Electronic Geography

Electronic Geography
Dance music has always placed a premium on geography. Hell, some genre names are so specific they reference not just a city, but a night club. Not surprisingly, the original locales of dance music's birth have taken on mythical proportions over the years, but once the scene went global, practically every major metropolis boasted an underground, rave-derived community of producers and DJs who cross-pollinated ideas, developing new sub-genres on a seemingly daily basis.

Detroit
Always proud of its rock and R&B history, America's auto capital has only recently come to terms with its most like-minded musical offspring, techno. Though the Detroit Electronic Music Festival claims crowds a million strong, it's only because of the unappreciated in its time ‘80s work of pioneering producers Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins, who melded Kraftwerk and electro-funk into a dark, industrial morass. The triumvirate achieved fame almost exclusively in Europe until techno broke into the mainstream in the ‘90s. But by the time the second wave of producers like Richie Hawtin (actually a Windsor, ON resident), Kenny Larkin and Carl Craig came out, the whole world had come to fetishise their city and the stark, piston-pumping soundscapes it continues to inspire.
Key Recordings: Rhythim is Rhythim "Strings of Life" (Kool Kat, 1987); Inner City Big Fun (Virgin, 1989); Carl Craig Landcruising (Blanco Y Negro, 1995); Jeff Mills Live at the Liquid Room, Tokyo (React, 1996); Innerzone Orchestra Programmed (Astralwerks, 1998); Richie Hatwin DE9: Closer to the Edit (Nova Mute, 2001)



Chicago
The history of house music can be traced back to a now-legendary Chicago night club called The Warehouse and it's DJ Frankie Knuckles — a Bronx-born spinner who grew up with Larry Levan, the DJ at NYC's Paradise Garage that would give birth to garage. Mixing beats and using drum machines to add percussion to his disco wax, Knuckles inspired a whole host of producers who became pioneers of the newly-dubbed house genre. Though the music would travel the globe and morph along the way (most notably into English acid house), a revival stretching from the mid-‘90s to right now has kept Chicago in the dance music spotlight.
Key Recordings: Fingers, Inc. "Can U Feel It" (Trax, 1986); Marshall Jefferson "Move Your Body" (Trax 1986); Phuture "Acid Tracks" (Trax, 1987); Derrick Carter Cosmic Disco (DMC, 1997); Green Velvet "La La Land" (Credence, 2001)



Bristol
A port-town that once played a pivotal role in the slave trade, Bristol's white-black divide became permeable when kids of all colours became obsessed with hip-hop. They just expressed it different ways. The movement that would one day be called trip-hop was arguably kicked off in the early ‘80s by the Wild Bunch soundsystem, which eventually evolved into Massive Attack. Alongside fellow pioneers Smith and Mighty, they contrasted slowed-down hip-hop beats with psychedelic atmospherics, dub flavours and ‘60s adult pop. This much-used Bristolian blueprint would dominate electronic music for years. Meanwhile, Roni Size was busy assembling the crew known as Reprazent, providing not just an award-winning face to the new sound of drum & bass, but an unsurpassed uniqueness in this notoriously same-sounding genre.
Key Recordings: Smith and Mighty "Anyone (Who Had A Heart)" (3 Stripe, 1987); Fresh 4 "Wishing On A Star" (Ten/Virgin, 1989); Massive Attack Blue Lines (Virgin, 1991); Portishead Dummy (Go!, 1994); Tricky Maxinquaye (4th and Broadway, 1995); Roni Size New Forms (Talkin' Loud, 1997)



New York
Though DJ Hell had kept it percolating in Berlin for years and Tiga had recently turned Montreal on to the sound, it took New York music maven Larry Tee to give the retro-futuristic revival a media-friendly name — electroclash — and the rest is (recent) history. The year's biggest musical movement was actually kicked off last fall by Tee's Electroclash festival (accompanied by a compilation CD on his own label and a continuing string of parties) which highlighted New York's neo-electro set. Tired of the facelessness of techno and the diva nonsense of house, a group of art gallery punks and former models decided to inject dance music with a bit of pop structure, catwalk style and long-lost flamboyance. The result was a much-needed jolt of adrenaline, media frenzy and immediate fears of a backlash, prompting these warning stickers around New York: "Electroclash could be the next grunge. Don't let buzzwords and marketing exploit and destroy the music you love."
Key Recordings: Fischerspooner, #1 (International Deejay Gigolos, 2001); Soviet We Are Eyes, We Are Builders (Plastiqmusiq, 2001); A.R.E Weapons Streetgang (Rough Trade, 2001); Various Electroclash (Electro Mogul, 2001); Crossover Fantasmo (International Deejay Gigolos, 2002)