Techno is a form of electronic dance music that was developed in Detroit, Michigan, during the mid to late 1980s. Many styles of techno now exist, but Detroit techno, a genre in its own right, is seen as the foundation upon which many other subgenres have been built.
The initial take on techno arose from the melding of various African American styles such as Chicago house, funk, electro, and electric jazz with Eurocentric synthesizer-based music. Added to this was an interest in futuristic and fictional themes that were relevant to life in American late capitalist society: most particularly the novel Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. Techno music pioneer 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 AfroDiasporic Futurism. To producers such as Derrick May, the transference of spirit from the machine to the body is often a central preoccupation; essentially an exp
ression of technological spirituality. In this manner "techno dance music defeats what Adorno saw as the alienating effect of mechanisation on the modern consciousness."
Music journalists and fans of techno are generally selective in their use of the term; so a clear distinction can be made between sometimes related but often qualitatively different styles, such as tech house and trance. "Techno" is also sometimes confused with generalized descriptors, such as electronic music and dance music.
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The template for a new style of dance music (that by the mid to late 1980s was being referred to as techno) was primarily developed by four individuals, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May (the so called "Belleville Three"), and Eddie Fowlkes, all of whom attended school together at Belleville High, near Detroit, Michigan. By the close of the 1980s, the four had operated under various guises: Atkins as Model 500, Flinstones, and Magic Juan; Fowlkes simply as Eddie "Flashin" Fowlkes; Saunderson as Reese, Keynotes, and Kaos; with May using the aliases Mayday, R-Tyme, and Rhythim Is Rhythim. There were also a number of joint ventures, the most commercially successful of which was the Atkins and Saunderson (with James Pennington) collaboration on the first Inner City single Big Fun. Prior to achieving notoriety the budding musicians, "mix" tape traders, and aspiring DJsfound inspiration in Midnight Funk Association, an eclectic, 5-hour, late-night radio program hosted on various Detroit radio stations including WCHB, WGPR, and WJLB-FM from 1977 through the mid-1980s by DJ Charles "The Electrifying Mojo" Johnson.
Mojo's show featured heavy doses of electronic sounds from the likes of Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream alongside the funk of Parliament and the new wave sounds of the B-52s.Atkins has noted that "he (mojo) played all the Parliament and Funkadelic that anybody ever wanted to hear. Those two groups were really big in Detroit at the time. In fact, they were one of the main reasons why disco didn't really grab hold in Detroit in '79. Mojo used to playa lot of funk just to be different from all the other stations that had gone over to disco. When 'Knee Deep' came out, that just put the last nail in the coffin of disco music". Despite the short-lived disco boom in Detroit it had the effect of inspiring many individuals to take up mixing; Juan Atkins among them. Subsequently, Atkins taught Derrick May how to mix records, and the pair started working together as a DJ duo called Deep Space. By '80-'81 they had met with Mojo and were proposing that they should provide mixes for his show, which they did the following year.
The music was initially conceived of as party music that was played on daily mixed radio programs and played at high school club parties in Detroit. High school clubs such as Snobbs, Hardwear, Brats, Comrades, Weekends, Rumours, and Shari Vari created the incubator in which techno was grown. These young promoters developed and nurtured the local dance music scene by both catering to the tastes of the local audience of young people and by marketing parties with new DJs and their music. As these local clubs grew in popularity, groups of DJs began to band together and market their mixing skills and sound systems to the clubs in order to cater to the growing audiences of listeners. Locations like local church activity centers, vacant warehouses, offices and YMCA auditoriums were the early locations where the underage crowds gathered, and where the musical form was nurtured and defined.
Of the four individuals responsible for establishing techno as a genre in its own right, it is Juan Atkins who is recognized as the originator; indeed in 1995 American music technology publication Keyboard Magazine honored Atkins as one of "12 Who Count" in the history of keyboard music; at that time Detroit techno was still relatively unknown in the United States despite its notoriety in Europe. In the early 1980s Atkins began recording with musical partner Richard "3070" Davis (and later with a third member Jon-5) as Cybotron. This trio released a number of electro inspired tunes, the best known of which is "Clear". Atkins coined the term techno to describe their music, taking as one inspiration the works of futurist and author Alvin Toffler; from whom he borrowed the terms "cybotron" and "metroplex". Atkins has used the term techno to describe earlier bands that made heavy use of synthesizers such as Kraftwerk, although many people would consider Kraftwerk's music and Juan's early music in Cybotron as electro.
Eventually, Atkins started producing his own music under the pseudonym Model 500, and in 1985 he established the record label Metroplex. In the same year he released a seminal work entitled "No UFOs" which, in terms of its aesthetic values, is credited as the first Detroit techno production. Of this time Atkins has said:"When I started Metroplex around February or March of '85 and released 'No UFOs', I thought I was just going to make my money back on it, but I wound up selling between 10,000 and 15,000 copies. I had no idea that my record would happen in Chicago. Derrick's parents had moved there, and he was making regular trips between Detroit and Chicago. So when I came out with 'No UFOs' he took copies out to Chicago and gave them to some DJs, and it just happened."
The music soon attracted enough attention to garner its own club, the Music Institute at 1315 Broadway in downtown Detroit. It was founded by Chez Damier, Derrick May and a few other investors. Though short-lived, this club was known internationally for its all night sets, its sparse white rooms, and its juice bar stocked with "smart drinks" (the Institute never served liquor). Relatively quickly, techno began to be seen by its originators and up-and-coming producers as an exp
ression of Future Shock post-industrial angst. It also took on increasingly high tech and science-fiction oriented themes.
Following the release of an album compiled by Neil Rushton (an A&R scout for 10 Records) and Derek May, entitled Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit, the music press began to characterize techno as Detroit's relatively high-tech, mechanical brand of house music; as it retained the same basic structure as the soulful, minimalist post-disco styles which were forged in Chicago and New York City at the start of the decade. The music's producers, especially May and Saunderson, admit to having been fascinated by the Chicago club scene and being influenced by house in particular. May's 1987-88 hit "Strings Of Life" (released under the nom de plume Rhythim Is Rhythim), for example, is considered a classic in both the house and techno genres. At the same time, there is evidence that the Chicago sound was influenced by the Detroit sound, allegedly, May loaned Chicago-based house musician Keith "Jack Master Funk" Farley the equipment to make the classic track "House Nation"; early Detroit techno records reportedly sold well in Chicago; and Atkins believes that the first acid house producers, seeking to distance house music from disco, emulated the techno sound.
Some commentators, who believe things are not so clear cut, have attempted to redefine the origins of techno by incorporating musical precursors to the Detroit sound as part of a historical survey of the genre. This essentially removes any chronologically distinct point of origination. To support this view they point to examples such as "Shari Vari" (1981) by A Number Of Names, the earliest compositions by Cybotron (1981), Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977), Moroder's "From Here to Eternity" (1977) and the more dancefloor-orientated selections from Kraftwerk's repertoire (between 1977 and 1983). These electro-disco tracks share with techno a dependence on machine-generated beats and dancefloor popularity. However, the comparisons remain contentious; as do the efforts to regress further into the past to find antecedents. The logical extension of this rationale entails a further regression: to the sequenced electronic music of Raymond Scott, whose "The Rhythm Modulator", "The Bass-Line Generator" and "IBM Probe" are considered early examples of techno-like music.
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Label: Cocoon Germany
Released: 14 January, 2008