Downtempo electronica music originated in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. It was one of those musical styles that partly grew out from the need to offer club visitors a chance to relax from impulsive and fast paced dance beats. Since it has similar elements to trip hop, ambient music, and chill out, the differences between those musical styles are not so big. However, downtempo still has its own distinctive characteristics, making it an independent genre.
1. The beat
Rhythm plays an important role in this genre. Unlike the beatless forms of ambient music, downtempo electronica usually has a beat or groove. Though it can be rhythmically also more complex and diverse, the beat is often built up from smaller repeating patterns, called loops, making the songs sound hypnotic.
Just like trip hop, downtempo electronica music merges elements of slowed down breakbeats and hip hop. Nonetheless, the rhythm maintains its laid-back state. It is not as aggressive as in trance, and slower than in trip hop.
2. The use of instruments
While ambient music features mainly electronically processed sounds, downtempo encompasses a wider variety of instruments. Besides electronic and electroacoustic instruments, the typical instruments of this genre include also guitars, drums, bass, percussion, brass, strings, flute. Depending on the artist and their selection of the sounds, the musical texture can therefore be quite dense, having a broad spectrum of instruments playing at the same time.
3. Mixture of various music genres
Due to the wide variety of different musical styles that downtempo electronica music incorporates, it is often also viewed as experimental music. Elements of soul, ambient, electronic music, jazz, funk, hip hop, and dub, are mixed with electronically modified melodies and synthesizer sounds.
Both the structure and the harmony of the song can be influenced by various genres. While some songs are built on one or two simple chords, others are harmonically more diverse. Playful and jazz-like melodies alternate with ambient and atmospheric soundscapes. Acoustic instruments co-exist with electronic sounds. Though vocals are not so regular, they are used in a variety of ways, ranging from gentle and mellow singing, to rap and speech.
Downtempo electronica music is a mixture of various genres. It is similar to trip hop, ambient music, and chill out. While being beat-driven, the rhythm is not so aggressive as in trance, and the overall mood is often mellow and relaxed. This music style mixes acoustic instruments with electronic sounds and confronts melodic phrases to soundscapes. Though each artist has their own unique influences and sound preferences, these three aforementioned characteristics are common to most downtempo music, making it easier to identify this genre.