You might be thinking, “Swing music? You mean that outdated junk my grandparents listen to? Buy yourself some new music, and quit living in the past!” This is not an uncommon opinion of swing music — the genre has often been mislabeled as obsolete. What was once considered the most groundbreaking genre has since been superseded by more recent forms of pop music. While the better days of swing music remain buried deep within the 20th century, artists like Parov Stelar are exploring different ways to blend old-school styles with new age production.
Parov Stelar is the on-stage moniker for Marcus Füreder, one of Austria’s most successful electronic artists. Füreder’s vast experience producing, composing and DJing qualifies him as one of the most flexible electronic artists in the world.
Since 2001, Parov Stelar has expanded from a one-man DJ to include seven talented musicians in The Parov Stelar Band. The live instrumentation and serene performances by singer Cleo Panther take Füreder’s project to new heights by matching the big-band spirit of the swing era. Füreder is also the founder of Etage Noir Recordings, a record label dedicated to promoting Parov Stelar’s unique “electro-swing” style.
Füreder’s project has thrived for nearly two decades, and its success is continuing with the midsummer release of “Snake Charmer,” a new single by Parov Stelar. “Snake Charmer” is a collaboration with Dutch singer Sharon Kovacs, best known simply as Kovacs, whose spirited voice pairs flawlessly with the song’s upbeat style.
“Snake Charmer” is not your average musical release. The single comes with two versions of the song: one is the official collaboration between the singer and producer, while the other is titled “Snake Charmer – 1930 Version.” This is not only an enticing way for fans to further appreciate Kovacs’ voice, but it also perfectly illustrates Parov Stelar’s impressive musical depth.
The official version of “Snake Charmer” allows the band members to flaunt their skills. The rhythmic strumming of a guitar (perhaps this version’s most defining characteristic) mixes phenomenally with the fast tempo of the drums.
“Snake Charmer – 1930 Version” embodies the signature Parov Stelar sound, which, of course, is all about swing. Although both versions parallel each other in many ways, like sharing the same upbeat tempo, the 1930 version makes a name for itself by putting far more emphasis on the offbeat.
Emphasizing the offbeat is one of swing’s most important attributes. Kovacs’ vintage singing voice, accompanied by classic horn samples and a danceable beat, helps the listener feel like they’ve been placed in the middle of a toe-tapping 20th century dance floor.
“Snake Charmer” is a triumph for both swing and electronic music, but it’s certainly not the first time Parov Stelar has revitalized the swing era. Across 13 studio albums, there are plenty of examples of his unique ability to breathe life into long-forgotten genres.
“Cuba Libre” accentuates Stelar’s refined ability to sample an older song and build something new and wonderful around it. The song samples the voice of 1930s singer Mildred Bailey, once known as “The Queen of Swing,” during her performance of “The Weekend of a Private Secretary” alongside Red Norvo’s Orchestra.
Bailey is an icon in the swing community, and Stelar pays her great homage by remastering her voice to sound more enchanting than ever. Between Bailey’s appealing voice, the songs rhythmic beat and the accelerated melody of Red Norvo’s Orchestra, “Cuba Libre” becomes another successful testament to swing music.
Also, since its release in 2010, “Booty Swing” has become one of Parov Stelar’s most popular tunes. The song became a global success when it placed in the iTunes US and Canadian electronic charts. It was also featured in an ad for General Motors in 2013. Needless to say, “Booty Swing” became a vital building block in the artist’s career, garnering the attention of underground electronic fans across the United States.
“Booty Swing” samples the classic voice of Lil Harden Armstrong from her song “Oriental Swing.” Once again, Stelar completely flips the classic on its head while maintaining the vintage appeal of the original. While listeners might struggle to clearly comprehend all of Armstrong’s words, this doesn’t stop audiences from trying to sing along to this catchy, finger-wagging tune.
In 2012, Parov Stelar released a two-part CD entitled “The Princess.” It was wildly popular from the start, topping the electronic music charts in Austria and earning an album of the year award. Part 1 of “The Princess” features 15 of Stelar’s more laidback, downtempo tracks, while part 2 sees the artist experimenting with the more club-friendly side of swing music.
“Jimmy’s Gang,” the first track on part 2, starts like most of Stelar’s uptempo tracks but soon diverges toward a more electrified beat. The second half of the song suddenly becomes much heavier, featuring gritty synthesizer noises underlying the classic swing samples. “Jimmy’s Gang” represents Stelar’s exceptional ability to combine swing music’s most resonant traits with the archetypal sounds of electronic music to create a banger unlike any other.
With over 150 total songs and remixes, Parov Stelar has plenty of music that encompasses genres far beyond swing. His reconstruction of the genre is one of the most impressive creations in electronic music, and fans can only hope that Füreder continues to push the confines of electro-swing to newer and better heights.