Techno had its roots in the electronic house music made in Detroit in the mid-'80s. Where house still had explicit connection to disco even when it was entirely mechanical, techno was strictly electronic music, designed for a small, specific audience. The first techno producers and DJs -- Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, and Derrick May, among others -- emphasized the electronic, synthesized beats of electro-funk artists like Afrika Bambaataa and synth-rock units like Kraftwerk. In the United States, techno was strictly an underground phenomenon, but in England, it broke into the mainstream in the late '80s. In the early '90s, techno began to fragment into a number of subgenres, including hardcore, ambient, and jungle. In hardcore techno, the beats-per-minute on each record were sped up to ridiculous, undanceable levels -- it was designed to alienate a broad audience. Ambient took the opposite direction, slowing the beats down and relying on watery electronic textures -- it was used as come-down music, when ravers and club-goers needed a break from acid house and hardcore techno. Jungle was nearly as aggressive as hardcore, combining driving techno beats with breakbeats and dancehall reggae -- essentially. All subgenres of techno were initially designed to be played in clubs, where they would be mixed by DJs. Consequently, most of the music was available on 12-inch singles or various-artists compilations, where the songs could run for a long time, providing the DJ with a lot of material to mix into his set. In the mid-'90s, a new breed of techno artists -- most notably ambient acts like the Orb and Aphex Twin, but also harder-edged artists like the Prodigy and Goldie -- began constructing albums that didn't consist of raw beats intended for mixing. Not surprisingly, these artists -- particularly the Prodigy -- became the first recognizable stars in techno.
Top Techno Artists