ALL ABOUT TECHNO MUSIC
Techno Music – The initial blueprint for techno developed during the mid-1980s in Belleville, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit by Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May (the so-called Belleville Three), all of whom attended school together at Belleville High, with the addition of Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter and James Pennington. By the close of the 1980s, the pioneers had recorded and released material under various guises: Atkins as Model 500, Flintstones, and Magic Juan; Fowlkes simply as Eddie “Flashin” Fowlkes; Saunderson as Reeses, Keynotes, and Kaos; with May as Mayday, R-Tyme, and Rhythim Is Rhythim. There were also a number of joint ventures, the most commercially successful of which was Kevin Saunderson’s group Inner City, which saw collaborations with Atkins, May, vocalist Paris Grey, and fellow DJs James Pennington and Arthur Forest
Techno music is a form of electronic dance music that emerged in Detroit, Michigan, in the United States during the mid-to-late 1980s. The first recorded use of the word techno in reference to a specific genre of music was in 1988. Many styles of techno now exist, but Detroit techno is seen as the foundation upon which a number of subgenres have been built.
In Detroit techno resulted from the melding of African American music including Chicago house, funk, electro, and electric jazz with electronic music by artists such as Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Added to this is the influence of futuristic and fictional themes relevant to life in American late capitalist society, with Alvin Toffler’s book The Third Wave being a notable point of reference. Pioneering producer Juan Atkins cites Toffler’s phrase “techno rebels” as inspiring him to use the word techno to describe the musical style he helped to create. This unique blend of influences aligns techno with the aesthetic referred to as afrofuturism. To producers such as Derrick May, the transference of spirit from the body to the machine is often a central preoccupation; essentially an expression of technological spirituality. In this manner: “techno dance music defeats what Adorno saw as the alienating effect of mechanisation on the modern consciousness”.
In exploring techno’s origins writer Kodwo Eshun maintains that “Kraftwerk are to Techno what Muddy Waters is to the Rolling Stones: the authentic, the origin, the real.” Juan Atkins has acknowledged that he had an early enthusiasm for Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder, particularly Moroder’s work with Donna Summer and the producer’s own album E=MC². Atkins also mentions that “around 1980 I had a tape of nothing but Kraftwerk, Telex, Devo, Giorgio Moroder and Gary Numan, and I’d ride around in my car playing it.” Atkins has also claimed he was unaware of Kraftwerk’s music prior to his collaboration with Richard “3070” Davis as Cybotron, which was two years after he had first started experimenting with electronic instruments. Regarding his initial impression of Kraftwerk, Atkins notes that they were “clean and precise” relative to the “weird UFO sounds” featured in his seemingly “psychedelic” music.
Derrick May identified the influence of Kraftwerk and other European synthesizer and techno music in commenting that “it was just classy and clean, and to us it was beautiful, like outer space. Living around Detroit, there was so little beauty… everything is an ugly mess in Detroit, and so we were attracted to this music. It, like, ignited our imagination!” May has commented that he considered his music a direct continuation of the European synthesizer tradition. He also identified Japanese synthpop act Yellow Magic Orchestra, particularly member Ryuichi Sakamoto, and British band Ultravox, as influences, along with Kraftwerk. YMO’s song “Technopolis” (1979), a tribute to Tokyo as an electronic techno music mecca, is considered an “interesting contribution” to the development of Detroit techno music, foreshadowing concepts that Atkins and Davis would later explore with Cybotron.
Kevin Saunderson has also acknowledged the influence of Europe but he claims to have been more inspired by the idea of making music with electronic equipment – techno music! “I was more infatuated with the idea that I can do this all myself.”
As the original sound evolved in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it also diverged to such an extent that a wide spectrum of stylistically distinct music was being referred to as techno. This ranged from relatively pop oriented acts such as Moby to the distinctly anti-commercial sentiments of Underground Resistance. Derrick May’s experimentation on works such as Beyond the Dance (1989) and The Beginning (1990) were credited with taking techno “in dozens of new directions at once and having the kind of expansive impact John Coltrane had on Jazz”. The Birmingham-based label Network Records label was instrumental in introducing Detroit techno to British audiences. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the original techno music sound had garnered a large underground following in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The growth of techno’s popularity in Europe between 1988 and 1992 was largely due to the emergence of the rave scene and a thriving club culture.
- Nuits Sonores, France
While the chief attraction in Lyon, France, is its incredible, coma-inducing cuisine, the Nuits Sonores techno music festival runs a very close second. Each May, the city is overrun with electronic music for five days, from all-night parties in massive halls to impromptu DJ sets on street corners. Your challenge is to eat to excess and still finding the willpower to rave. You may need some help.
In 2015, Berghain boss Ben Klock is one of the curators for the daytime program, inviting Joroen Search, Shackleton and even drum & bass believer Goldie to his showcase. The after-dark lineup includes a Detroit special featuring Carl Craig and Mike Banks, Agoria B2B with Mano Le Tough, Recondite, Factory Floor, DJ Tennis and French trailblazer Laurent Garnier. It’s not all techno at Nuits Sonores, but just enough to sweat out that coq au vin.
TECHNO LEVEL: technowine.fr
WHEN: 13-17 May, 2015
- Bloc Weekender, UK
How many other techno music -focused festivals can boast perks like “laserquest, fun-fairs, dodgems, arcades … and a waterpark,” besides UK weekender Bloc? Not sure what most of those are, but “fun-fair” is definitely not dark.
2015 finds Bloc returning to the Butlins Resort in Minehead, UK, after spending the last few years in London. Running this year from March 13-15, 2015, the three-day fest offers a packed roster of artists spread across five stages, including Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, Call Super, Akkord, Livity Sound, Marcel Dettmann, The Advent, Carl Craig, Karenn and many more.
There’ll be showcases from labels like Ostgut Ton, Numbers, Hessle Audio and Houndstooth, and brands like Boiler Room, Detroit Love, FACT and Dance Tunnel. Also, they have a waterpark.
TECHNO LEVEL: Waterpark techno. Ben Klock sipping from a blue fishbowl with an umbrella and crazy straw.
WHEN: 13-15 March, 2015
- Sonus Festival, Croatia
Sonus is an island offshoot of legendary German techno festival Time Warp, which takes place on Croatia’s popular Pag Island in August, boasting “beach, sea, sun and techno!” This year’s lineup (thus far) includes Chris Liebing, Luciano, Villalobos, Richie Hawtin, Sven Väth, Joseph Capriati, Pan-Pot and more.
The festivities include five days and nights of “sandy vibes and sun-kissed boat parties” DJed by “hand-picked underground gods who hop between club sets at the Papaya and Kalypso bars.”
This is not the renegade warehouse or bombed-out Berlin vibe devout dub techno heads might might hope for, but rather something aimed for the techno tourist types. Doleful loners need not attend.
TECHNO LEVEL: Vacation techno. Bender techno. Frozen drink techno. Airbnb techno. Jeff Mills shakes his head, mutters something about aliens, and returns to his bunker.
WHEN: 16-20 August, 2015
- I Love Techno, Belgium
I Love Techno festival launched in Ghent, Belgium, in 1995, with headliners Dave Clarke, Jeff Mills and Daft Punk. It attracted a total of 700 people, which – by all accounts – was a success. The event then moved to the Flanders Expo, a huge multi-purpose indoor arena, and now, 20 years later, reportedly hosts over 35,000 attendees.
Over the years, however, the festival’s namesake has carried less and less weight, and techno was eventually relegated to one room, with four rooms of EDM, house, trap and dubstep. 2013’s lineup included festival favorites like Dillon Francis, Martin Garrix, Knife Party, Disclosure and Baauer, but for 2014, the festival vowed a return to its roots.
While the 2014 lineup included Boys Noize, Duke Dumont, Gorgon City, Vitalic and the like, it still featured its fair share of dark emissaries, including Rødhåd, Len Faki, Audion B2B Tiga, Brodinski B2B Gesaffelstein, and some familiar names from way back: Dave Clarke and Jeff Mills.
I Love Techno takes place in November, so it’s a bit too early for dates and headliners, but this year being the year of techno, we’ll be interested to see how real things get.
TECHNO LEVEL: Sven scoffs. You walk to the right and spend the evening nursing Club Mates in bitter silence at the Kantine am Berghain, consoling yourself that you didn’t really want to catch an 8-hour B2B set by your favorite DJs anyway. Later that night, you shed a disco tear.
- Melt! Festival, Germany
Melt! takes place on a former mining site-turned-industrial monument in Ferropolis, Germany, which still houses much of the original equipment.
The strip mines are now lakes, and the festival, which takes place from 17-19 July, features a host of techno stalwarts, alongside artists from a variety of genres. Chris Liebing, Autechre, Alan Fitzpatrick, Jon Hopkins, Nina Kraviz, Sven Vath, Rødhåd, Marek Hemmann, Mathias Kaden, Dark Sky, Modeselektor and many more are among the techno highlights at this year’s festivities.
Hard to find a more techno outdoor festival experience than partying next to towering excavators in an old steel mine, unless you somehow stumble upon an abandoned Antarctic research station.
TECHNO LEVEL: Extreme. Mineshaft techno. Minecraft techno, too.
WHEN: 17-19 July, 2015
- Dimensions, Croatia
Now in its fourth year, Croatian beachside festival Dimensions returns with a typically mind-blowing lineup dwarfed only by its location; Fort Punta Christo in the southern coastal town of Pula.
The techno music and house music festival is set against an ancient amphitheater, the Arena, which dates back to the 1st Century AD, “with stone tiers all the way around, an estimated 20,000 blood-thirsty spectators could watch the Gladiators fighting to the death below.”
This year, however, from August 27-30, they’ll dance to techno sets by Ben Klock, Rødhåd, Truncate, Anthony Parasole, Surgeon, DJ Deep, Daniel Avery, Lee Gamble, Giegling label reps VRIL, Edward, Konstantin and Dustin, and many more.