Much of the instrumentation in techno emphasizes the role of rhythm over other musical parameters. Techno tracks mainly progress over manipulation of timbral characteristics of synthesizer presets and, unlike forms of EDM that tend to be produced with synthesizer keyboards, techno does not always strictly adhere to the harmonic practice of Western music and such structures are often ignored in favor of timbral manipulation alone. Another distinguishing feature of techno music and techno aesthetic is the general embracement of creative use of music production technology.
Use of the term "techno" to refer to a type of electronic music originated in Germany in the early 1980s. In 1988, following the UK release of the compilation Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit, the term came to be associated with a form of EDM produced in Detroit. Detroit techno resulted from the melding of synth-pop by artists such as Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and Yellow Magic Orchestra with African American styles such as house, electro, and funk. Added to this is the influence of futuristic and science-fiction themes relevant to life in American late capitalist society, with Alvin Toffler's book The Third Wave a notable point of reference. The music produced in the mid-to-late 1980s by Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson (collectively known as The Belleville Three), along with Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter, James Pennington and others is viewed as the first wave of techno from Detroit.
After the success of house music in a number of European countries, techno grew in popularity in the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.[better source needed] In Europe regional variants quickly evolved and by the early 1990s techno subgenres such as acid, hardcore, bleep, ambient, and dub techno had developed. Music journalists and fans of techno are generally selective in their use of the term, so a clear distinction can be made between sometimes related but often qualitatively different styles, such as tech house and trance.
In exploring Detroit techno's origins writer Kodwo Eshun maintains that "Kraftwerk are to techno what Muddy Waters is to the Rolling Stones: the authentic, the origin, the real." Juan Atkins has acknowledged that he had an early enthusiasm for Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder, particularly Moroder's work with Donna Summer and the producer's own album E=MC2. Atkins also mentions that "around 1980 I had a tape of nothing but Kraftwerk, Telex, Devo, Giorgio Moroder and Gary Numan, and I'd ride around in my car playing it." Regarding his initial impression of Kraftwerk, Atkins notes that they were "clean and precise" relative to the "weird UFO sounds" featured in his seemingly "psychedelic" music.
Derrick May identified the influence of Kraftwerk and other European synthesizer music in commenting that "it was just classy and clean, and to us it was beautiful, like outer space. Living around Detroit, there was so little beauty... everything is an ugly mess in Detroit, and so we were attracted to this music. It, like, ignited our imagination!". May has commented that he considered his music a direct continuation of the European synthesizer tradition. He also identified Japanese synthpop act Yellow Magic Orchestra, particularly member Ryuichi Sakamoto, and British band Ultravox, as influences, along with Kraftwerk. YMO's song "Technopolis" (1979), a tribute to Tokyo as an electronic mecca, is considered an "interesting contribution" to the development of Detroit techno, foreshadowing concepts that Atkins and Davis would later explore with Cybotron.
Of the four individuals responsible for establishing techno as a genre in its own right, Juan Atkins is widely cited as "The Originator". In 1995, the American music technology publication Keyboard Magazine honored him as one of 12 Who Count in the history of keyboard music.
Atkins used the term techno to describe Cybotron's music, taking inspiration from Futurist author Alvin Toffler, the original source for words such as cybotron and metroplex. Atkins has described earlier synthesizer based acts like Kraftwerk as techno, although many would consider both Kraftwerk's and Juan's Cybotron outputs as electro. Atkins viewed Cybotron's Cosmic Cars (1982) as unique, Germanic, synthesized funk, but he later heard Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" (1982) and considered it to be a superior example of the music he envisioned. Inspired, he resolved to continue experimenting, and he encouraged Saunderson and May to do likewise.
Eventually, Atkins started producing his own music under the pseudonym Model 500, and in 1985 he established the record label Metroplex. The same year saw an important turning point for the Detroit scene with the release of Model 500's "No UFO's," a seminal work that is generally considered the first techno production. Of this time, Atkins has said:
The music's producers, especially May and Saunderson, admit to having been fascinated by the Chicago club scene and influenced by house in particular. May's 1987 hit "Strings of Life" (released under the alias Rhythim Is Rhythim) is considered a classic in both the house and techno genres.
Juan Atkins also believes that the first acid house producers, seeking to distance house music from disco, emulated the techno sound. Atkins also suggests that the Chicago house sound developed as a result of Frankie Knuckles' using a drum machine he bought from Derrick May. He claims:
The early producers, enabled by the increasing affordability of sequencers and synthesizers, merged a European synthpop aesthetic with aspects of soul, funk, disco, and electro, pushing EDM into uncharted terrain. They deliberately rejected the Motown legacy and traditional formulas of R&B and soul, and instead embraced technological experimentation.
Within the last 5 years or so, the Detroit underground has been experimenting with technology, stretching it rather than simply using it. As the price of sequencers and synthesizers has dropped, so the experimentation has become more intense. Basically, we're tired of hearing about being in love or falling out, tired of the R&B system, so a new progressive sound has emerged. We call it techno!
The resulting Detroit sound was interpreted by Derrick May and one journalist in 1988 as a "post-soul" sound with no debt to Motown, but by another journalist a decade later as "soulful grooves" melding the beat-centric styles of Motown with the music technology of the time. May described the sound of techno as something that is "...like Detroit...a complete mistake. It's like George Clinton and Kraftwerk are stuck in an elevator with only a sequencer to keep them company." Juan Atkins has stated that it is "music that sounds like technology, and not technology that sounds like music, meaning that most of the music you listen to is made with technology, whether you know it or not. But with techno music, you know it."
The success of house and acid house paved the way for wider acceptance of the Detroit sound, and vice versa: techno was initially supported by a handful of house music clubs in Chicago, New York, and Northern England, with London clubs catching up later; but in 1987, it was "Strings of Life" which eased London club-goers into acceptance of house, according to DJ Mark Moore.
The mid-1988 UK release of Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit, an album compiled by ex-Northern Soul DJ and Kool Kat Records boss Neil Rushton (at the time an A&R scout for Virgin's "10 Records" imprint) and Derrick May, introduced of the word techno to UK audiences. Although the compilation put techno into the lexicon of music journalism in the UK, the music was initially viewed as Detroit's interpretation of Chicago house rather than as a separate genre. The compilation's working title had been The House Sound of Detroit until the addition of Atkins' song "Techno Music" prompted reconsideration. Rushton was later quoted as saying he, Atkins, May, and Saunderson came up with the compilation's final name together, and that the Belleville Three voted down calling the music some kind of regional brand of house; they instead favored a term they were already using, techno.
Commercially, the release did not fare as well and failed to recoup, but Inner City's production "Big Fun" (1988), a track that was almost not included on the compilation, became a crossover hit in fall 1988. The record was also responsible for bringing industry attention to May, Atkins and Saunderson, which led to discussions with ZTT records about forming a techno supergroup called Intellex. But, when the group were on the verge of finalising their contract, May allegedly refused to agree to Top of the Pops appearances and negotiations collapsed. According to May, ZTT label boss Trevor Horn had envisaged that the trio would be marketed as a "black Petshop Boys."
Despite Virgin Records' disappointment with the poor sales of Rushton's compilation, the record was successful in establishing an identity for techno and was instrumental in creating a platform in Europe for both the music and its producers. Ultimately, the release served to distinguish the Detroit sound from Chicago house and other forms of underground dance music that were emerging during the rave era of the late 1980s and early 1990s, a period during which techno became more adventurous and distinct.
In 1982, while working at Frankfurt's City Music record store, DJ Talla 2XLC started to use the term techno to categorize artists such as New Order, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Heaven 17 and Front 242, with the word used as shorthand for technologically created dance music. Talla's categorization became a point of reference for other DJs, including Sven Väth. Talla further popularized the term in Germany when he founded Technoclub at Frankfurt's No Name Club in 1984, which later moved to the Dorian Gray club in 1987. Talla's club spot served as the hub for the regional EBM and electronic music scene, and according to Jürgen Laarmann, of Frontpage magazine, it had historical merit in being the first club in Germany to play almost exclusively EDM. 041b061a72