As you can see the magazine has been reformatted, so now we have a techno section all to itself. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about that, but maybe a seperate section will give some of us the chance to define what techno is really all about. In the last few years it has become an overused term that has really lost its meaning. When one talks about garage, people have a pretty good idea what that means and what garage sounds like. The term techno has been appropriated to everything from rave style break beats to Dutch gabber and basically everything other than what it really means.
Originally techno was used in relation to electronic dance music from Detroit, music that was developed by people like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes and a lot of lesser known, but equally important individuals. Somehow their original blueprint got hi-jacked, taken off to Europe and for a period of time these people remained uncredited while a whole slew of lesser talented individuals got all the credit and engaged the press in ridiculous discussions about how techno originated in some far flung corner of Germany.
There is no doubt that German and European innovators like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Neu!, and DAF exerted a strong influence on Detroit, but what people forget is that George Clinton, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock had a similar influence. Early Detroit techno was American music made by Europhiles, black artists who got excited about people like Gary Numan, Heaven 17 and The Normal, but who weren’t so obsessed with Europe to forget things like ‘Flashlight’ by Parliament, ‘Atomic Dog’ by George Clinton or ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ by Stevie Wonder.
And it it was these strange combinations of influences that made and make Detroit techno so special; the effortless fusion of soul and the surreal, the groove of funk, and the heady electronics of the early Human League. And somewhere away in the back, the unspoken influence of New Wave, Bauhaus, The Cure, British New Romantic outfits like Depeche Mode and the hard experimental stance of groups like Front 242, Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly and The Young Gods.
Techno is a sum of all these influences and whereas some cannot relate to techno unless it is hard and abrasive, that is not what techno is all about. It can be smooth, deep, and ethereal; listen to Juan Atkins’ mix of Octave One’s ‘I Believe’, Psyche’s ‘Elements, Rhythim is Rhythim’s ‘The Dance’ or Red Planet’s ‘Windwalker.’ These tracks are deeper than what most people refer to as deep house. It can also be hard and uncomprising like Underground Resistance’s ‘Death Star’ or Orlando Voorn’s ‘Flash.”
It can be house, teetering in that exciting middle ground between the two genres, listen to early stuff on Hi Bias like ‘Hollow Cloud’ by Z Formation or ‘No Restrictions’ by Groove Sector, ‘Nighttime World’ by Robert Hood and tracks by Derrick Carter, individuals who obviously fully understand the relationship between house and techno. It can even be garage, certain dubs by Mood II Swing and Kerri Chandler hold the same kind of sound experimentation as the best techno. And it can be beautiful; anything on Red Planet, ‘Off To Battle’ by Model 500, UR’s ‘Hi Tech Jazz’, ‘Pacifica; by Sterac, Derrick May’s truly inspirational mix of Inner City’s ‘Praise.’ These tunes make us realise that music truly is a small piece of heaven, a heaven that belongs to everyone and that is not just the territory of the privileged.
Techno also comes from Europe. it is made by people who have their own vision, but who respect the original vision of the Detroit innovators. It is made by people like Dave Angel, Steve Rachmad, Russ Gabriel, Patrick Pulsinger, Dave Clarke, whoever was behind that wicked PLC record on Junior Boys Own (more please), The Advent, Laurent Garnier, Mark Broom and Peter Ford, The Iberian, Taho and countless other producers struggling to get their music out there. Finally, if techno is your thing, if you agree with my opinions or disagree with them, then this is your column. If you want to write an editorial, feel free, send me in your charts, your thoughts. This page is not a vehicle for my meanderings but a chance for an exchange of ideas between us, whether you’re a DJ, an enthusiast or someone who thinks Mood II Swing, Derrick Carter and Mad Mike Banks should get together and do an EP, it’s your page too, please use it.
Also well worth a mention and serious props is a weekly techno bash, MAD at the Bahia Cabana every Monday night. It features residents Jon Santos, Joe Rice and Alex Windsor, who play a wide and very enjoyable range of techno, from the abrasive and driving to the deep and lush. This is the first club in SF to champion pure techno and these boys also throw down the choicest electro, trance and warped house, and in true SF style, play it at a tempo that enables you to dance. On Feb 5th Detroit legend Carl Craig played there and it was a fucking gas, good tunes, good vibes, and lovely people. Joe Rice finished the night off with some super-deep, off-world cruisers. Investigate and check out the real meaning of the word techno. Chris Orr
MAD’S TOP TEN FOR JAN/FEB
Neil Landstrumm – Index Revisited. Peacefrog UK
Vigipirate – Hybrid. Tresor Ger
.xtrax – Multiplexor. 7th City US
Designer Music – Good Girls. Planet E US
Manmade – Spacewreck. Fragile US
Robert Armani – Blow That Shit Out (Joey Beltram Rmx). ACV Italy
Maurizio – M5. Maurizio Ger
Anxious – Phungus. Reload UK
Unkown Force – Internal Drive. 430 West US
FUSE – FU (Remix). Plus 8 Canada