Everything beats to a primordial pulse. Stripped to its lowest common denominator, that is what techno is all about. That same pounding, bass-heavy, relentless rhythm that, when played at high volume on your stereo, succeeds in provoking your neighbors to mount a hate-campaign against you culminating in your being thrown out of the panelak you called home, is the very essence of life itself.
Cynics of techno and the artistes that create it are quick to dismiss this music as discordant and talentless, requiring no more skill or musicianship than to press a few buttons and let a machine do the rest. The machines in question though are just as much musical instruments as, say, a piano – hey, they both have types of buttons. Just as a pianist has to press the right ‘buttons’ in the right order, has to arrange all the elements of the music precisely, so does the techno artiste.
Techno uses the sounds from machines and those sampled from around us and sculpts these sounds into shapes that can be raw, clean, happy, sad, aggressive, energetic, passive or just plain chilled – pure sonic emotion, with that primitive rhythm coursing through it.
The origins of techno are as numerous as they are diverse. Evolved from a plethora of influences, taking the best bits from Frankie Knuckle’s fledgling house experiments, Kraftwerk’s tentative sortees into the field of electronic music and a host of other pioneers from Detroit to Frankfurt, techno discarded the excess baggage that may forcibly dictate to the listener how to perceive the music, to leave merely sound riding rhythm in its pure unadulterated form.
This minimalism was to leave the interpretation of the music to the listener. From the very first primitive tracks from the likes of Derrick May, Juan Atkins, and Kevin Saunderson, techno continued to grow, a process helped by a little silver box that was to become to techno what the guitar is to rock.
Originally intended as a practice aid for bass-guitarists, the Roland TB-303 was far too tricky to operate to be employed as such and it wasn’t until people such as DJ Pierre and acts such as Phuture and Hardfloor began abusing this little machine that they realized that not only did it a) sound good, but it b) recreates the sensory distortion you get when you’re off your head. And thus the acid sound was born.
The TB-303 was one of a great many machines to be used by techno artistes as their instruments. But, whereas with ‘conventional’ instruments the outcome is limited by merely being able to play notes, with the instruments used for techno each note can be shifted, distorted and resonated through an infinite range of possibilities resulting in an infinite range of sonic emotions.
Today techno is more popular than any of the first pioneers would have dreamed. Underworld’s single “Born Slippy” has just recently charted very highly throughout Europe. Techno artistes are frequently selling out huge arenas – 1. 2 million people attended this year’s techno festival, the love parade, in Berlin.
So big, in fact, has techno become that the British government, frightened of this recent phenomenon and its effects on youth, have passed a law forbidding any unlicensed parties where music featuring “the emission of repetitive beats” is played. But still the combination of primal beats and sonic emotions that define techno continues to gather converts as it gathers momentum. Anyone who has ever danced in a hot, sweaty techno club with a room full of like-minded people to that incessant rhythm cannot fail to notice the pure undiluted energy the music evokes.
If we are to believe the chaos theory when it suggests that for every quantum of energy released it results in a far greater release of energy elsewhere on the planet (example: a butterfly flaps its wings in Mala Strana and causes a hurricane in the Pacific Ocean), it is hard to imagine the result of the energy released from thousands and thousands of people dancing to techno every weekend.
Even if the chaos theory was the acid-crazed delusion of a sadly-misguided aging hippy, it is undeniable that the power of millions of people unified by the sound of the primordial rhythm and incited by the sonic emotions would be sufficient to cause revolutions, build cities, achieve. . . well, just about anything.