Sunday, 07 January 2007, 19:31:00 EST
I love music. If you look, you will find that my collection is one of the most eclectic ever. Everything from Them to Orbital. By far, though, my favorite kind of music is techno. Thus, the following post is going to be all about techno, my history with it, and the history of the music as I see it and have lived it. This is going to be a rather long, and involved, post. If you take the time to explore all the links, and their information, it could take you quite some time to get through it. Hopefully you will find it interesting and informative.
I've been listening to techno since at least the early '90s, when I was about fourteen; I'm sure I've been listening longer than that, though. Album 88 has had a techno show since at least that time. The show used to air at the odd time of 15:00 (or thereabouts) on Sunday afternoons. I can remember tuning in and playing video games with audio on the television turned down so I could hear the music. I also remember calling the station once and requesting Racer X (something I have yet to find for purchase). The DJ said he didn't have it with him but he would bring it in next Sunday. During this time, and for a couple years afterward, the techno show, I think it was called Planet 8, played single techno tracks. So in one show you could hear The Prodigy, Orbital, The Orb, and Psykosonik among others. The show changed times as regularly as the hosts. The format of the show also evolved over time. Now there is the Beatscape Lounge on Wednesday nights, Subterranean on Friday nights, and Houseworks on Saturday mornings (00:00). Until the time of this writing, I was unaware of Beatscape Lounge so it may still be like the older format. Subterranean and Houseworks, though, are mixed sets; quite frequently they are performed by live DJs in the studio. Of the two I have listened to, Subterranean is my favorite as it is dedicated to Jungle/Drum & Bass. To this day, Album 88 is the only way to hear techno on the radio in Atlanta. Frequency 99.7 has experimented with it when it was called Power 99 and a couple times while under the moniker 99X. Their audiences have never taken to it.
As techno has aged it has evolved quite rapidly. In the old days there were very few sub-genres. There was distinctly techno techno, hardcore, acid house, house, and trance. Many more sub-genres have emerged from these beginnings, and all evolved from vanilla techno. In my opinion, techno is music made with mostly with synthesizers, samplers, and drum machines, or such devices as emulated by a computer. So all sub-genres of techno are really just techno to me. As such, my opinion differs with that of the description at Wikipedia. Early techno is best exemplified by listening to "Basket Case" on Eon's MySpace page. This, what is now considered "old school," type of music is still my favorite music and is the type of music that used to be played on Album 88's techno show. Early hardcore is best exemplified by The Prodigy. Early trance is a sub-genre that I don't particularly like but is captured quite well in my "Strance" song (found on the music page). The early acid house scene is best represented by my favorite (former) band, Orbital; go to the discography page and listen to a selection from the Green Album under "Albums" (anything but Speed Freak, which is a Moby mix). House is really the same today as it was then. Listen to just about anything on Bad Boy Bill's MySpace page for an example; at the time of this writing, "Happy" is a prime candidate. The melodies and mixes have become more complex, but the "four on the floor" beat is still the same in today's house music as it was when it was first conceived.
It is my opinion that regular techno is dead, or at least is very rarely produced any longer. Most of the stuff produced today is either drum & bass, some form of trance or house, and a smattering of other less popular forms. The trance of today has much more complex melodies and even varying beats. I would say that TiŽsto is the current pinnacle of trance music. He is quite probably the most popular DJ/producer on the planet right now; I know of no other techno artist currently touring that fills stadiums. Orbital is the only other that I know who use to draw such crowds; maybe The Prodigy. Drum & Bass is a direct descendent of the old hardcore scene and sounds almost nothing like its ancestor music. From hardcore, the sub-genre "jungle" was born. Jungle sped up the typical hardcore beats to about 150 BPM to 170 BPM (beats per minute) and added broken drums. Specifically, the genre exploited the Amen break (an interesting audio/video history of the break). My track "Woke Up This Morning (Speed Dśmon Mix)" is a good example of this interim genre. Over time, jungle music got darker and more bass heavy. As music production became more feasible with personal computers, the drum & bass sub-genre evolved as one of today's most popular forms of techno. To hear what it has become today, listen to any of Evol Intent's tracks; due to the bass heavy nature of this music, you will want to use a subwoofer to get the full effect.
This has only been a brief overview of techno in the past fifteen years. I had intended to be more thorough in my examination, but the writing just didn't progress that way and I have left out a lot of information. I believe I have presented a good overview of the beginning, middle, and present as well as provided plenty of resources to delve deeper into the history. Wikipedia does a pretty good job. Their jumping point article would be the electronica article (a moniker I do not like). Techno is young, but I hope to see it go on for many years to come. It will be interesting to see how it evolves. It has already become one of the most diverse types of music around.