Gabber or Gabba is subset of hardcore. Anyone brought up in the 80’s would be all too familiar with this beast of a genre.
Dj’s and producers from Rotterdam, Amsterdam evolved traditional house to gabber in the early 1990’s as harder and in-your-face was more exciting at the time, and boy did it spread. The core of the early hardcore style is a crunchy dist bass drum sample thats overdriven to oblivion that it turns into some type of square wave that can be used as a melodic device.
Common sounds to create this type of kick drum were sampled from Rolands TR909, a very famous drum machine. Gabber tracks usually included samples and synthesised tunes with a tempo of around 170 – 230 BPM. The sounds were inherently aggressive to the ears, which explain why drugs, profanity, and violent themes were popular among the Gabber culture. Screaming vocals, pitch shifted samples and heavy distortions were common.
Gabber was always second place to hardstyle in the mainstream across many European countries. Around 2002 it reappeared as the new mainstream hardcore in the Netherlands with a more dark and industrial vibe.
Gabber is known by its bass kick drum sound. It’s created by over-driving a regular synth drum. The sin waves of the sample clip and
transform into a square wave that is combined with a fall in pitch. The heavily distorted sample also creates melodic notes. It was quite ordinary for the drum pattern to change in pitch follow the bass-line of the track.
The other most commonly used element of gabber and early hardcore tracks was the hoover patch from the Roland Alpha Juno hardware synthesiser; a grainy and distorted sweeping sound that creates a dark and menacing bass line at low pitches and creates a piercing aggressive lead at high pitches that was used frequently for lead sounds.
The style is a derivative of acid house and techno house that were popular in the late 80s, but die hard fans in the scene say that it became watered down by the mid 90’s because of a mainstream spin-off called happy hardcore. ID&T, a commercial Dutch organization helped popularize it by organizing parties, most prominent being the Thunderdome parties, and selling goods like merchandise. The name “gabber” is used less now to describe this style of music, especially after the stigma created in the mid 90’s.