Hardbass is a subgenre of Pumping House music. St. Petersburg DJs produced electronic mixes in the late 1990s for large, noisy clubs. Accordingly, their mixes combined the ruthless intensity of UK Hardcore with the steady beat of Hard House.

In these times, Pumping house event nights were first hosted in Saint Petersburg and, to a lesser extent, in Moscow. The “Rassvet” (Dawn) club and a quarry next to Mednoe Ozero [ru], a nearby artificial lake, were the most well-known locations for pumping raves in Saint Petersburg. DJ Tolstyak, DJ 8088, DJ Yurbanoid, DJ Solovey and Dj Glyuk were among the many DJs that helped launch domestic pumping house production in Russia.

About this Subculture

Comparing Hardbass to its subsequent offshoots, this rave culture was noticeably different. Drug usage, notably the use of barbiturates, Xyrem, and amphetamines, spread across the scene. Saint Petersburg producers and DJs started increasing the BPM of the pumping house music that they played and created, ultimately reaching 150 BPM and above, to raise the energy of the events. The scene developed into a separate subculture, mostly catering to young people from Saint Petersburg’s lower and middle classes. This subculture went under many names, including Byki (bulls), rave Gopniks, and others.

Producers in Saint Petersburg began incorporating distinctive whistles and other samples into their music, which would eventually come to be known as the Hardbass sound.

How it has Evolved

Darker offshoots of the scene emerged, most notably the metal shade subgenre, which was popularized by DJ Barabass and DJ Rentgen among others. A menacing atmosphere and robotic or low-pitched monster voices characterize this genre, also including donk bass, which mutated into a sound resembling metallic rods striking one another. Nationalism wasn’t a big deal in this scene. According to the Moscow Hardbass School, the wave of nationalistic chants began when DJ Zheleznye Sharniry, a local Hardbass producer, began incorporating skinhead chants, including “1 4 8 8,” into Hardbass, “purely for fun,” an influence from the widespread Russian skinhead culture of the 2000s. While it has lost some of its political fervor, it has continued to grow on the internet. Internet memes and video game soundtracks incorporated Hardbass. For instance, a video for the STALKER game series featured Hardbass music.

Hardbass in recent years

The St. Petersburg duo Hard Bass School has been keeping the music alive. They have released a project every year since 2017. There have been some noticeable 2020 Hardbass releases as well. Alan Aztec made a project worthy of his colorful and crazed ascetic. The album is unapologetically Russian and quite accessible. Furthermore, the Russian Village Boys released some of the best electronic music of 2020. Their new album Kiss My Peace is a more focused approach to Hardbass and Gabber.

Fast tempos (often 150–175 BPM), donks, unique basslines (referred to as “hard bounce”), distorted noises, strong kicks, and occasionally chanting or rapping are characteristics of Hardbass. So-called “Hardbass scenes,” which are associated with the music and entail many individuals dancing in public while masked, have emerged in several European countries. A lot of Hardbass has glittery synths and atmospheric production. It has a smoother approach to electronics compared to Hard House or Techno. Also, there are usually dreamy vocals in the mix.

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