'This is music at its most hyperactive'XD

Last term saw the inaugural edition of a new style of Cambridge club night, the gabber rave. In the form of XD: Clubland, creators Tom Andersson and Henry Page set up a night of hard dance music, from nightcore and hard bass to trance and gabber. This is, as Andersson describes, "music at its most hyperactive", covered by student DJs at an average of 170bpm. It comes as part of a wave of smaller gabber nights starting around the UK, building on the genre's larger support bases in London and Bristol.

This is music at its most hyperactive

The club night's second outing, the aptly named Clubworld, is donating 50% of its profits to the charity, Mermaids, which helps to support transgender children. In its build-up, the Cambridge students talked us through gabber, XD and the appeal of this genre and night to the Cambridge audience.

What was the inspiration for creating XD?

H: We're both big PC Music fans and went to a few hard dance nights put on by artists on the label over summer like Harlecore and GFOTYBUCKS, which felt really new and exciting. We’d both wanted to put a night on for a while so it felt like the perfect time, place and thing to do. It’s also really cool to be able to raise money for charity in such a fun way.

I also think there’s something really important about these genres in terms of the overlap with LGBT nights too. PC Music has a huge LGBT fanbase and culture (eg the facebook group PC Music Queerposting), so the growth of hardcore nights such as Harlecore and GFOTYBUCKS, and the DJs / people who go to them, make them super LGBT led and representative spaces. Something about the intersection with ‘00s nostalgia and pop camp aesthetics as well as late ‘90s trance and hardcore reconfigures and reappropriates elements associated with LGBT culture in a really interesting way.

What is the appeal of XD?

T: I admit that a lot of music from mainstream gabber and related genres is pretty tacky, with cheesy drops or hyper-masculine vocal samples. But that’s not really what would get played at XD. When hard dance tracks avoid these tropes, the focus shifts to the beautiful synth arpeggios of trance or the fast, overdriven, kick drums of hardcore and they can become super euphoric. The ‘00s is far enough away now that we’re starting to see experimental club music borrow and exaggerate stylistic elements from the chart music of our youth. It’s like nostalgia is being amplified and appropriated through hard edits of old pop tracks and samples from remnants of popular culture. References to these cultural artefacts can be pretty hilarious - at some club nights I’ve been laughing almost as much as I’m dancing. In its more serious form though, I think the maximalist nature of hard dance can allow it to go much further than a bog-standard house or techno track can.

H: There’s an element of irony in XD (especially the airhorn samples and Cotton Eye Joe remixes), but I think it’s way more a genuine enjoyment and appreciation of pop and music that’s not taken as seriously in clubs or considered “trashy”. Like Cotton Eye Joe is definitely euphoric! Then there’s also a whole set of artists at the moment who are taking these forms of dance music and exaggerating them, like deconstructed club people and PC Music. So it’s at a super interesting place between a nostalgic reflection on ‘00s music and really modern experimental production, but still very much focused on fun and euphoria and not taking itself seriously.

Is there a demand in Cambridge?

H: There's definitely been a bunch of really cool techno and hard dance music in Cambridge but there isn't anything as hi bpm as gabber being played out. But there’s more and more PC Music and similar genres around in Cambridge like the Bunker bubblegum night, so it’s growing. 

T: I wouldn’t say the support base is large - it’s still a bit niche and it’s not for everyone, which is totally fair enough. Henry and I thought we knew enough people into PC Music to warrant throwing our first party to see if other people around Cambridge would be interested. Surprisingly, our night nearly got sold out, so there must be some demand for hard dance here - there just hasn’t been a space for it in Cambridge before.

Was the first XD a success?

H: The last event went way better than we expected! We weren’t sure how much demand there was for this kind of music in cambridge so we had the last party in the lounge in cindies, next to the main room. But in the end it was super packed out! Loads of people stayed till past the end for Hattie’s set too, which was amazing! 

Is there a growing global appeal to gabber?

Lorenzo Senni Live in Londonlorenzo_senni

T: Yes and no: hard dance was probably at its peak in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s with the huge old-school raves around at the time. That scene has now morphed into a few different populist and underground forms. On the more underground side we have artists like Lorenzo Senni, Gabber Eleganza and HDmirror, who are deconstructing the original sounds of trance and gabber, taking club music in exciting new experimental directions. There’s also the London-based label PC Music, with their weirdly self-aware, warped take on pop music. In terms of hard dance clubnights, I think post-soviet subcultures are leading the way at the moment. Take the Wixapol parties in Poland for example, where they mix patriotic old Polish songs with super-fast gabber and irony-infused donk tracks - it’s probably the closest thing to ‘meme music’ I can imagine. There’s also the darker approach of the Cxema parties in Ukraine, where the scene revolves more around hardcore techno. I think club culture experienced a lull in intensity after the ‘90s, but that seems to have just been a hiatus. Club sounds are getting harder and faster again because people are getting bored of vibeless parties with mediocre house and techno.


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Any plans for future events?

T: We definitely want to have more events this year, we think it would be funny to have a hyped-up party in a college basement with really limited capacity. We’ve also been in contact with some producers/DJs that we really look up to who said they’d love to play, so we may throw a club night with a headline act later in the year.

- XD Presents: Clubworld is on 13th January at Cindies -

To find out more about Mermaids, visit https://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk or to donate https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/meramidsuk

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