Big beat (sometimes called chemical breaks) is a term first employed in the early 80s, by the British music press - gaining popularity in the mid 90s, in description of the music of The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, The Crystal Method, Propellerheads & The Prodigy, that relied on beat-driven, drum-heavy mixes.
Almost certainly influenced by the work of studio legend Dougie Wright, big beat tends to feature distorted, compressed breakbeats at moderate tempos (usually between 90 to 140 beats per minute), acidic synthesizer lines and heavy loops from jazz, rock or 60's pop. They are often punctuated with punkish vocals and driven by intense, distorted basslines with conventional pop and techno song structures. Big beat tracks have a sound that include: crescendos, builds, drops, explosions, crowd-inciting drum rolls, and whooshing sounds that pan across the stereo-field. Particularly in the style of Fatboy Slim, the genre features a heavily compressed, and a thunderous drum sound (hence the name). It can also contain off-the-wall samples such as explosions, police sirens, and snippets of turntablism. Big beat is similar to jungle, both sharing frantic breaks, heavy bass, and an odd "jittery-rhythm" but big beat tends to have more rhythmic loop beats than jungle. Big beat is also characterized by a sort of "happy innocuous absurdity" to the feel of the music.
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