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Study the Floor Plan, Then Rave On With each room devoted to a different genre, would-be ravers may need some help telling house from hard-core.

March 25, 2001|DAVID PIERSON | David Pierson is a Times staff writer

When you file into your first rave party, the initial impression is chaos. The noise level is simply incredible. The crowd is overwhelming in size, packed together and dancing, most not even facing the stage.

But grab the flier that drew you here in the first place and you'll discover an inkling of order. Above the DJ listings are names of music genres such as house, drum-and-bass, techno, breaks, trance and hard-core. Each one has a separate room at the venue. You begin to realize that a rave is like a theme park with different areas of sound to explore.

And each one draws a loyal tribe of followers who swear by their chosen subgenres. For the house-heads, breaks-fiends and hard-core candy ravers, identifying with one style of dance music over the others is an essential part of the experience.

But what about the uninitiated masses who still call all dance music "techno"? Ten years after its arrival, electronic dance music still remains a mystery to most when it comes to its many subdivisions. With that in mind, here's a guide to the key genres, designed to direct you into the appropriate room with a groove.

House

House music always takes the prime real estate at a rave, and its adherents are usually the most eclectic mix of people. House is to dance music what Coca-Cola is to soda--the foundation for many of the offshoots that now define the boundaries of dance music.

Characterized by a steady, thumping beat provided by a kick drum, house started in the early '80s when club DJs--primarily in Chicago--were looking for a new, harder-edged sound after the disco trend wore out.

House wasn't just a revolution in sound. It was also a cultural reaction to the glitzy, mainstream sensibilities of disco. The music aimed for a more underground, rebellious feel than that found in your typical "Saturday Night Fever" disco.

Today's house stars include Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx and Armand Van Helden. Both Fatboy Slim's and the Chemical Brothers' most recent albums are considered throwbacks to classic house music.

Though house originated in dance clubs, it found a permanent home in the rave scene a decade ago in England, where it still thrives. The music has begotten a series of subgenres, such as acid house (recognizable by its high-pitched squeals or flatulent bass lines) and deep house (influenced by Latin and American jazz).

It also caught the ear of some of pop's most stylish figures, including Madonna, whose 1990 single "Vogue" is a classic example of house. Her latest dance hit, "Music," is influenced by the sound of French house iconic duo Daft Punk.

Expect a great deal of funkin' and groovin' in the house room. Its disco roots always provide a sexy time out dancing.

Preparation: Daft Punk's "Homework" (Virgin), Dimitri From Paris' compilation "A Night at the Playboy Mansion" (Astralwerks).

Techno

It can be hard to distinguish house from techno. While house tends to use traditional instruments such as horns and strings, a techno fan might be able to find the funkiness in the sound of a computer printer.

The history of techno goes back to Kraftwerk, the German synthesizer band best known for its "Autobahn" and "Trans Europe Express" albums in the 1970s. But much of the credit for contemporary techno goes to Detroit record producers Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May. They added a strong dance orientation to basic techno in the early '80s, inspired by the industrial culture of their city. Quite simply, techno is the sound of technology.

Artists such as Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin, Aphex Twins and Carl Craig have pushed techno further with fearless experimentation. German producers helped inspire the techno-industrial crossover that led to bands such as Nitzer Ebb and even Nine Inch Nails.

Preparation: Derrick May's "Innovator" (Transmat), Richie Hawtin's "Decks, EFX & 909" (Nova Mute).

Drum-and-Bass

No other sound has developed as much since the birth of the rave, and no other genre entails as many idiosyncrasies among fans, from style of dress to slang. In North America, followers have attached themselves to the psyche of hip-hop. The mentality is dark, underground and outlaw.

Producer Goldie was perhaps the first to turn drum-and-bass (also known as jungle) from a homemade party sound rooted in the slums of London into an almost cerebral form of music. Today, artists such as Roni Size/Reprazent have fused elements of jazz, hip-hop and techno into a sophisticated style that suits both the dance floor and the bedroom. The essence of jungle lies in the bass sounds and the complexity of the beats. Think of hip-hop beats sped up several times, creating a sort of hyper-funk.

A jungle room is always the most physically active spot at a rave. You should feel the rumble of the bass in your stomach, so you can appreciate the style fully only when you hear it full blast. That's the only way to pick up on its subtleties. Or is it the lack of subtlety?

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