The first techno festival I went to was Tribal Gathering in Oxford in 1995. It was a mind-blowing experience that resonates to this day: in that 24 hours, I saw Plastikman live performing ‘Spastik’ as well as Orbital, The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and countless other top tier 90s DJs and band. I still have the poster somewhere. But how many from that era and the surrounding decade are still cutting it today?
Arguably, the (Come To) Daddy of them all, he’s kept his mystique intact and still commands huge audiences across the globe, despite being utterly uncompromising in his sound and vision, which has always veered from ambient to glitch-y techno. From the Limelight in New York to Printworks in London, an Aphex Twin set is never anything less than A Moment.
There's no questioning Jeff Mills' inclusion. His sonic and visual worldview is always uniquely Jeff. It’s no accident that he was called The Wizard early on: because that’s precisely what he is. And his sound and vision, like Aphex above, remains timeless. “From my professional opinion, Electronic Music, in comparison to other genres, it isn’t an array of boring or mundane musical works as some people suggest,” he said recently. “The notion that it’s a genre that has “ran its course” due to the over dependence on technology is unproven.” It’s that attitude that’s kept him cutting-edge.
Papa Sven knows a thing or two about keeping relevant: in fact, Cocoon’s all about the beauty of looking forward while not forgetting the techno roots of where it all came from. Sven’s popularity has never waned globally and his always-current techno clique reflects his desire to stay at the forefront. He’s also the best after-hours DJ on the block.
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Miss Djax played a pivotal role in the global spread of dance. Her Djax-Up-Beats label, founded in 1989, released hundreds of records from Chicago and Detroit artists, helping establish house and techno in Europe. Through the 90s her DJ sets were similarly influential. She was regularly raising a ruckus through the developing European rave scene, across warehouses, grand concert venues and notably two closing sets atop the Victory Tower at Berlin’s one million dancers strong techno takeover Love Parade. The interest in the 90s rave sound has never died out since, and she’s still one of the most in-demand in the game at delivering it. The Dutchh DJ never buys new music, still stunning crowds with the crates upon crates of heat she’s picked up over the years, and events leading the way for popularity in contemporary techno such as Dekmantel and Awakenings are still lining up to book her. PH
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Of course, Richie’s worn more hats than Kolsch over the years and as Plastikman, his Plus 8 productions were peerless in the 90s. He’s now in his 40s and still causing a commotion from Buenos Aires to Berlin and back. Musically, he also refuses to stand still and that passion for the next big moment has never left him.
Although she’d been active as a DJ since her teens, Miss Kittin didn’t release her first record until 2001: and then along came ‘Kittenz And Thee Glitz” with Felix Da Housecat, which changed everything. She was an all-star player who wrote, arranged, produced and sung on her records, and last year she appeared on ANNA’s ‘Forever Ravers’ single on Kompakt. Electro/techno is back in vogue, and she’s a key artist at the forefront of the raucous scene.
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Is there a better techno producer from Philly than Josh Wink? It’s hard to imagine what electronic music would be like without his creative input, and over the years the bombs have kept on coming. He’s collaborated with Maceo Plex recently too – clearly, it’s hard to figure out who is more of a techno geek, Josh or Eric! At present, it’s a straight tie – but in the vegan and organic techno field, it’s all Josh.
There are few artists in techno that can hold a torch to the contribution made by Kelli Hand, aka K-Hand. Her back catalogue is stacked with three decades worth of classics, including outings on Tresor, !K7 Records, Warp and her own Acacia Records which was founded in 1990. She’s been DJing all along the way, and last decade really ramped up her popularity to new levels. She’s become an influential member of Nina Kraviz’s трип label, putting out one of one of our tracks of the decade ‘Sound 6’, after which she began touring internationally more than ever before with bookings at many of the world’s most respected clubs. New members of the techno vanguard such as Umfang have namechecked K-Hand as a key influence, and in 2017 she was named as The First Lady Of Detroit by the city in recognition of her contribution to electronic music. PH
Dubfire’s taken a few cues from the careers of Cocoon heroes like Richie Hawtin and Loco Dice over the years, and is now one of the biggest techno Djs in the world. If you thought a house DJ couldn’t leave behind a band like Deep Dish for an even bigger solo career, think again: recent sets across Europe and to Mexico have seen him more popular then ever before.
Active since 1991, Monika Kruse has come into her own again of late. She’s always been on Kruse control but now she’s firing on even more cylinders than before, at festivals and clubs from Timewarp to Tokyo. Her label Terminal M is also one worth keeping an eye and ear on, but its her mixing skills that set her apart.
Derrick May is no joke. He’s been representing the Detroit scene since the late 80s and in 2020 is still making waves with his music and his missives. He’s an aesthete, a music lover and still plays hard with his label Transmat.
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Another hard-working techno pioneer, Ellen Allien’s production skills need to introduction. She’s a label boss. A fashion designer. An album artist. And a woman whose skills behind the decks are always ferocious. Active since 1992 and still techno trucking today.
Dave Clarke’s always been slightly salty when he wants to be, but that’s part of his charm. He’s never sold out, he’s never peaked and his best productions still kick like a proverbial mule today – we’re thinking ‘Red 2’ of course.
When the stories are told about German acid, Hardfloor’s remixes and original productions will be among the most legendary tales to tell. Although they’re not as big as they were in the 90s, their sound never went out of fashion: and their virtuoso skill at manipulating Roland TB-303 bass synthesisers just cannot be beat.
Belfast-born producer David Holmes is A Character. Like Hardfloor, he made massive acid anthems – see that 10-minute remix of ‘Smokebelch’ by Sabres Of Paradise for example – and when Weatherall passed, his NTS Radio set was nothing short of sublime. Like Hardfloor, he was bigger in the 90s but his sound and attitude are never out of style.
Gudrun Gut has been heavily involved in underground music since the 80s and to this day her tireless dedication to innovative artistry hasn’t waned. Her work in music is rich and varied, including stints in a number of successful bands. Her dark and industrial DJ sets around Berlin’s best clubs have remained a constant over the years, while recent gigs at MUTEK Montreal and at the Innervisions takeover of London’s Royal Albert Hall indicate the respect she holds among global tastemakers. PH
And finally, another sonic sorcerer whose songs come back round like the very best that electro/techno has to offer. He's due to play Dekmantel in 2020, which is a reflection of a sound that’s about to return to dancefloors bigger than ever before. Adam Beyer is a big fan of ‘Back Home’ and this writer will never get bored of theAmnesia anthem ‘Father’.
Ralph Moore is Mixmag's Editor-at-large, follow him on Twitter
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