There's techno and then there's Polish techno. Despite the country’s proximity to Berlin, where dark and pumping sounds have laid an influential foundation, Poland’s style is unique from the techno that comes out of the German capital. With its origins in a style of music resembling synth-pop, the techno from the Eastern European country is its own musical movement.
Typically, Polish techno has rougher outlines and a more fluid structure than the tightly crafted style of four-to-the-floor. A bulk of the electronic music in Poland developed in close proximity in the city of Krakow, meaning that genres from gabba to techno and breakbeat all left their mark on each other.
Inevitably however, as some genres became more popular and accessible than others, the music styles splintered from one another, taking on individual influences and leading to further differentiation. Polish techno is a law unto itself. It isn't restricted to a single style or niche, comfortably incorporating elements such as vocals and hardstyle beats together in its idiosyncratic harmonies. Check out 10 of our favourite examples of the style below.
Marek Bilinski ‘Escape From The Tropics’ (1984)
Arguably among the most influential techno tracks to come out of Poland before the fall of the Soviet Union was ‘Escape From The Tropics’ by Marek Bilinski. Although it's arguably more synth-pop than techno, especially by today's standards, this kind of music was revolutionary for its time. Its influence can be seen through most Polish electronic music, including techno.
Jacek Sienkiewicz ’Locus 0.2’ (1999)
In 1999 the first Polish techno album was released, presciently titled 'Recognition'. The LP plays more on the experimental side with a bit of an ambient vibe to it, but the earlier influence from Balinski is still pretty clear with its simplistic but not minimal nature. This was really where Polish techno started to come into its own and throughout the album you can hear hints of dark and industrial techno, but in the country’s indescribable style.
East Clubbers ‘Beat Is Coming’ (2004)
No list of Polish techno would be complete without a song from East Clubbers. Formed back in 2002, the track 'Beat Is Coming' was released in 2004 as part of their first album and showcases the range of styles some Polish techno crosses.
Kalwi & Remi ‘Explosion’ (2006)
As if it was directed in the early 90s by a man with spiked frosted tips using nothing but a flip phone's camera, the music video is definitely dated, to say the least. But the 2006 cut ‘Explosion’ by Kalwi & Remi is indicative of the slightly more commercial side of Polish techno. Similarly to East Clubbers, there's clearly a synth-pop influence that is also merged with an upbeat hook and vocals that you wouldn't hear anywhere else.
Marcin Czubala ‘Don't Need The Sun To Shine’ (2009)
While DJ Marcin Czubala officially trained in classical music in the early 90s, he moved into the world of electronic music after graduating. This song was released by the German record label 8bit and fits in perfectly with their tech-house style. The tune itself shows off a characteristically wide range of influences organised into a bumping beat. Comparing this tune to the ones before it on this list, this song signposts the increasing influence of Western techno.
Unknown ‘Idzie Mój Pan super remix 2011’
One anomaly in the Polish techno scene is 'Idzie Mój Pan super remix 2011'. The track is a techno/trance remix of a Polish hymn called 'My Lord Is Coming', or in Polish, ‘Idzie Mój Pan’. It was released on an anonymous YouTube account and there have been no songs released on the account since. There has also been no explanation of who made it despite its online popularity. A complete mystery.
Catz 'n Dogz feat, Monty Luke ‘They Frontin'’ (2012)
This track by Catz 'n Dogz was released in 2012. It's a standout tune made by the popular Polish duo, combining the pair’s heritage and knack for addictive beats with the cleanness of Western techno to form an energetic but minimalist banger.
Angelo Mike ‘Cosmopop’ (2014)
As Polish techno developed beyond 2010, minimal influence became more prominent in the mainstream. Angelo Mike's 'Cosmopop' from 2014 is a track that would be recognised as techno in anyone’s book, but it still manages to maintain that obvious synthy influence from the mid-80s.
Zamilska ‘DUEL 35’ (2014)
Zamilska embodies the darker end of Poland’s techno scene. She earned critical acclaim for her debut album ‘Untune’ in 2014, which impressed with a blend of global rhythms, Slavic mythology themes and weighty bass. Album track 'DUEL 35' took Polish techno into new territory, distinct from the more trance-esque counterpart popular at the time.
VTSS ‘Linked’ (2018)
VTSS is a big name in the Polish techno scene. Her music often shows influence from her current home in Berlin, but the Warsaw-born musician has not let go of her roots. Her track 'Linked', released in 2018, has some undeniable minimalist qualities but there is still the chaotic feel you get from Poland's darker electronic music scene.
Isaac Pound is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter
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