A guide to… maximal techno

A couple weeks ago we opened up the first of our monthly features by focusing on ‘minimal’ techno and provided a brief look into its history and development with some of genres most important producers, labels and tracks.

This week we’ll be going in the opposite direction and having a look at the ‘maximal’ sound. Maximal techno in itself is not as strictly defined as minimal techno but more of a blanket term encompassing a variety of sub-genres as well as the music produced as techno emerged as a genre itself.

Rythim is Rythim – Strings of Life – Transmat – 1987

Derrick May (a.k.a Rythim is Rythim) was one of the original ‘Belleville Three’, the founding fathers of techno itself and this is him throwing out one the first techno records to garner widespread acclaim outside of Detroit on one of the biggest techno labels that came pre-1990. And it’s oh so funky.

Inner City ft. Kevin Saunderson – Big Fun – 10 Records – 1988

Not only is this tune absolutely mint, but it comes of the compilation album ‘Techno! The new Dance Sound of Detroit’ which was one of the first techno albums to be released in the UK on a UK based label. The album really paved the way for techno in the UK by introducing UK and European based crowds to the techno sound coming out of Detroit.

Underground Resistance – Jupiter Jazz – NovaMute – 1993                

By 1993 a lot had changed (see below) and this track comes of off another compilation album that was put together by some of the heads from both Berlin and Detroit. The aim being to recognise the contribution that both cities had made to the genre of techno, as oppose to arguing over its origins. The resulting compilation leaves us with a bunch of top draw tracks that are all well worth checking out, this jazzy influenced number being one of my favorites.

As I mentioned, if we jump forward a few years it’s easy to see that a lot took place in the early 90’s. For one, the institution that is Tresor opened its doors in 1991, and Berlin began to establish itself as the techno capital of the world. The pure techno scene in the UK has started to wane as interest in Jungle and Rave took over and in the US producers such as Robert Hood and Daniel Bell began to distance themselves from this harder, ravier sound and started working towards what would become ‘minimal techno’.

The key thing to note here is that an interest in ‘pure’ techno began to dissolve as a plethora of sub-genres began to emerge. The most prevalent of these would be ‘minimal’ techno that would, from the mid-nineties, establish itself as the main form of techno and would hold on to this position for over ten years. For the sake of this article we’re going to jump from 1993 right forward to 2006 but if you’d like to know more of what went on in those years and more about the organic relationship between ‘minimal’ and ‘maximal’ techno then check out the final discussion article of this feature towards the end of the month.

 Silent Servant – Murder Murder – Sandwell District – 2006

In all fairness 2006 was probably at the back end of peak minimal and just before people started to get frustrated (bored) with it but this track, and Sandwell District’s entire catalogue really, proves a couple of things. One, there are always people successfully exploring a different sound to whatever is dominating the scene. More importantly though, based on the huge success that Sandwell District had from about 2005 – 2010, people were really ready for something other than minimal.

Len Faki – BX3 – Ostgut Ton – 2009

Berlin is essentially the world’s epicentre for techno and as such it should come as no surprise that one of the city’s largest labels would be spearheading the movement away from minimal and towards a sound that better engaged people. By 2009 the likes of Ben Klock, Nick Hoppner and Levon Vincent had all truly eschewed the minimal sound in favour of something different. Tracks like this one from Len Faki were finally starting to reach wider audiences as producers were given more creative freedom to explore heavier sounds.

Gary Beck – Fereneze – Soma Records – 2010

Meanwhile the UK was being stormed by a dubstep takeover that was leaving most genres by the wayside, this of course did not stop certain producers and record labels from throwing out darker tracks with menacing basslines that would keep dingy basements chugging away into the early hours of the morning. Soma Records and Glasgow city in particular have long since made it their business to produce some of the finest techno of this type.

MP1A3 – Acid Badger – R&S Records – 2012

Then along came Truss (a.k.a MP1A3) and the whole industrial sound really started to find its feet, and most importantly, it wasn’t strictly confined to Germany. This track may have been dropped on a Belgian label but a host of producers across the UK and Europe had embraced a distorted, diesel fuelled sound that would send throngs of warehouse ravers into fits as and when they dropped.

Rodhad – Thoughtcrime – Dystopian Records – 2013

Back in Germany and Rodhad, a former resident at the Berghain is dropping eerie, post-apocalyptic infused techno on his own Dystopian Records label. Of course by this point dubstep is a thing of the past in the UK and people have gotten over their fear of minimal techno, producers like Robert Hood are just as in vogue as the likes of Marcel Dettmann and Rodhad –think ‘Never Grow Old’.

Surgeon – Fixed action pattern – Token Records – 2014

This is no longer about eschewing minimal in favour of something else, it’s no longer about producers being free to explore heavier sounds, its simply one of the game’s finest doing what he does best and throwing out some dutty, angry techno for anyone and everyone who fancies it.

Hamraj Gulamali

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