10 Classic Singles Every Techno Fan Should Own
At 30 years old, it’s barely possible to scratch the surface of techno’s multifaceted sonic mutations since 1984. However, we will try with this list of 10 techno tunes you need to own.
Joey Beltram “Energy Flash” (Transmat, 1990)
Why you need it: Though released on Derrick May’s seminal Detroit techno imprint, this track by New Yorker Joey Beltram crossed all geographic boundaries, finding favor among UK ravers, Manhattan clubbers, Midwest party kids and West Coast, err, ravers. It seems that alarming synth stabs, echoing drums and a chant of “Ecstasy, ecstasy!” are pretty universal.
Plastikman “Spastik” (NovaMute, 1993)
Why you need it: Before becoming the leader of the urbane techno jet set, Richie Hawtin was cutting his teeth in the warehouses of Detroit and listening to Derrick May play helicopter sounds at ear-shattering volume. From there, it’s easy to see the genesis of his signature tune—eight minutes of rattling snare roles and thunderous 909 kicks that are still guaranteed to give dancers that acidic adrenalin taste in the back of their throats more than two decades later.
DJ Rolando “Knights of the Jaguar” (Underground Resistance, 1999)
Why you need it: Coming at the end of the 20th century, this track released by the infamously anti-establishment UR label effectively marked the end of the classic era of Detroit techno, with its refined majesty and soaring strings completing the continuum. The tune was so huge that Sony Music released an almost identical cover version when UR refused to license the track. Fifteen years later, it still opens the blinds of Panorama Bar every time.
Second-Hand Satellites “Orbit 1.3” (Hallucination, 2000)
Why you need it: You wouldn’t expect one of techno’s most sublime classics to come from Florida, the land of spring break and funky breaks, but that’s exactly the background of Second-Hand Satellites’ Christopher Milo (aka Three) and Sean Cusick. This careful crossover of slinky techno found its way into the crates of every DJ from Richie Hawtin and Laurent Garner to John Digweed and Doc Martin, making it not only a contender for top techno tune, but also top tech house, tech trance, and whatever else you feel like calling it
LFO “Freak” (Warp, 2003)
Why you need it: The untimely passing of Mark Bell last month has initiated a revisiting of his seminal work as both an early acid house pioneer and super producer for the likes of Björk. But it’s this later release on the Warp label that stands out for its gritty fusion of bombastic rave and robot-voiced electro.
John Tejada “Sweat (on the Walls)” (Poker Flat, 2004)
Why you need it: A sonic outlier in his home city of Los Angeles, John Tejada’s signature track had nearly zero relation to his West Coast base, but instead transmitted directly to Europe, where the German label Poker Flat was helping to define the 21st-century post-rave sound. The deadpan female vocal also marked an early example of the self-referential/non-reverential lyrical style that would become ubiquitous in techno’s next decade.
Rhythm & Sound “Poor People Must Work” (Carl Craig Remix, 2005)
Why you need it: Detroit’s most prolific producer, Carl Craig, delves into the Euro zone with transcontinental colleagues Rhythm & Sound, a German duo whose explorations of low-end vinyl cutting pretty much invented the dub techno genre.
Claude VonStroke “Who’s Afraid of Detroit” (Dirtybird, 2006)
Why you need it: He may have found fame in San Francisco, but Claude VonStroke was bred in Detroit. This salute to his hometown introduced much of the dance music world to the swag sound of dirtybird, his record label, which has since grown into its own institution.
SEE ALSO: We Had Everyone at Dirtybird Take a Rorschach Test
Gaiser “Pullpush” (Minus, 2009)
Why you need it: Some have criticized Richie Hawtin’s Minus operation for mass-producing minimal techno for the masses, but this standout track by label mainstay Gaiser is an irresistible slice of plinky-plonky goodness that bubbles and scrapes in all the right ways.
Radio Slave “Repeat Myself” (Rødhåd Remix, 2014)
Why you need it: Anyone wondering where techno is at in 2014 need look no further than this meeting of UK stalwart Radio Slave and Berlin breakout Rødhåd, both regulars at techno temple Berghain/Panorama Bar. Swinging cymbals and disembodied vocals drive this divine piece of looping techno for lovers.
By Josh Glazer Insomniac