The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Subgenre of the Week: Dutch house

We live in an age where our post-modern sensibilities have translated into flourishing musical creativity. This, paired with the death of radio, has led to the creation of nearly every subgenre imaginable. But how do you keep track of them all? Each week, we here at the Quest do our best to help you make sense of all this alternativeness.

If you head to a discotheque in Europe, chances are you’ll be dancing to Ibiza-esque club music (think “One” by Swedish House Mafia and most of Rihanna’s new stuff) and an assortment of pop songs you’ve never heard of. But you’ll also become familiar with another sound, one that I can only describe as a siren having sex with a trumpet. This is the signature sound of Dutch house, ab offshoot of house and club music that is currently dominating club sets from Miami to Ibiza.

The sound in question (for simplicity’s sake let’s call it the “Dutch whirr”) is really hard to define. Seriously, I’ve spent the last forty-five minutes scouring the internet for a concise way of defining the Dutch whirr and come up with nothing. But because this sound is so crucial to any understanding of Dutch house, I’ll try defining in three different ways: one for the hardcore electro fan, one  for the music enthusiast, and one for the casual listener. For the hardcore electrohead, the Dutch whirr is a high-pitched, modulated synthesizer lead (but you already knew that, didn’t you?). For the music enthusiast, the Dutch whirr is the sound that is found in Major Lazer’s “Pon de Floor” (more on that later). For the casual listener, try the following with your mouth:

1) With pursed lips, make the sound of a high-pitched siren going off.

2) Repeat said sound at a relatively fast pace.

3) Make slight alterations in pitch and length to said sound.

Congratulations, you just beatboxed the sound that defines Dutch house music. The Dutch whirr places Dutch house is a very specific category of dance music while still retaining the elements of successful, non-niche dance music.

While still a point of contention, most consider Afrojack to have pioneered the Dutch whirr in the late ‘00s. Since then, it’s been popularized by other dirty Danes like Laidback Luke and Sidney Samson, and become a mainstay in the electro club scene. Americans, Aussies, even the Frenchies, are producing Dutch house with no intent of taking up residency in Amsterdam.  Within the past two years, it has even breached the mainstream with tracks like “Pon de Floor” and pop hits that sample the whirr.

Unlike other varieties of house, Dutch lets the treble guide the dancefloor; the whirr simply dominates over any drum and bass. Consequently, a lot of Dutch house replaces your four-to-the-floor beat with congos or a minimalist bass drum. What this all means is that instead of moving your feet to the rhythm, you may very well end up gyrating and flailing around to that siren sound you just made with your mouth. Totally ridiculous, right? Right. But when you’re on the dancefloor, you are totally helpless to the grasp of the Dutch whirr. You just can’t help dancing. If there was a ideal sound for music played at a club, you’d be hard pressed to find anything as catchy, neverending, and indescribably unique as the Dutch whirr.

Check out some of our picks below.


Recommended Dirty Dutch

“Replica” – Afrojack

“Let the Bass Kick” – Chuckie

“Break the House Down” – Laidback Luke

“Pon de Floor” – Major Lazer

“Wake Up Call” – Steve Aoki & Sidney Samson

One Response to “Subgenre of the Week: Dutch house”
  1. Laura Fisher says:

    Sounds a lot like Yoko Ono around 1969. Profoundly anti-art and anti-intellectual output which then was fashionable as “deconstruction” and now is tired.

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