Dutch gabber’s nosebleed drum blur was never supposed to be subtle, but the genre’s latest offshoot, jumpstyle, sure makes it seem that way. Taking cues from the cheesiest moments of rave’s 15-plus years, jumpstyle mixes Euro-trance’s marching melodies with gabber’s bouncy kick drums, then adds liberal doses of stolen rave hooks and time-honored dancefloor gimmickry. At best, this ecstatic clobber is a guilty pleasure; at worst, it’s a barely updated soundtrack for the rushing pill head.
“Otto Von Schirach played jumpstyle for me, and I thought it was some of the shittiest techno I’ve ever heard,” says Dan Doormouse, owner of Addict Records and self-proclaimed “godfather” of Midwest hardcore. His short version of the sound? “Imagine a million racquet balls bouncing in sync, running through a distortion pedal. Add some cheap electronic claps and snare drums, the worst-possible synth from an ’80s song, and a European dude talking about drug use in second-rate English.”
Doormouse’s reaction is typical of American post-ravers introduced to jumpstyle via YouTube, which boasts a growing collection of Dutch “jumping” videos. Resembling the classic Russian Cossack squat-and-kick dance, jumping’s one-legged twist is an integral part of the scene’s identity; crews such as Jumpforce are even advertised on party flyers, and many have adopted the “jump is not a crime” mantra to combat jumpstyle bans at dancehalls.
“Some people say the jumpstyle dance moves come from the Melbourne Shuffle, or from France,” says DJ Coone (a.k.a. Koen Bauweraerts), one of the scene’s leading producers and DJs. “But most people believe the origin lies in Belgium, where the music first caught hold. [With YouTube], people watch each other’s moves and try to improve or invent their own, a bit like breakdancing.”
Although the music and dancing might seem ridiculous to American eyes, jumpstyle is still a quick-growing European phenomenon. The yearly Reverze party in Antwerp draws in upwards of 18,000 people, with a lineup that represents jumpstyle’s biggest acts: Dark-E, DJ Coone, Greg C, and Ruthless, to name a few. Then there’s the club night at Complex, just outside Antwerp, which packs in 2,000 people every Saturday night.
“Jumpstyle has become a lifestyle, like hip-hop or techno,” says DJ Coone. “For me, it’s the best party music around. There’s no other style that makes you go so crazy and forget about all your worries.”