Black Techno Matters
My Book/eBook: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.
My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music
The history of American music contains many examples of black music being subsumed and imitated by white culture. Jazz and rock and roll are prime examples. The black artists who originated these genres laid down the basic model and others followed.
Something similar has happened in modern electronic music, namely what we called Techno. Who are the biggest names in the field? You might immediately think of Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, Autechre and The Chemical Brothers. But did you know that the roots of techno lie with black music coming out of Detroit and Chicago in the 1980s?
This week I am in conversation with the musician Bernard Farley, also known as Outputmessage. He is the founder of Black Techno Matters. We talked about his vision for BTM and his own music.
In 1992, black techno pioneer Juan Atkins described techno as "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." (Atkins, Juan, 22 May 1992. "Juan Atkins". Dance Music Report. 15 (9): 19. ISSN 0883-1122.)
So, the collection of black techno tracks that I’ve cued up for the rest of podcast recall many of the artists that Bernard mentioned. They will play-out in roughly chronological order so that you can get a sense of how the music, artists, and technology has evolved over the past 30 years. This is really astounding music and we owe so much to these pioneers of black techno for maintaining a vivid climate of experimentation in their work.
Black Techno Matters
1. Frankie Knuckles. Baby Wants To Ride. (1987 D.J. International). Vocals by Jamie Principle. South Bronx, New York. Written, produced, and instrumentation by Frankie Knuckles (Francis Nicholls). 6:43
2. Juan Atkins, “Bassmental” from 3MB Feat. Magic Juan Atkins (1992 Tresor). Detroit. Written, produced, and played by Juan Atkins. 9:01
3. Dave Angel, “Endless Motions” from 3rd Voyage (1993 R&S Records). Produced, programmed, and written by Dave Angel. 4:28
4. Green Velvet, “Conniption” from Velvet Tracks (1993 Relief Records). Produced, programmed, and written by Green Velvet (Curtis Alan Jones). 18:17
5. Robert Hood. “Spirit Levels” from Internal Empire (1994 Tresor). Detroit. Music by Robert Hood. 5:06
6. K.Hand, “I Remember When” from On a Journey. (1995 !K7 Records). Produced, written, and arranged by K. Hand (Kelli Maria Hand), Detroit. 9:15
7. Scan 7. “Beyond Sound” from Dark Territory (1996 Tresor). Scan 7 a collective of Detroit techno artists, led by Lou Robinson and including DJ Red Line. 6:25
8. Green Velvet. Flash (Original Mix) from Flash (Remixes) (2000 F-111 Records). Produced, programmed, and written by Green Velvet. 5:47
9. K. Hand, “Rain-Interlude” from “Detroit History” Part 1. (2001 Acacia). Detroit. Produced, written, and arranged by K. Hand. 1:38
10.K. Hand, “Riverfront” from “Detroit History” Part 1. (2001 Acacia). Detroit. Produced, written, and arranged by K. Hand. 5:52
11.Outputmessage (Bernard Farley), “REM State” from Oneiros (2004 Echelon Productions). Written, performed, and produced by Bernard Farley. 4:33
12.K. Hand. “Intuition” from Intuition EP. (2015 Acacia). Detroit. Produced, written, and arranged by K. Hand. 4:25
13.Jlin, “Enigma” from Black Origami (2017 Planet Mu). Produced by Jerrilynn Patton. Gary, Indiana. 3:48
14.Loraine James, “To the Left, to the West,” from Detail (2017 Fu Inle Records). London. 6:03
15.Jeff Mills, “Many Many Worlds” from The Universe Chapter 1 (2020 Axis). Produced, mixed, and edited by Jeff Mills. 4:40
16.Jeff Mills, The Speed of Light” from The Universe Chapter 1 (2020 Axis). Produced, mixed, and edited by Jeff Mills. 2:44
17.Venus Ex Machina. “Avril” from Lux. (2021 AD93). UK-based artist. Venus Ex Machina is a composer, sound designer and interdisciplinary artist based in the UK. 2:23
18.Venus Ex Machina. “Elephant” from Lux. (2021 AD93). UK-based artist. Venus Ex Machina is a composer, sound designer and interdisciplinary artist based in the UK. 4:20
Opening background music: Outputmessage (Bernard Farley), “Switch” from Oneiros (2004 Echelon Productions). Written, performed, and produced by Bernard Farley.
Connect with Black Techno Matters and Bernard Farley.
Listen to the Blackness is Revolutionary playlist on Spotify. As of this podcast, this playlist curated by Bernard Farley features more than 1,100 techno tracks by black artists.
Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.
Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.