How electronic music put The Hague on the world map
Most people won't be aware of this, but in the 1990s The Hague had a leading role worldwide in the development of quality electronic music, and a legendary online radio station in the city is keeping that spirit alive to this day.
Underground acid, techno and electro releases from The Hague and surrounding cities have been highly sought after in the last 20-25 years by DJs all around the world.
Bunker and Acid Planet
The "west coast sound of Holland", as it would later be referred to, was not limited to one genre. It was an evolving and dynamic scene with many different artists and labels, initially popular for its raw and relentless techno from acts such as Unit Moebius and other Bunker Records (1992) artists that frequently ventured into acid, experimental, noisy and even industrial territory.
At least as important for the scene as those record releases, were the Acid Planet parties in The Hague in the 1990s, held at various squats such as the infamous Blauwe Aanslag and De Bruine Planeet. Acid Planet also became a Bunker sublabel in 1994.
The harsh sound of the music being produced in The Hague was a reflection of challenging socio-economic conditions of the city at the time, with the very poor on one side, and the very rich on the other. This was working class techno, sometimes even approaching the BPMs of gabber and with a quite nihilistic feel.
Bunker stopped releasing records in 1997, and the sound on the Dutch west coast scene evolved as well, moving away from the aggressive, dirty and gritty feeling of the early releases.
Nevertheless, original vinyl pressings of the early to mid-90s Bunker and Acid Planet releases from acts such as Beverly Hills 808303 and Unit Moebius have been sold online for hundreds of euros.
Viewlexx and Crème Organisation
Labels such as I-F's Viewlexx Records (1995) carried a cleaner sound more inspired by italo disco and 80s electro. Crème Organisation (2000, Leiden) releases everything from electro, techno and ambient to old-school Chicago house and jack, inspired by the tradition of Ron Hardy and his spiritual disciples Jamal Moss and Traxx.
In Rotterdam, the Clone record store opened its doors in 1995, becoming the main outlet for independent and underground music in the Netherlands. Clone since started its own label with a number of offshoots, and is highly regarded worldwide with an impressive artist roster.
Popularity in the United States
In Detroit, Michigan, the birthplace of techno, during the 90s and 2000s DJs would scour the import sections of the local record stores trying to find the latest releases from Viewlexx, Bunker, Crème Organisation, Clone and other related Dutch imprints.
That's because these records labels in the Netherlands were pushing the boundaries of underground electronic music, ahead of local American labels at the time. There were some exceptions of course, such as Underground Resistance in Detroit, Drop Bass Network in Milwaukee, and later Ghostly International and Ectomorph's Interdimensional Transmissions in Ann Arbor, MI and Adult's Ersatz Audio in Detroit.
Bunker party in The Hague, 2005
Bunker Records 20-year anniversary @ IFMX
Electronome - Een Drumcomputer En Een Synthesizer (1995)
I-F - Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass (1997)
I-F - Superman (1996)
There was also a close musical connection between The Hague and Detroit throughout the 90s, with artists from both cities releasing tracks on each other's labels.
The origins of electro
Known for its thundering Roland TR-808 bass drum, electro music has its foundations in 1970s Kraftwerk, early 80s rap, 1980s Miami bass and 1980s Detroit (A Number of Names "Shari Vari" 1981, Cybotron "Alleys of your Mind" 1981). The earliest electro track is arguably Silver Apples "Oscillations" from 1968, albeit with a live drummer instead of a drum machine.
This electro sound was developed further in the underground scene of The Hague, Rotterdam and Leiden, culminating in the influential 1997 release of I-F "Space Invaders are Smoking Grass". Artists such as Legowelt, Orgue Electronique, Rude 66 and Luke Eargoggle were some of the most popular electro artists featured on the Dutch west coast labels around the turn of the century.
The commercialisation of electro
"Space invaders are smoking grass" was the first big underground hit of the modern iteration of electro, which by now has become as commercial and derivative as mainstream house and techno.
Sometimes referred to as electro clash, this commercial version was made famous by DJ Hell's Munich/Berlin-based International Deejay Gigolo records and early releases such as Miss Kittin and the Hacker "Frank Sinatra".
The continued influence of The Hague on electronic music
I-F launched the now legendary Cybernetic Broadcasting System online radio station in the early 2000s, which after 2008 evolved into Intergalactic.FM. Still active today, IFM now offers several different music channels and free live video streaming.
It is difficult to accurately convey how important this online radio station is for upholding quality electronic music worldwide, in an age when EDM and similarly commercial dance music has all but killed off the soul, originality and forward-thinking nature that once was an integral part of synthesizer, drum machine and sampler-based music.
Through the years I-F amassed an unparalleled vault of obscure classics and never before heard tracks spanning the entire history of electronic music in all possible subgenres (that meet the stringent quality standards of the radio station). Weekly guest DJ shows from countries all over the world are streamed on the site as well.
Even the most seasoned producers and DJs say they keep seeing tracks on IFM they've never heard before. In terms of the musical education of new generations of producers and DJs, Intergalactic.FM is an invaluable source. There is no other radio station like it in the world, and it's a non-profit organisation that survives solely on the donations of its listeners.
I-F frequently invites popular DJs to spin vinyl, CDs and MP3s at his Panama Racing Club in Scheveningen, Den Haag, which can be enjoyed anywhere in the world through their webcam and high-quality live streaming.
Photo credits: Orgue Electronique, Legowelt and Sendex at Dystopia, 2005 (Copyright: Thomas Lundberg)