Over the past 40 years, Germany has produced (and continues to produce) an extraordinary group of electronic music pioneers. Most everyone is familiar, of course, with Kraftwerk, formed back in 1970. But Germany has continued to generate musical prodigies each decade. During the 1980s when most folks were bopping along to New Order or Aha’s “Take on Me” (admittedly great music), a real new order of electronic dance music was being established in central Europe, as talented German artists such as Sven Vath, Oliver Lieb, Paul van Dyk, Torsten Fenslau, Peter Namlook, Thomas Heckman and others were creating a sound influenced by, but generally light-years ahead, of the 80′s synth pop/new wave. Oliver Lieb’s 1989 track “System” under the name “Force Legato,” and Torsten Fenslau’s groundbreaking track “Alone It’s Me” under the name “Abfahrt,” (German for “Departure”) - regarded by some as the greatest electronic track yet produced for example – signaled a new era of music and single-handedly fueled the expansion of a new style of electronic music in many parts of the globe, including the southeast U.S.
This writer had an opportunity to expose the Bay Area (northern California, US) to this sound while a DJ at KZSU, 90.1, Stanford’s innovative radio station. During that time, I received numerous calls with questions about the central European music. Not surprisingly, most of the local populace who listened to electronic music (trip hop was popular at the time) had never heard a sound quite like it. For some, it was “too intense.” For others – Monster Loop included, it was an exhilarating musical breakthrough. Examining the phenomenon deeper, one must acknowledge the contribution to the burgeoning European techno scene from the U.S. “Acid House” movement, which originated in Chicago and Detroit. The Germans – and Frankfurt deserves special recognition along with Berlin, Cologne, and other German cities – however, harnessed and processed the powerful American Acid House sound as if it were a raw material. And, in the process, the Germans created something entirely original. There are some who follow the history of electronic music who claim that, without the contribution of the Germans at this time, electronic music would have met the same fate as disco.
In the spirit of celebrating the country’s many musical accomplishments, we have attached this tune-widget with 5 contemporary German electronica tracks. We hope you enjoy.
The two of us that comprise Monster Loop have been listening to electronic music for quite awhile. Every once in awhile, we’ll throw out suggestions of what we consider great electronic music – currently and from the past. We believe that, in many ways, the electronic music being produced today is as good as has ever been produced. On the other hand, we’re benefiting from great artists from the past who have influenced the current sound. Moreover, production technology has immensely improved, giving artists greater control over the final sound.
There have, however, been some outstanding productions in the past with no current parallel. The Belgian “New Beat” movement, circa 1990, for example, produced a phenomenal, grinding bass-heavy, chill-but-oh-so-intense-groove that, at its best, produced a mysterious, compelling cutting-edge sound with no modern equivalent. Some of Psychic TV‘s productions (e.g., Jack the Tab, Peak Hour), as far as lunatic creativity, possibly hasn’t been matched. The Acid House movement, around 1988, is also distinct and unmatched – many of the original acid house tracks have a powerful groove one rarely hears these days. Incidentally, a band from northern Europe, the Havanna Acid Club, may well produce the most powerfully authentic “Acid House” sound since that day.
If you like:
- Unique ambient: Check out Aphex Twin – “Selected Ambient Works” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selected_Ambient_Works_85–92
- Unusual/tripped out electro: Try Psychic TV’s Jack the Tab – “Acid Tablet Volume One” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_The_Tab_-_Acid_Tablets_Volume_One
- Outstanding early techno/industrial dance: We recommend Front 242 – “Front by Front” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Front_by_Front
- Provocative, erie synthetic atmosphere: Try ClockDVA – “Buried Dreams” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock_DVA
One unmistakable feature of electronic music is its universal appeal. Granted, there may be more popular styles of music in a particular city or country – currently. But which modern musical movement has so effortlessly crossed borders the way in which electronic music has? True, there have been artists from outside the electronica scene who have forged broad international appeal. Ultimately, however, electronica’s laser focus on sound versus personality or language uniquely positions it to be the genre of music with the greatest ability to spread globally, bypassing national borders as it makes its way to the four corners of our earth.
Ironically, this style of music, which de-emphasizes vocals, more effectively translates the spirit of its creators and their culture. The music of Koxbox, for example, conveys the thinking of modern Denmark and free spirit of Ibiza, Spain (where Koxbox’s Madsen currently resides) in a sense that words cannot approach. And to get a sense for the modern mindset in Frankfurt, Germany, check out the music of Booka Shade. Its complexity and internal harmony is akin to reading Schopenhauer, the brilliant German existential philosopher from Frankfurt Am Main.
Finally, consider “Exhibit A,” below. Within the last two weeks, fans of electronica from over 100 nations have visited this website, simply because of the site’s focus on global electronica. Perhaps a message is being sent, and that message is this: the world is ready. When one hears electronica (psytrance, techno, progressive, etc.) tracks from Israel, from Turkey, from the UK, from Germany, from Argentina, Toronto, etc. one cannot help but notice that we are all striving for that same transcendent experience that cannot be contained in the feeble words of any one nation’s tongue or culture. We are all alive, we are all manifestations of something much greater than ourselves. And we are able to express and experience that transcendence through this vehicle called electronica. Let’s groove!
What is it with us musicians and our names? I had a friend in Chicago, a talented electronic music producer, who seemed to spend 50% of his time staring at a sheet of paper, pencil in hand, brainstorming his official artist name. He’s still working on it. Then there’s the friend who recently sent me an email in which he indicated “[o]ur name currently is ‘The Absentia Formal.’ The name is hard to remember so we’re still working with options.” I’ll say. Let’s just say that producers of electronic music tend to have a flair for names that are “creative” (a compliment in our book – note that, in contrast, DJs generally seem to strive for a coolness factor with their name – to each his own). I was scanning the Top 500 Electronica Global Rankings this morning while drinking coffee, and jotted down a few memorable artist names:
- NUDE ! (Dreieich, Germany)
- Old Man Motel (Jamsankoski, Finland)
- Boo Boo Dan & the Loopadelics (San Antonio, Texas, USA)
- Spank the Chemical Christians (Dublin, Ireland)
- Cemetery Dance Club (Jakarta, Indonesia)
- Arthur Loves plastic (Silver Springs, Maryland, USA)
- Ice cream attack! (Bali, Indonesia)
- BOTTLESMOKER (Bandung, Indonesia)
- Zeds dead (Toronto, Canada) (there’s also a “zed’s dead” rock band – unfortunate guy, this zed)
- My parasites (Philadelphia, PA, USA)
- The 4th floor (Napoli, Italy)
- SlimGirlFat (London, UK)
- Magic toadstools (Portugal)
- Infected Mushroom (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
- Chemical Trolls (Be’er Sheva, Israel)
- Dragatis inside the mind (Edmonton, Canada)
- Afrolicious (San Francisco, CA, USA)
Finally, Monster Loop stumbled upon a list we drafted many years ago when we were young punks dreaming about someday producing electro music. This was our list of potential names. Feel free to laugh, we are.
In response to some requests, we’ve added another tune widget focusing on great underground electronic dance music from around the globe.
Artist / Country / Track
- Koxbox / Spain / The Last Day
- Hujaboy / Israel / The Acid Revival
- Psextreme / Serbia / No Limits
- Boa Group / Israel / Frozen Dream
- Headroom / South Africa / Will Never End
- Inna / Romania / Hot
- Concept / France / Concept vs. Earworm
- Mental Abstraction / France / vs. Spacebar the Vise
Monster Loop recently stumbled upon what we consider to be an interesting electronic music artifact: A list labelled “100 good techno tracks,” dated April 11, 1995. Unfortunately, one page was torn from the list so it ends with #78. Nevertheless, we felt it was worth reprinting what we have, which included the following introductory language:
100 good techno tracks
The following 100 tracks are, in our opinion, good electronic music tracks. This list is not intended to be complete. We are sure there are many, really good tracks unjustifiably left off the list either because we haven’t heard of the track, or because we have heard of the track but are just too dumb to realize the track is good. On the other hand, there are a thousand tracks we left off the list that are outright BAD. We mean REALLY bad, and the purpose of the list is to let people know that there is actually good electronic music out there, it’s just hard to find in most vinyl & CD bins. The tracks are in no particular order.
|1||Pscilocybin||Oliver Lieb/DJ Jorg|
|2||Das Omen||Mysterious Art|
|3||Carnaval||Signal Aout 42|
|4||Biting my nails||Renegade Soundwaves|
|5||High Energy Protons||Juno Reactor|
|6||I sit on Acid||Lords of Acid|
|7||The Comeback||Love, Inc.|
|8||Word of God||The Subjects|
|9||Mantel Der Nacht||Time Modem|
|10||The definition of taking a step into another dimension||Skydiver (T. Heckman)|
|12||Spice Must Flow||Eon|
|15||Die Zukunft (last minute mix)||Scope|
|16||Age of love||Age of Love|
|17||Bit Stream III||ClockDVA|
|19||Jesus Loves the Acid||Ecstacy Club|
|21||Move your Body||101|
|23||Liquid Empire||Cold Sensation|
|25||No Way Back||Adonis|
|26||Weather Experience||The Prodigy|
|27||Flesh||A Split Second|
|29||Ver Vlads||Crazy Ivan|
|30||Substance Abuse||Fuse (aka Plastikman)|
|32||UT1-DOT||Polygon Window (aka Aphex Twin)|
|34||Clap Me||Jack Frost|
|37||Placebo Mix||Force Staccato (Oliver Lieb)|
|39||Helter Skelter||Meat Beat Manifesto|
|40||Umsturz Jetzt||Robotiko Rejecto|
|41||Schottkey 7th Path||Aphex Twin|
|43||Warsaw Ghetto||Nitzer Ebb|
|44||Acid Rock||Rhythm Device|
|45||Ritual of Life – Tribal Acid Mix||Sven Vath|
|47||Digital Tension Dementia||Front Line Assembly|
|48||Meet Every Situation Head On||Psychic TV|
|49||Welcome to Paradise||Front 242|
|50||Sun||The Ambush (Oliver Lieb)|
|51||Jack to the sound of the underground||Hithouse|
|52||Russian Radio||Red Flag|
|53||Nocturne||Age (T. Heckman)|
|55||Living in a Land||Robert Owens|
|58||Sympathy for the Devil||Laibach|
|59||Alone (It’s Me)||Abfahrt (Torsten Fenslau)|
|62||Time to die||Aircrash Bureau|
|63||Hearts & Minds||Nitzer Ebb|
|65||System||Force Legato (Oliver Lieb)|
|66||Colosseum crash||A Split Second|
|67||Little Fluffy Clouds||The Orb|
|68||Over the Shoulder – ext. remix||Ministry|
|74||Look on this side||X marks the pedwalk|
|75||I’ve lost control||Sleezy D|
|76||I’ll never let you down||William S|
|78||Our Darkness||Anne Clark|
One of the beautiful aspects of electronic music is its ability to express human thought and emotion in a manner that transcends the feeble limitations of our human languages.
Continuing our review of electronic music around the world, this week we feature electronic music from South America including artists from Argentina (Tranxgo, Diamanda, and Zeitan), Bolivia (Steve Bravo DJ), Brazil (Marcelo Carvalho, Drumagick), Chile (Chilenomedio), & Ecuador (Rhodnails).
Most of these artists are no strangers to international attention. Out of over 21,000 electronica artists on Reverbnation, for example, Drumagick is ranked #10 on the Global Top 100 Electronica Chart, Tranxgo is ranked #11, Steve Bravo #47, and Rhodnails #88. We hope you enjoy the selections.