You'll find that many bands within the dark wave music genre have a guitar and synth orientated sound. Combine that with somber, melancholy lyrics and this is a basic description of dark wave music.
Music styles that are often associated with dark wave music of today include gothic rock, synth-wave, cold-wave, neofolk, ethereal, and neoclassical music. Indeed, dark wave has drawn much of its sound influence from these genres. But originally, dark wave emerged in the late 1970s, largely influenced by the sounds of post-punk and new wave music.
The sound of dark wave music is characterized by minor key tonality and introspective lyrics that border on melancholy and even sadness. Dark wave is often described as romantic and dark, even bleak, with undertones of sorrow.
The quintessential sound of dark wave is characterized by synths and electric guitars. It also includes violin, piano, and other electronic instruments such as drum machines, and samplers.The beauty of dark wave music is that it evokes emotion.
THE BIRTH OF DARK WAVE MUSIC: THE 1980S
The 1980s saw the popularity of dark wave music really take off. During this time, dark wave took on a broader meaning than some of its counterparts, such as gothic rock. That is, dark wave was connected to a multitude of different sounds and bands who fell into this popular genre.
This included artists who produced synthesizer-based, new wave sounds. Just some of these include well-known 80s bands The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, The Chameleons, and Bauhaus.
DARK WAVE BANDS
Essentially, the term dark wave was coined as an ode to the dark counterpart of new wave music. The first generation of new wave bands that propelled this genre of music into popularity included Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, and Cocteau Twins. In comparison, dark wave music introduced a slower tempo, lower vocal pitches, and minor keys when compared to new wave or post-punk music.
The dark wave movement soon spread across the globe. A subculture then developed, churning out fans and followers sometimes referred to as ''dark wavers''. As the genre of music began to evolve, this gave way to spin-off genres such as ethereal wave and neoclassical.
Some of Europe's most popular bands that brought dark wave music to the masses include:
The Cocteau Twins,
In the Nursery
Clan of Xymox, and more
As the 1990s came around, the second generation of dark wave artists began to emerge, primarily based in Germany. These bands were linked to the Neue Deutsche Welle genre as well. Some of these popular bands include the likes of Girls Under Glass, Das Ich, and Deine Lakaien.
DARK WAVE IN THE UNITED STATES: THE 1990S
It's no secret that the new wave and post-punk genres of music took a bit of a nose-dive during the mid-1980s. As such, dark wave took their place as a new underground music scene in the United States.
At the end of 1993, the dark wave music genre became closely associated with the Projekt Records label, created by Sam Rosenthal. He drew inspiration from German music magazines, such as Zillo. His intrigued was piqued by the underground, submerged, obscure, and poetic nature of dark wave music.
In the United States, dark wave soon became a hyrid of the sounds of synth-pop, dream pop, and goth rock. It was characterized by a far more ethereal, somber sound than industrial dance, which was another offshoot of the goth rock genre. Originally, dark wave was made popular in the U.S. by bands such as Clan of Xymox and Psyche.
As the genre found its feet in America, international bands including Dead Can Dance and In the Nursery grew in popularity. They brought a more classical, medieval sound to dark wave. While bands like Die Form and Lycia introduced an ambient, avant-garde sound.
Towards the end of the 90s, dark wave had a firm footing on U.S. soil. It had a large following thanks to the success of Sam Rosenthal's own band, Black Tape for a Blue Girl and the band Switchblade Symphony. Soon after this, new record labels appeared on the scene, including Metropolis and Cleopatra. However, it was Projekt Label that truly boosted the dark wave genre into the 21st century.
DARK WAVE MUSIC TODAY
Yes, dark wave is still relevant. In fact, it still has a huge following, even in today's world where brooding, somber music may not be to everyone's taste. A few of the more recent bands in the genre include Molchat Doma, Lebanon Hanover, Vox Low, Whispering Sons, Keluar, Void Vision, Hante and many more (Aaron Grey)
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