History of Techno - the 90s History of Techno - the 90s

History of Techno - the 90s

By Jamie Lee

History of Techno - the 90s History of Techno - the 90s

We’re taking you through a four-part history of Techno music. Here’s part two – enjoy the origins of the rave scene in the 90s.

As the 1990s began, techno was undergoing a kind of exodus out of Detroit and Chicago, developing strong scenes in New York City and Orlando but leaving musicians struggling for decent pay. Europe proved a much more stable ground, where techno music took root when American musicians struggled to make a living in their home country.

European techno was most officially born in the early 1990s, with a strong wave focused in Berlin, Germany, which had already been primed by the Chicago techno scene. DJs began increasing the speed and the power in their tracks, creating a hardcore subgenre that includes hardstep, hard techno, and breakcore. This harder genre became known in Germany as Tekno, originating from DJ Talla 2XLC in Frankfurt. In 1993, Tresor Records released Tresor II: Berlin & Detroit – A Techno Alliance, forming a partnership between the two techno-oriented cities. Raves were alive and well across Europe especially, where drug-infused dancing at namesake clubs brought a techno revolution to the Eastern hemisphere.

Evil of Ecstasy Newspaper SpreadIn the U.K., raving became somewhat of a political statement. Raves were often illegal, and held in old warehouses, parking lots, and abandoned factories. Acid House was the leading music style of these raves. This spilled over into fashion , with bright neon colors, and the adopted logo of the smiley face featured heavily on posters advertising events, and clothing worn by the ravers.

Check out Acid and Rave inspired apparel here

The Criminal Justice Act, signed into law in 1994, essentially forbade rave culture by forbidding gatherings, encouraging police raids, and shutting down almost any party or “suspicious” activity.  But moreover, Section 63 included a clause permitting the police shutdown of events with music that is “characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.” In protest, thousands marched on the Houses of Parliament, and the relationship between ravers and police remained contentious. Rave was synonymous with revolution, and music was the weapon of the people.

Packard plant party. Brian Gillespie in Detroit

Meanwhile, in Detroit, techno was taking a more "cerebral root", according to music journalist Matthew Collins. Jazz began trickling into the techno creations, as did what became known as intelligent techno after the compilation release of Artificial Intelligence. Warp Records founder Steve Beckett said of the time, “It felt like we were leading the market rather than it leading us. The music was aimed at home listening rather than clubs and dance floors: people coming home, off their nuts and having the most interesting part of the night listening to totally tripped out music.”

So while European techno was speeding up, it appeared that American techno was slowing down in a way, becoming more intuitive, purposeful, and cultural, while Europe danced the nights away with the energetic, fast, hardcore beats. Still, ravers across the world created their culture against a common understanding, friendship, and comradery of the music, as well as the drug-induced dancing that went into the early morning hours.

At its core, techno in the 1990s remained a party where everyone was invited. Similar to the hippie generation, ravers found techno music their common, wordless ground where all were welcome, and all were loved. The decade also presented an opportunity for acid house to come to the forefront of the genre. Trance, breakbeat hardcore, jungle, trip hop, and big beat all show signs of acid infiltration. The rave generation would only strengthen as the 2000s began.

Stay tuned for next weeks article, Techno in the noughties. In the meantime, enjoy this classic Acid track. I know I'm cheating a little, as it's from the 80s, but I'm sure you can forgive me ;)

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