techno- and hard-trance-inspired style called "hellektro" or "aggrotech".

Industrial dance[edit]

Industrial dance is a North American alternative term for electronic body music and electro-industrial music. Fans associated with this music scene call themselves rivetheads.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dan Sicko, Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk, Billboard Books, 1999, p. 142.
  2. ^ a b Timor Kaul: Electronic Body Music. In: Thomas Hecken, Marcus S. Kleiner: Handbook Popculture. J.B. Metzler Verlag 2017, ISBN 3-476-02677-9, page 102, page 104
  3. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1991). "Disturbing Sounds to Unruffle the New Age". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  4. ^ Renaat Vandepapeliere: R & S Records Belgium, Localizer 1.0, Die Gestalten Verlag 1995, ISBN 3-931-12600-5
  5. ^ Martin Pesch, Markus Weisbeck: History of Techno and House music. In: Techno Style. Musik, Grafik, Mode und Partykultur der Techno-Bewegung. Edition Olms, Hombrechtikon / Zürich 1996, ISBN 3-283-00290-8,p. 11.
    "1986/87: New bands like Nitzer Ebb, The Klinik and Vomito Negro appear on the scene and gain a large audience of mainly young males."
  6. ^ Kate Stevens: Freak Nation. A Field Guide to 101 of the Most Odd, Extreme, and Outrageous American Subcultures, Adams Media, 2010, ISBN 1-440-50646-9, p. 108
  7. ^ Johanna Paulsson: DJ Culture in the Mix: Power, Technology, and Social Change in Electronic Dance Music, Bloomsbury Academic, 2013, ISBN 1-623-56006-3, p. 273
  8. ^ Horn, David (2017). Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11. Bloomsbury.
  9. ^ Horn, David (2017). Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11. Bloomsbury.
  10. ^ Horn, David (2017). Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11. Bloomsbury.
  11. ^ B, Daniel. "A Beginner's Guide to EBM". FACT. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  12. ^ http://www.djfood.org/kraftwerk-and-the-cold-wave-in-sounds-26-11-77/
  13. ^ (2007-11-25) Klein, MJ WSKU Radio (Kent - Ohio) - Ralf Hütter - 19/06/1978 kraftwerk.technopop.com.br (retrieved on 2008-01-28)
  14. ^ Christgau, Robert (December 1972). "Growing Up Grim With Mott the Hoople". Newsday. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  15. ^ "YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  16. ^ Uncle Dave Lewis. D.A.F. bio at AllMusic. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  17. ^ https://www.discogs.com/Front-242-No-Comment/release/102862
  18. ^ (2004-06-20) Monsoon, Jon EBM - A revolution in progress Archived 2004-07-21 at the Wayback Machine iAfrica.com (retrieved on 2007-08-03)
  19. ^ a b Ernie Rideout, interview with Front 242, Keyboard Presents the Best of the '80s, Backbeat, 2008, p. 57.
  20. ^ Clouston, Richard. "The 20 Best Industrial & EBM Records Ever Made". Fact Magazine. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  21. ^ Release Magazine: Die Krupps - Too Much History
  22. ^ Raggett, Ned. That Total Age review at AllMusic. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  23. ^ Raggett, Ned. Die Kleinen und die Bösen review at AllMusic. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  24. ^ Huey, Steve. Neon Judgement: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  25. ^ Huey, Steve. à;GRUMH: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  26. ^ Huey, Steve. A Split Second: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  27. ^ "The Invincible Spirit". Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  28. ^ Ankeny, Jason. Front Line Assembly: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  29. ^ "... this album probably owes more to Front 242 than anything." Esher, Alan. Twitch review at AllMusic. Retrieved March 11, 2009.
  30. ^ Jeffries, David. Revolting Cocks: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  31. ^ Henderson, Alex. Subhuman Minds: Overview at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  32. ^ Huey, Steve. Nine Inch Nails: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  33. ^ Ankeny, Jason. And One: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  34. ^ McDonald, Steven. Homicidal Dolls: Overview at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  35. ^ Bush, John. Bigod 20: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  36. ^ Insekt. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  37. ^ "Scapa Flow". Discogs. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  38. ^ "Orange Sector". Discogs. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  39. ^ Wilson, MacKenzie. Attrition: Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  40. ^ "Oil In The Eye". Discogs. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  41. ^ Vorndran, Daniela: Spetsnaz, Reflections of Darkness: A Dark Music webzine, March 6, 2006.
  42. ^ Theakston, Rob (2002-11-26). "Electronicbody-Housemusic > Overview". allmusic. Retrieved 2010-05-19.
  43. ^ Kellman, Andy (2004-06-01). "Chemical Sweet Girl > Overview". allmusic. Retrieved 2010-05-19.
  44. ^ "Music | CD Reviews". Gothtronic. Retrieved 2010-05-19.

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