The 20 best pre-00s electro tracks
The genre that's making an alarming comeback
If you haven't been hearing electro on the dancefloor over the last 12 months, then have you even been going to the right parties?
We documented the alarming rise of electro at the end of last year and the genre, in its truest form originating from Detroit and even earlier in Germany, has found its way back into the recordbags of the world's most prominent selectors.
Artists like Helena Hauff, DJ Stingray and Objekt have been injecting their sets with industrial, staggered and furious electro tracks, all of which have been quietly maturing over time like a fine wine.
It's rowdy, it's devilish and it's indicative of the turbulent landscape we're living in right now. Electro is back baby and not only is it here to stay, it's here to takeover your minds and souls.
Admittedly, it's not been any easy task trying to narrow down the best electro tracks from before 2000 but we've been digging through Discogs like a teenage vinyl-collector with too much time and money on their hands and we've come up with 20 of the most essential cuts that'll kick start your newly found love affair with 2018's most urgent genre.
No electro list would be complete without the masters of the kraft involved would it? (off to a great start with that one). To kick off the list we take it back to 1981 and by this time seminal German outfit Kraftwerk had already released seven albums...SEVEN. Here though we focus on the 'Computer World' album and it's a great start to the percussive electro sound that began to rumble around clubland at this time. To be honest, we could have included loads of tracks here from Kraftwerk but 'Numbers' is a bonefide classic. It ties in nicely with the bonus point you get when you check out the bootleg between that and Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' by Girls on Top.
Herbie Hancock 'Rock It'
That riff, those vinyl scratches and that almighty, holy fucking synth riff. It's 'Rock It' by Herbie Hancock, one of the true pioneers and originators of electro. Sure it's about as fun as a track can get before it gets a little bit cheesy, but saying that we can only imagine being an 18 year old in the club and hearing this blast through the speakers for the first time back in 1983. Cue everyone losing their minds and pulling the robot out in the dance. If you can't take away a feeling of joy and child-like wonder when listening to 'Rock It', you may just be a little bit dead inside. Sorry.
As we start this list in the 80's it would be criminal to leave out 'Clear' by Cybotron aka Juan Atkins and Richard "3070" Davis. Nowadays Juan is arguably most famous for his techno output, through aliases like Model 500 and collaborative projects such as Borderlands but it all started with Cybotron and this was the track that changed the game. Electro was beginning to really bubble at this point and 'Clear' is the daunting, groove-fuelled cut that turned heads. The drop around the three minute mark is a particular highlight and as the top comment of the YouTube video says: "This track could have come out today and it would still sound fresh."
We whole-heartedly agree.
The Egyptian Lover Egypt, Egypt
Funky, groovy and damn right sizzling, the heroic Egyptian Lover is still captivating audiences to this day with frantic live performances and electrifying DJ sets. His catalogue is frankly staggering and we could have picked any of his tunes to slot in here but 'Egypt, Egypt' is one of our absolute favourites. Just when you think the riffs on those synths couldn't get any more mischievous, they do. A quinetessential electro cut from one of the best to ever do it.
Model 500 'No UFOs'
More Detrioit, more electro, more Atkins. Under his Model 500 alias, Juan Atkins continued to reign supreme throughout the late 80s and 'No UFOs', released in 1986, was one of his most popular releases via Metroplex. Choppy yet forceful vocals and percussion that flies at you from every angle, this one still dominates any dancefloor its played on. All hail the almighty Atkins.
Nitzer Ebb 'Let Your Body Learn'
Like a bunch of raging bulls storming through a china shop, Nitzer Ebb are the undisputed champions of raucous, unrelenting EBM and have been active for over 30 years. That's three decades of pummelling anthems that inspire a fire in your belly that you didn't even know you had. The instrumental mixes of their tracks are great and would easily slip into any towering DJ set but to truly grasp the urgency and power in their tracks, the screaming, hurtling lyrics need to be paraded at the forefront. The Mute Records band really turned up the heat with 'Murderous' but we prefer 'Let Your Body Learn' which dropped a year later in 1987. This should make you want to smash something almost instantly so make sure you're not actually near any fine china. It will break.
Drexciya 'Wavejumper' [Aquatic Invasion 1994]
Any die-hard electro fan reading this will probably have been wondering when Drexciya were going to show up. Why? Because Drexciya is electro and electro is Drexciya. Simple. 1992 was the year that James Stinson and Gerald Donald founded the mystery-steeped project and since then, they pretty much dominated the game. In fact, they shaped the way the sound grew into what it is today and applied a more industrial, focused sheen to the Motor City staple. The story ended rather abruptly when Stinson passed away in 2002 and although Drexciya was no more, it spawned a new generation of producers who would look to the duo's work as a basis for everything that followed. A timeless act.
Underground Resistance 'Sweat Electric'
Underground Resistance are known for techno, that's a given, but they also dabbled in electro back in the day as well. When the line between electro and techno was more blurred than ever before, UR took the opportunity to put their own spin on the now hugely popular sound. The 'Sweat Electric' EP was released as part of the vinyl-only S.I.D series and physical copies are few and far between but this one's a ripper that you'll be playing over and over via YouTube. It's got some acidic twangs and ominous vocals thrown in for good measure and is ever-telling of just how renowned Underground Resistance were and still remain to this day.
Released in 1995 by the goliath that is Warp Records, Elecktroids 'Flotation' may be the most mysterious track on the list. That's down to the fact that it's widely believed that James Stinson and Gerald Donald as Drexciya were involved, although the exact line-up of artists was never established. Taken from the critically 'Elektroworld' album, its Kraftwerk influences are clear and there's a strain of ilalo-esque melodies running throughout the album. It's a pretty important and hard-to-find album, one that's littered with industrial murmurs and intergalactic whirring. If this track gets you in the mood then be sure to check out the whole LP.
Dopplereffekt 'Celluar Phone'
At the height of Drexciya's popularity, in 1995, Dopplereffekt was born, and Gerald Donald went about carefully continuing the Drexciyan sound with a series of seminal releases. Donald is the only confirmed member of Dopplereffekt and to be honest he doesn't like admitting it himself or even referring to himself as part of the project. Several different people have performed live and contributed to what is agreed to be one of the most integral acts within electro. There was a period of about four years at the turn of the millennium when Donald took a break but before that in 1999, 'Gesamtkunstwerk' was released and is widely considered as the best electro album/compilation ever. One of the stand-out tracks is 'Celluar Phone' and is the first track Dopplereffekt ever released. File under ground-breaking.
Neil Landstrumm 'Twisted in New York'
Tresor, Peacefrog Records, Planet Mu and Because Music, all labels that Neil Landstrumm has graced over his illustrious 20 year career. Specialising in dense techno, leftfield electronica and electro to make you move, the Scottish producer who's spent most of his artist life in New York, is no stranger to the darker side of dance music. He kicked things off around 1994 with some hellish releases via Peacefrog but 'Twisted in New York', with its meandering bassline, was released as part of his second album 'Understanding Disinformation' which dropped on Tresor. Somewhere between pacy techno and mutant electro, this one sounds as crisp as it did in the 90s.
Anthony Rother 'Describe Reality'
As we move into 1997, we hit one of the richest periods of electro pre 2000 and Anthony Rother is a name that still carries weight even to this day. With fire-breathing DJ sets and acclaimed live shows, Rother is still regarded as an electro pioneer. His first album 'Sex With Machines' was a daring escapade via extra-terrestrial sounds and machine-like gurgles. He's just dropped a release via Danny Daze's excellent Omnidisc imprint and it further cements his relevance when it comes to robotic excellence. 'Describe Reality' is taken from his debut LP and is a 10-minute plus wriggler, one that gets under your skin with alien zaps and razor-sharp riffs.
I-f 'Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass'
The daddy, the don, the master, the king of the airwaves. Excuse our language when we say that I-F is a fucking hero. The dutch mainstay, also known as Interr-Ference, is the alias of Ferenc E. van der Sluijs, a man who took electro, flipped it on its head and turned it into something entirely unique. His label Viewlexx is a one-stop shop for music of all varieties and Intergalactic FM, established in 2008, is a rolling internet radio station with a wealth of amazing shows and features. In fact, it's one of the best places to go to discover music that'll warp your mind.
Electroclash is widely considered to have been helmed by I-f before the likes of Tiga, Justice and Erol Alkan rolled out their own brand of fiesty club jams. 'Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass' is one of the those tracks that fits in anywhere during a set. Right at the end of a performance guarantees a tear-jerking, arms-in-the-air fiesta though. There's a reason I-f is adored and looked-up to by so many artists and fans, this song is one of them.
The Hacker 'Body Electric'
French pioneer Michel Amato is another electro artist who's been doing it longer than your average and his output is nothing short of staggering. As The Hacker he's been sculpting vigorous techno and electro for over two decades and has influenced numerous producers who are dominating the scene today. He runs the ZONE imprint alongside Gesaffelstein, an artist whom is both a friend and protege of Amato and the electro coming from the label is some of the best contemporary work out there. 'Body Electric' is one of his earliest weapons, a fidgety electro stormer, one that refuses to sit still and encourages you to do get up and do the same. Iconic.
DMX Krew 'I'm All Alone'
Ed Upton is a silent genius. As DMX Krew, he's been crafting some of the most recognisable and impressive electronic music of the last 25 years, mainly releasing via Aphex Twin's Rephlex label. Honestly, his Discogs page is absurdly populated and any one of his tracks could have made it in here. This one, 'I'm All Alone', released in 1997 is an early indication of the levels Upton would go on to hit, and continue to hit for that matter.
David Carretta 'Neuropolitics'
Alongside artists like The Hacker and Arnaud Rebotini, David Carretta is a French electro pillar. 'Le Catalogue Electronique' is one of many albums that Carretta unleashed upon us and comes from a new school way of electro thinking as opposed to the more typical Detroit-stylings. Basically, it's a rich, rowdy slice of French electro and if that's a little less serious and a bit more in your face and brash, we're up for it.
I-f 'Playstation #2'
More I-f. More life.
The Hacker 'At Night'
The second of three Amato productions in this list. Why? Because he's got an absurdly big arsenal of electro heaters and his sound has evolved spectacularly over the years. 'At Night' points towards a more rugged 4/4 sound rather than the staggered Drexciyan style of electro, similar to Carretta's track above, which makes this perfect for inspiring more energy from any dancefloor. There are sheens of brilliance and synth hits that beam in and out of focus. More essential electro from The Hacker, although all of his tracks are essential.
Miss Kittin & The Hacker 'Sweet Dreams'
The Hacker and Miss Kittin have been frequent collaborators for years but one of their first tracks together was this blistering re-imagining of 'Sweet Dreams' by Eurythmics. Kittin's quintessential voice and The Hacker's stark, steely beats make this cover slicker than your average. It's got a bite to it and came just before the turn of the millennium. Banger.
Drexciya 'Lost Vessel'
There was only really one track we could end on.
Untouchable. Drexciya. Electro.
Funster is Mixmag's Digital Editor, his New Year's resolution is to play more electro, he bloody loves it, follow him on Twitter