Rescuing the electronica community from a near fall off the edge of its experimental fringe, Big Beat emerged in the mid-'90s as the next wave of big dumb dance music. Regional pockets around the world had emphasized the "less intelligent" side of dance music as early as 1994, in reaction to the growing coterie of chin-stroking intellectuals attached to the drum'n'bass and experimental movements. Big beat as a distinct movement finally coalesced in 1995-96 around two British labels: Brighton's Skint and London's Wall of Sound. The former -- home to releases by Fatboy Slim, Bentley Rhythm Ace, and Lo-Fidelity Allstars -- deserves more honors for innovation and quality, though Wall of Sound was founded slightly earlier and released great singles by Propellerheads, Wiseguys, and Les Rythmes Digitales. Big beat soon proved very popular in America as well, and artists attached to City of Angels Records (the Crystal Method, Überzone, Lunatic Calm, Front BC) gained a higher profile thanks to like-minded Brits. Other than Fatboy Slim, the other superstar artists of big beat were the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy, two groups who predated the style (and assisted its birth). Both the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy were never tight fits either, given productions that often reflected the more intelligent edge of trip-hop, and rarely broke into the mindless arena of true big beat.
The sound of big beat, a rather shameless fusion of old-school party breakbeats with appropriately off-the-wall samples, was reminiscent of house music's sampladelic phase of the late '80s as well as old-school rap and its penchant for silly samples and irresistible breaks. Though the sample programming and overall production was leaps and bounds beyond its predecessors, big beat was nevertheless criticized for dumbing down the electronica wave of the late '90s. Even while recordings by the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, and Fatboy Slim hit the American charts and earned positive reviews -- granted, from rock critics -- worldwide, many dance fans rejected the style wholesale for being too reliant on gimmicky production values and played-out samples. Big beat lasted a surprisingly long time, given the constraints of a style reliant on the patience of listeners who've heard the same break dozens of times, as well as the patience of DJs to hunt local thrift stores to find interesting samples on old instructional records.