“Future house” appears to be the dance music buzzword of 2014. Some relate it to deep house, calling it an offshoot. At other times, the term seems descriptive of a dirtier, faster version of the subgenre’s lounge-ier, slower side.
Yet with critics now defining releases as “future house” or “deep/future house” and Facebook groups springing up to keep track of the new releases, it helps to know what, exactly, it means and how amongst the hundreds of sub-subgenres this style differentiates itself.
On a Mainstream Level
Perhaps the biggest release so far to get the “future house” label is Laidback Luke’s “Bae,” featuring Gina Turner.
Laidback Luke started as a DJ – first techno and then mainstream house – but singles involving collaborations with Lil Jon and Steve Aoki in recent years have shrouded his abilities. “Bae,” on the other hand, reminds listeners why we started paying attention to Luke roughly 10 years ago and strongly diverges from his typical production style with a rawer, dirtier, more percussive version of house featuring a wobbly bass line and Turner’s fragmented vocals.
In a sense, like any mainstream track, “Bae” tries to be everything underground releases hint at: For one, it blends moderate dubstep, electro, and trap influences, ever so slightly; two, the vocals might be higher in the mix but they’re not the focal point; three, it maintains that same lounge vibe of many deep house tracks but does so at a faster pace.
But while Laidback Luke might be the one giving future house its first mainstream recognition, other visible indie performers started putting out music anywhere from two to 10 years ago. U.K. duo Bondax is perhaps, outside of Luke’s one-off offering, the most well-known future house act. The group describes themselves as having no distinct sound but tracks like “Enter /You’re So” and “Baby I Got That” veer closer into deep house territory, coming up with an old school vibe of gospel vocals, minimal percussion textures, and a swinging two-beat feel.
What differentiates Bondax’s output from, say, countless deep house producers is the instrumentation. You won’t hear anything organic, and frankly and predictably, it reflects what countless generations have thought of as “futuristic” music for decades – that is, synthesized yet pure and precise.
The factor carrying over from deep house – one which likely causes many to think of this style as an offshoot and not its own separate sub-subgenre – is the minimal texture. The beat never has that strong, heavy four-to-the-floor quality of progressive house, with percussion filling the smaller beats in between.
Japanese duo Elektel, described as future house later in their career, blend the seemingly-artificial elements – science, technology, and videogame sounds, for instance – with what feels like a standard deep house beat. However, tracks like “Moon Race” take its predecessor’s sound and speed it up.
As well, ODDAGE’s “A Lake Like Light” starts with a chilled out, relaxed sound more appropriate for a lounge, with selective melodic elements intertwined. A pure sound and light percussion embellish the framework.
At times, on the other hand, the minimalist quality hints at a retro sound. As Austin, TX-based producer Dubbel Dutch shows with his Throwback EP, deep house’s framework can be sped up, have chopped vocals added into the mix, and have percussion drive it, and what you end up is something that sounds more appropriate for a ‘90s rave.
Similarly, Cleavage and Lars Vegas’ collaboration “Grace” blends an atmospheric quality with an old school groove to create something that reflects its retro origins without sounding dated.
What About Tech House?
As much as tech house has earned the reputation as basic music heard in mainstream clubs, it’s still minimalist in its true form. But the tempo differentiates tech from deep house, with the latter often composed at 120BPM or slower; tech house, on the other hand, pushes the 120-plus BPM, even veering into 130 BPM territory. In this sense, many – but not all – future house tracks feel like a sped up deep template with tech elements thrown in, giving it that percussive, synthesized quality.
Although deep and future house subgenres seem to be used interchangeably at the moment, one factor about the latter makes deep house purists scoff – the inclusion of trap, dubstep, and electro sounds.
But the producers incorporating these elements seem selective. For instance, Madeaux’s “Whatchawannado” goes for the most obvious hybrid – a deep house track with the slowed down, fragmented trap qualities blended throughout. The offering, based on an Ashanti sample, turns the early ‘00s R&B staple into a darker, grittier dance floor track.
AYO ALEX doesn’t attempt to obscure the allusion, either, with “Move That Dope.” At a first listen, the track unabashedly emphasizes its hip-hop/tech house hybrid.
Along this same path but a bit more subtle is Martjin’s “I Want You,” with the Zeitgeist Remix keeping his sparse soundscape intact but blending retro and trap elements, and Joe and Will Ask?’s “Shim” reflecting the duo’s combined drum and bass, techno, and trance backgrounds within a harder, synth-driven sound.
Although trap has turned into dance music’s dirty word these days, it’s being appropriated in a less mainstream way and given a more palatable sound, with Goonbags’ “Tour De Franzia” exemplifying this. The mix clearly comes from a deep house concept, but emphasizes a heavier bass and trap’s drunken character.
Not all producers resort to the wobbly dubstep bass, tech house’s speed, or trap’s chopped up character when putting together a future house track. Jacob Plant found a new direction with a recent remix of “Fire,” with discordant pitches and a slower feel playing off percussion textures that grow over the course of the track.
So, if “future house” is dance music’s next big thing, it’s more of a Moombahton subgenre than, say, dubstep. As a loose way to describe it, much of it rests on deep house’s minimal feel, speeds up into tech house range, and then grabs from outside sources to become something that’s distinct yet still familiar on the dance floor.