Techno first emerged in the early 1980s in Detroit, when artists such as Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May began to merge the sounds of synth-pop and Italo-disco. The genre surpassed the popular Chicago House which had emerged, and become ever more present around the world with artists such as Jeff Mills later pushing the genre into the mainstream of electronic music. Techno has become truly universal, the go-to genre for any decent party or rave. We shall explore the most influential tracks that have shaped techno, contributing greatly to what it is today.
- Surgeon – Magnese (1994).
Surgeon has consistently delivered throughout his career, beginning in 1994 with his debut self-titled EP on Downwards Records. Magnese, the first track on this EP is widely regarded as seminal. Its strong embrace of a hard-hitting beat, whilst also introducing a smooth fluid acid rhythm. With artists such as Jeff Mills continuously rinsing this track when it was first released, Magnese quickly became a timeless classic within the DJ circuit.
- Ritchie Hawtin – The Tunnel (2005).
Ritchie Hawtin, hailing from the small town of Banbury in England is regarded as one of the greatest techno artists of all time. At 47 years of age, Hawtin has proven through his career that he can consistently remain relevant within the DJ world, fending off the EDM industry of the United States to stay true to his roots and real passion for techno. The Tunnels, released in 2005 demonstrates Hawtin’s worth as one of the world’s most popular DJs, appearing 28th in Resident Advisor’s last ever DJ poll. Ritchie is here to stay.
- Sven Väth – Electrica Salsa (1986)
Väth is often referred to as “Papa Sven” within the techno industry, and for good reason. His countless awards and fatherly figure status only emphasise how well regarded his is as a DJ. Electrica Salsa, released by OFF featuring Väth is regarded as a classic within the techno genre for its old school sound which emphasises the more uplifting side of techno. This track paved the way for a more abstract style of techno music, creating a blurred line between techno and electro.
- Nina Kraviz – Ghetto Kraviz (2011)
Ghetto Kraviz was Kraviz’ first released, setting up her first LP. It broke into the techno circuit with force, praising Kraviz with instant recognition and respect. Being a female DJ from Siberia only contributes to Kraviz’s image, and with her unique dance moves, she became a significant figure within techno. Her label Trip has been greatly successful, providing a basis for artists creating more darker and harsher techno sounds, which have become extremely popular due to its hard hitting and raw style.
- Maceo Plex – Motor Rotor (2016)
Maceo Plex, otherwise known as Maetrik or Mariel ito, is an American DJ who is well accustomed to the techno scene, running his global event Mosaic by Maceo. Plex has become a recommended artists for anyone joining the techno community due to his unique sound, resonated only by the likes of Tale Of Us. Plex’s track Motor Rotor, released only in 2016, has contributed significantly to the sound of Ibiza, and the party scene on the island. With its reputation as the world’s party epicentre, it becomes apparent just how much of an achievement this has been for Plex, who has become a force to be reckoned with throughout the world.
- Ben Klock – Subzero (2009)
Ben Klock is perhaps the greatest example of harsh german techno. His Before One EP released in 2009, features the track Subzero, which has re-asserted Berlin as Europe’s techno city. The harsh sound of Subzero has been resonated throughout the community since its released. Subzero, is less about the track itself but what it stands for. Klock has been at the forefront of Berlin’s modern techno movement, becoming a resident at the infamous Berghain, and appearing in Resident Advisor’s top 10 DJs for the best part of a decade. Subzero perfectly captures the attitudes and feeling coming out of Berlin and its techno scene.
- Underworld – Born Slippy (1995)
Despite its increasing popularity due to Danny Boyle’s film Trainspotting, Born Slippy has been a track which depicts the attitude of the British underground scene. Born Slippy fused together the sounds of techno, electro, drum & bass, dub and trance, incorporating all the strengths of the UK scene. Its hard hitting beat has secured Born Slippy as a classic, echoing through the basements of many a student house and in the streets on a summer’s day. Born Slippy captures the UK scene perfectly, and has been extremely influential to subsequent artists attempting to resonate this unconventional sound.
- Daniel Bortz – Steady Note (2014)
Bortz is not a household techno name, yet the influence of his track Steady Note on many the more deeper sounds of techno should not go unnoticed. Released in 2014 Bortz’s unique sound quickly captured the attention of many, who were searching for a sound more progressive and raw. Steady Note is the perfect example to demonstrate the less intense, yet more mysterious techno which has emerged in recent years, and with Bortz’s popularity souring since the release of Steady Note, the song’s prominence within this genre is substantial.
- Moby – Go (1991)
Go is the perfect blend between techno and trance. The track consists of a calm continuous synth sound similar to that of Robert Miles’ Children; all until the the beat kicks in at least. Moby’s blend between sounds typical of trance with a simple techno beat is what makes the track so memorable and futuristic for its time. Go quickly asserted itself as a rave classic, its strength and prominence never faltering even today.
- Aphex Twin – Windowlicker (2001)
Richard D James, aka Aphex Twin is a British artist who has become a household name within electronic music since he formed Rephlex Records in 1991. Windowlicker, released in Twin’s album Drukqs was extremely popular within the UK, and quickly spread across the world. Twin’s vocal samples dropped in the middle of tracks such as Windowlicker had not featured so prominently within tracks until Twin incorporated the idea. Twin contributed more substance to a more unique sub genre of techno music, inspiring many other artists to become more creative with their music.
- Inner City – Big Fun (1988)
Big Fun was a track that was ahead of its time. This popular dance hit co-written by Kevin Saunderson incorporates a more subtle techno beat underneath the sounds of the synth and vocals which dominate the song. The fast beat of the snare, was soon to popularise throughout techno music, but first adding substance to the soulful music which was dominating the scene of the 1980s. Big Fun demonstrated the less harsh side of techno music, emphasising how it could be used to simply excite songs of other genres.
- Plastikman – Spastik (1993)
Plastikman, Ritchie Hawtin’s other allius demonstrates Hawtin’s more classic approach to techno. Unlike the sounds of The Tunnel released in 2005, Spastik adopted a much more classical approach to techno. Consisting of a number of drum beats at different tempos and interludes, this track was much more similar to the sound which was also being created by the likes of Jeff Mills messing around on his drum machine. Spastik enraptures the techno sounds of the early 1990s, and its raw and quick tempo which enabled ravers to sweat and dance till dawn.
- Ricardo Villalobos – H.E.I.K.E.
Villalobos, born in Santiago, Chile but raised in Germany is one of the most loved characters in techno. His sets gracefully weave throughout all different genres of dance music, demonstrating his musical eclecticism. H.E.I.K.E represents Villalobos’ more relaxed sounds. Played just last week at the Tsilibi protests against police brutality against ravers, the song received a huge cheer, and was perfect for the atmosphere, with the sun setting and the air full of love between likeminded music lovers protecting something they are passionate about. At almost twenty years old, H.E.I.K.E demonstrates how the sound does not always have to be hard and passionate, for the music to be hard and passionate.
- Seth Troxler – Hurt
Seth Troxler is the go to man of techno knowledge. Growing up on the outskirts of Detroit and living in Berlin, Troxler encyclopaedic knowledge of techno is hugely impressive. Troxler’s own music leans towards the genre of minimal techno. He has been at the forefront of the party scene for two decades, holding a residency of DC-10 in Ibiza and Fabric in London, just to name a few, whilst also running three record labels, Troxler’s contribution to the party scene has been monumental.
- Robert Hood – Master Jack (2016)
Despite its recent release, Master Jack demonstrates Robert Hood’s continued loyalty to the classical techno sound. A consistent hard hitting sound which only progresses without a significant climax, Master Jack is the perfect representation of classical techno in the modern age.
- Carl Craig – Elements (2004)
Carl Craig depicts the soulful techno of Detroit. Elements emphasises that techno does not need to be harsh or fast. The relatively slow BPM of Elements combined with its more mystical chords and the electronic dotted treble create a smooth and relaxed feel, different to most conventional techno sounds. Craig’s involvement in the creation of this sound has asserted his prominent within Detroit and globally.
- A Number Of Names – Sharevari (1982)
This track is regarded by many as being the very first Detroit Techno track ever released. Being influenced by synth-pop and Italo-disco, Sharevari was created with a slightly harsher and raw beat and without the conventional chorus of the genres it came from. Sharevari, being the first ever techno song released, allowed for a whole number of artists to adopt the sound, popularising techno around the world.
- Kevin Saunderson – E-Dancer (1996)
Kevin Saunderson is regarded as one of the founding fathers of techno, along with school mates Juan Atkins and Derrick May. E-Dancer, released in 1996, is a great example of the original techno sound conceptualised by Saunderson. Despite being released in the middle of the surge of techno music, E-Dancer depicts the origins of techno perfectly, providing the energy and electronic sound which was so much different to the genres it had emerged out from.
- Kraftwerk – Autobahn (1974)
Autobahn depicts the electronic sounds coming out of Germany perfect, which would pave way for the techno sounds which emerged in Berlin. Kraftwerk’s prominence at the forefront of electronic music should not be ignored. Despite its release in 1974, many consider the song to be significantly ahead of its time. Arguably, Autobahn introduced many of the sounds heard in techno today, and so has greatly influenced the genre, despite it sounding much more close to the sounds of synth-pop than techno.
- Jeff Mills – The Bells (1995)
Jeff Mills is one of the biggest names in techno, along with the likes of Carl Craig and Robert Hood. The Bells, has become one of the greatest and most well respected tracks in techno. Its alienistic and futuristic sound has excited ravers at parties since its release in 1995 due to its fast tempo, rhythm and catchy treble. Whenever The Bells is dropped, the dance-floor explodes, and ravers come together to enjoy one of the best tracks in techno. The Bells is iconic in the genre and never fails to gain a reaction.