juanatkins_1At the dawn of the 1980s, Juan Atkins began recording what stands as perhaps the most influential body of work in the field of techno. Exploring his vision of a futuristic music which welded the more cosmic side of Parliament funk with rigid computer synth-pop embodied by {ln:Kraftwerk} and the techno-futurist possibilities described by sociologist Alvin Toffler (author of The Third Wave and Future Shock), Atkins blurred his name behind aliases such as Cybotron, Model 500 and Infiniti -- all, except for Cybotron, comprised solely of himself -- to release many classics of sublime Detroit techno. And though it's often difficult (and misleading) to pick the precise genesis for any style of music, the easiest choice for techno is an Atkins release, the 1982 electro track "Clear," recorded by Atkins and Rick Davis as Cybotron.

Before Trevor Horn sampled a sound, or Run-DMC scratched a record; when synthesizers were a twinkle in the imagination of Varese and Cage, Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry were transmuting the world of sound. In the mid-'60s, their techniques were arcane: by the early '80s they were nouveau-chic. But in 1948, they were truly revolutionary.
"Our direction was to turn our back on music and that is crucial," proclaimed Schaeffer in his elegant, old Paris apartment. "People who try to create a musical revolution do not have a chance, but those who turn their back to music can sometimes find it."

KARLHEINZ Stockhausen, who has died aged 79, was one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music. He was fond of quoting Blake's lines "He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in Eternity's sunrise"; and like Blake, the pursuit of his vision led him down strange, and often awkward paths. The results earned him a reverence among a cult following which is unique among 20th-century composers; but they also earned him a fair amount of ridicule. Roger Scruton's memorable judgment, that Stockhausen "is not so much an Emperor with no clothing, but a splendid set of clothes with no Emperor" sums up the sceptical view, which in Anglo-Saxon countries has become the dominant one since the 1970s.

mantronixOver and above their standing as one of the best and most innovative groups from hip-hop's golden age, Mantronix provided rap music with its first man-machine, Kurtis Mantronik. A turntable master who incorporated synthesizers and samplers into the rhythmatic mix instead of succumbing to the popular use of samples simply as pop hooks, Mantronik exploited technology with a quintessentially old-school attitude which had little use for instruction manuals and accepted use. After the hip-hop world began to catch up with Mantronik's developments, he moved from hardcore rap to skirt the leading edge of club music, from electro to ragga, techno, and house.

Perhaps the most underrated figure of Detroit techno's first wave, Blake Baxter began recording in the mid-'80s before Motor City mainstays like Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. Presaging the influence of erotic house during the late '80s, Baxter was inspired by the sexual soul of Barry White and Prince as well as cosmic funk machines like Parliament and Funkadelic. He released his first single on the seminal Chicago house label DJ International and recorded several classics for Saunderson's KMS Records, and by the '90s cultivated his connection with Detroit's techno subversives Underground Resistance, for whom he served as a guiding light.

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