Mark Ernestus, founder of record shop Hard Wax, was also instrumental in bringing the Detroit sound to the German capital. The shop was and still is one of the most respected outlets for techno in Europe, if not the world. As Basic Channel, Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald pioneered the dub techno sound. Cuts like “Phylyps Trak” and “Quadrant Dub II”, along with their exploits as Maurizio, including “M04A”, “M06A,” and “Domina,” rank amongst some of the most influential and enduring techno to come from Germany.
The duo also launched offshoot labels, including Chain Reaction and Main Street, which released seminal records from artists like Vladislav Delay (“Huone”), Porter Ricks (‘Port Gentil”), and Monolake (“Cyan”) — the latter a project of Robert Henke, who went on to create Ableton.
By 1990, European techno had started to formalise and step into adolescence, while in America, a second wave of Detroit producers was hitting their stride. These included names like Kenny Larkin, Stacey Pullen, the late Mike Huckaby, Moodymann, Marcellus Pittman, Omar S, Brett Dancer, Scott Grooves, K-Hand, Claude Young, Daniel Bell and Carl Craig.
Before branching out on his own, Craig played drum machine and synthesisers in Derrick May’s live band. But his idiosyncratic approach to techno immediately set him apart, and he quickly became a respected member of the global techno fraternity, signing early tracks like “Crack Down” and “Elements” to May’s Transmat label. Later, Craig became synonymous with the jazzy, cerebral side of techno with cuts like “At Les”, “Sandstorms” and drum & bass instigator “Bug In The Bass Bin” under the Innerzone Orchestra alias. He also set up Planet E Communications, a label that he used to express himself freely while supporting friends and newcomers to the electronic music world.
Across the water in Windsor, Canada, Richie Hawtin was beginning to find his feet as a DJ and producer. Among his early releases was the showstopping 1991 collaboration with Joey Beltram and Mundo Musique as Final Exposure entitled “Vortex.” With fellow Canadian John Acquaviva he launched Plus 8 Records and began to carve out his own niche, splicing acid, harder edged techno and minimalist experimentations with his propensity for technical wizardry.
Originally using the pseudonyms States of Mind (with Aquaviva) and F.U.S.E., Hawtin really hit his stride with the Plastikman alias, which he conceived in 1993. His first release, “Spastik,” was an instant smash, becoming and remaining a ubiquitous peak-time club weapon. Other cuts that cemented Hawtin’s place among the greats include “Call It What You Want!,” “Minus / Orange 2,” ‘Technarchy,” “Bang the Box” (as Jack Master) and “F.U.” as F.U.S.E..
In 1998 he launched the M_nus label, which marked another step forward as an artist and label owner; curating a core family of artists around the label and expanding his exploration of the minimal sound. 2001’s DE9 | Closer To The Edit was a thrilling showcase of Hawtin’s technical skills, blending various components of existing tracks into entirely new ones, in a “first-of-its-kind” commercial DJ mix. Hawtin’s innovative outlook also extends into his performances, which have incorporated a wide range of technological developments over the past 20 years, his almost obsessive fascination with technology resulting in a setup that is light years of most other electronic music artists.
All of the aforementioned artists plus Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Hawtin and Mathew Jonson and many others became part of the transatlantic exchange between the US, Canada and Europe, as their music flowed across the Atlantic Ocean to European shores and beyond. Eventually, they all spent time living in Europe too, where techno flourished much more than it did on home soil.
Techno had strongholds in other parts of North America, with brothers Frankie Bones and Adam X near-singlehandedly launching the early ‘90s New York City rave scene, while Josh Wink in Philadelphia helped triangulate the nascent yet growing East Coast rave community. With trax-influenced tunes like 1992’s “Percolator,” Chicago’s Cajmere (and his Green Velvet alias) was central to the story; plus the Relief and Dance Mania crew, who formed strong bonds with Miss Djax in Holland. And DJ Rush emigrated from his native Chicago to Berlin, where he established himself a potent force, pumping parties full of energy with his entertaining persona and high-octane selections.
It was around the beginning of the nineties when the music began to split into various styles. Holland witnessed the extremes of gabber; London had jungle; France found French Touch, and people formed distinct tribes around trance, house, techno, hardcore and more.
Holland’s Speedy J signed his first release to Richie Hawtin’s seminal Plus 8, while Orlando Voorn landed on Lower East Side Recordings with ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’ under his Frequency Moniker. 1991 saw the arrival of Hithouse Records, launched by the late Peter Slaghuis. The label was one of a few early Dutch labels that released homegrown house and techno. Bunker Records also launched in the early nineties, introducing the pioneering outfit Unit Moebius (Menno van Os, Guy Tavares, and Jan Duivenvoorden). Groundbreaking Dutch label Eevo Lute Muzique, founded by Wladimir M. and Stefan Robbers (AKA Florence/Terrace) arrived in 1991 and Clone Records was launched by Serge in 1992. Three years later Serge opened his first record store, and Clone entered the annals of Dutch electronic music history, becoming one of the country’s best-known and most influential brands. The ‘90s also gave birth to Rush Hour, which was opened in 1997 and has been at the heart of Amsterdam’s electronic music scene ever since.
Artists including 2000 and One, Major Malfunctions, Steve Rachmad and Terrace appeared on the scene, pushing the music forward, while clubs such as Nighttown, Parkzicht, Mazzo and Roxy offered Dutch customers a glimpse into the future via the new techno sound.