Monday, December 12, 2016

Techno Rave Week - Day One

 I've tried hard these past couple of months in preparation of this, to remember when I first heard "Techno".  I had always been a fan of remixes from various bands and artists, and the more synths and beats they added, the better.  I would see names on discs, of mixers that I liked, and try and find other material by them.  This might be where I got some of my interests and inclinations.  I do know that by the time I purchased Moby's first album and the Shamen's En-Tact, I was pretty much into it.  I remember picking up compilation after compilation of artists on discs by Network and XL.  I remember actively seeking out as many different vinyl singles as I could lay my hands on.  BUT, I don't really remember when I started saying "I listen to Techno" or "This is Techno".

It always amazed me the number of artists that suddenly sprung up in the early 90s.  Thousands of new bands, labels, artists and individuals.  Funny thing is, when you research it, there were a lot of individuals who would release work under dozens of different monikers.  I remember once buying a compilation with two discs and 25 songs, supposedly by 25 different bands.  Once I did my research, I realized that only 3 different INDIVIDUALS actually made all of the music.  Crazy.

As time went by, I gravitated more toward the album-oriented groups, like Shamen, Prodigy and Moby at first, but then adding on Underworld, Orb, Orbital, and Chemical Brothers.  I still prefer that.  The one-off singles by unknowns have become a thing of the past, to me.  SO MUCH of the Electronica genre sounds so similar and so repetitive, it's hard to find any creativity left in any of it.

But, there are still a few songs out there from my past that I remember and love,  some of it good, some of it shitty, most of it dated and corny.  This should be a fun week, and I hope that there are some of you out there that still remember it fondly.  I was in college at the time, so I look back on it as a time of self-discovery and independence.  Back then, I was one of the many kids on campus walking from class to class with my sunglasses and some big fucking fat headphones on, jamming away in my own little electro-world.

As for the classification of what is or is not Techno, let's explore the many sub-genres, shall we?  Techno. Jungle. Tribal. Drum & Bass. House.  Hardcore/Hardstyle. Hi-NRG. Trance. Dub. Ambient. Breakbeat.  Did I miss any?  Probably.  But, who cares?  I think that after 1988, Detroit Techno and House influenced rock music permanently and forever.  Even the stalwarts of "our type" of music couldn't avoid it.  Erasure and Pet Shop Boys most definitely succumbed to it, and I also believe that it caused the death of New Order.  So, as far as people deciding whether or not something is or isn't Techno, is an irrelevant point.  Anything released after 1993 that used synthesizers or keyboards in a dance style manner can be considered in one form or another to be or be influenced by Techno.

Anyone disagree?  Thoughts and opinions are definitely encouraged.

So, this week you are going to see some albums and compilations of some great artists.  But, I wanted to start with a double-disc set of one-off tracks that really stand out in my mind from when I listened to this genre of music religiously.  These were often in regular circulation on my stereo when I was in college, along with hundreds of others.  Although the cover is 100% original, with the exception of the photo, it was definitely influenced by the compilations of the time, mostly by React (another fucking fantastic label).  I wanted a traditional early 90s feel, and I think I got it.  Let me know what you think...


  1. I can't say much about the people you've opted for here, but I will offer two personal opinions on the subject in general :

    1. Never EVER include Underworld in a list with other people, especially of this ilk. They are in their own league entirely. It's like calling LeBron James a "basketball player", or Chris Ware a "cartoonist".

    2. For historical context, I think one of the best candidates for the birth of "techno" as we now know it is at the 18 second mark of "Kristallo" from Kraftwerk's Ralf & Florian, when Florian (I assume) starts getting jiggy with the bass line. There's plenty of electronic music before then (1973), but that bass part is, I think, hard to find a previous equivalent to. (One possible exception - some of the stuff on Ron Geesin's Electrosound albums on KPM, especially the track "Syncopot". But that's still not quite the same thing, good as it also is.)

  2. In a word, my friend...."Commerciality"

    Picture the scene, it's early 1987 and House Music arrives on the UK scene. Massively. "Jack Your Body", a 6 minute track consisting of well, nothing but a minimal drum and bass track and a monotonous vocal, repeated ad nauseam. It goes to No. 1. Number ONE. In the UK charts. Bloody hell. Pretty soon, UK artists put out House influenced records ("Pump Up The Volume" by MARRS, "Beat Dis" by Bomb The Bass, "House Arrest" by Krush) being notable tracks.

    Problem was, though, major record companies started putting out "house" remixes of tracks that frankly, weren't really
    house oriented in the first place...i.e. "let's jump on the bandwagon and make some money". And so it went. the UK got Acid House a year later. Repeat. There was a Bros record that got an "Acid" remix that went top 10, for Gawd's sake. The best Acid House track EVER (no, it WASN'T Acid Trax by Phuture, 14 minutes of dreck IMO) but Acid Over by Tyree, didn't make top 75. There is no justice.

    But that wasn't the main problem. The main problem was that singles didn't make the money. Albums did. And so for the next few years the emphasis was to find artists who could make albums and then to market them in the old fashioned way. Remember when a New Order single was an event? Not any more. They went the commercial route (single, video, 2 CD singles, yadda yadda), albeit because they didn't make any money from Factory, but nevertheless; Fluke went from releasing one of the best Techno albums of all time (Techno Rose of Blighty) to signing to a major label who expected top 10 singles (didn't get them, I dunno, I bought them, Groovy Feeling is such a great record); The Beloved, while never being a pure house/techno band suffering a similar fate, Fatboy Slim (AKA Norman Cook) went from, again, releasing one of the greatest dance albums ever (Better Living Through Chemistry) to dreck like "The Rockafeller Skank" purely because Sony had invested 25% into the Skint label; and Aphex Twin, after releasing "Selected Ambient Works 85-92", a record that defined IDM, to "SAW II" which stank of the big sell (Track titles? Piffle. We'll call them "textures" instead...)

    And on to 808 State. Between 1987 they released Newbuild, the Quadrastate EP, a single (Let Yourself Go), a remixed single, Pacific (which sounds like nothing on earth, even now); made, as it happened, the tracks that they finally released as Prebuild, culminating in the Most Important British Electronic Album Ever - Ninety (actually released in 1989).

    Why the Most Important? To call it "The Best" is personal opinion. It was the Most Important because up to then us British were playing catch up with the rest of the world, mainly the Americans. Ninety said to the world that we can put out an ALBUM of great electronic music that was not so much "as good if not better" - it just DIDN'T MATTER. We didn't have to copy anyone else. From then on, artists such as The Orb, Orbital, Autechre, Underworld and others released great tracks and great ALBUMS.

    But,,,,if you compare Ninety to Prebuild you can hear the progression they made in understanding the technology. Ninety was the album to combine the ideas of 808 State of that time, with the technology of that time. Go listen. Problem was, ZTT just wanted top 10 records. It pains me - they HAD to release the album with ZTT because they had the best technology, but it was clear ZTT wanted to recoup some money from the debacle of Frankie. Solution? Don't listen to another 808 State album after that. I've been there, the decline is painful to hear.

    (Sorry, I do get in a bit of a state over this....State....see what I did there?...I'll get me coat....)