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A History of Techno
June 29, 2008 10:36 AM   Subscribe

The 25 Greatest Electronic Albums of the 20th Century. From the instrument that was created by Leon Theremin, to the Moog Guitar that's been named after the legendary Bob Moog (the inventor of the Moog Synthesizer), Electronic music has come a long way since its early days. YouTube [a, b, (extreme caution advised: graphic images of death, destruction and 9/11 c), d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y] (Previously mentioned here, here, here, here, here and here)
posted by hadjiboy (84 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
They put Kraftwerk in the top spot, so they got at least one right. Massive Attack above Aphex Twin? In terms of influence... I guess, but artistry? This list would pretty closely match my own, but the order seems a little random. I'm not sure how I feel about DJ Shadow's inclusion... if that qualifies, why not The Avalanches?
posted by phrontist at 10:48 AM on June 29, 2008


What's up with those Aphex Twin videos that are just clips of shit blowing up (see link "c" and linked from youtube page)? Are those "official" in any way or just a weird youtube trend? Some of those songs are way older than the clip material, like Alberto Balsalm.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:51 AM on June 29, 2008


bleep blip blourp blurp
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:53 AM on June 29, 2008


What, no Goldie?
posted by swift at 10:54 AM on June 29, 2008


Are those "official" in any way or just a weird youtube trend?

Home made videos. Weird YouTube trend.

Real Aphex Twin videos are quite awesome.
posted by nitsuj at 10:55 AM on June 29, 2008


(nsfw audio on the last link, sorry)
posted by nitsuj at 10:55 AM on June 29, 2008


The list is more like the best albums from electronic artists with some level of mainstream popularity. They don't really dip into any niche genres but hover around the artists that glanced the billboard. That being said, it's not a bad list. I would have put The KLF higher and Massive Attack lower. In fact, most of the trip hop would be lower. And I would only honour Orbital with one album while giving Kraftwerk or Aphex Twin two.
posted by ageispolis at 11:01 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would've liked to have seen Basic Channel make the list, but hey...
posted by basicchannel at 11:04 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a pretty boring, inoffensive list. A good deal of this stuff, especially Chemical Brothers, already doesn't hold up well a decade later.
posted by naju at 11:07 AM on June 29, 2008


What, no Trentemøller?
I keed, I keed, and probably confuse genres
posted by dawson at 11:12 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Where the hell is Manuel Göttsching's E2-E4 or Inventions for Electric Guitar?
posted by porn in the woods at 11:12 AM on June 29, 2008


No Wendy Carlos? Not to mention Jean Michel Jarre and Tomita?
posted by doctor_negative at 11:14 AM on June 29, 2008


Interesting that the list is stuffed to the gunnels with trip-hop, but there's no hip-hop or electro.

Overall, it's more like the 25 Greatest Electronic Albums Of The 20th Century That Made It Into The Top Twenty While This Thirty-something List Compiler Who Isn't Really That Into Electronic Music Was Still Young And Had Just Got A Coffee Table On Which To Ostentatiously Display His Compact Discs.
posted by jack_mo at 11:22 AM on June 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


This is a pretty boring, inoffensive list.

Actually, I find it pretty offensive and whitewashed.
posted by mkb at 11:23 AM on June 29, 2008


Chemical Brothers doesn't hold up well? Eh? I defy you to go to a Chemical Bros gig in Europe (esp at a festival) and not end up dancing your ass off with a stupid sh*t-eating grin.

Feh to your elitism! :) Feh!
posted by LondonYank at 11:24 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The list is far, far too focused on UK acts from the nineties. In fact, the clue that this magazine has no idea about electronic music is actually right there in the first sentence:

Five years ago, Electronica was poised to save us from the grungy din of a dying Alternative and an increasingly formulaic Hip-Hop.

Notice that they used the "E" word, which renders all of their opinions moot. Second their understanding of electronic music seem to be culled from poring over back issues of Spin magazine. Thirdly, this article is from 2002 - why is it posted to Metafilter?
posted by dydecker at 11:25 AM on June 29, 2008


No Infected Mushroom? Fail.
posted by spiderskull at 11:26 AM on June 29, 2008


I wouldn't call it "best" or even an album, but I have to say the soundtrack to the first Wipeout game, credited to Cold Storage, is, to me, pretty significant. It, in combination with the game (and The Designers Republic's graphic style) sold me, and I think many others, on the PS1. It holds up pretty well, and I still find myself listening to it from time to time. It makes my thumbs twitch.

Recent interview with Cold Storage/Tim Wright.
posted by schoolgirl report at 11:29 AM on June 29, 2008


I know 'your favorite band sucks' is going to be common, but I just have to say:

Byork is useless. She's pretentious, her music is derivative, and most of all, she cribbed her vocal style from Ari Upp of the Slits, who did it fifteen years earlier and a whole lot better.
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 AM on June 29, 2008


Yeah, most of the shit on there is like WTF... I'm glad autechre at least got an "honorable mention" but really now. And Squarepusher, sure, got an honorable mention, too...

Where's Venetian Snares? I suppose 2002 was a ways back, and some of the albums I'm thinking of weren't released then, but still. I concur Wendy Carlos should be on there. Get rid of Massive Attack. I'm surprised he didn't have Fatboy Slim (or did I just miss that one?) or even Paul Oakenfold... Here's another vote for Infected Mushroom and basic channel :)

And while DJ Shadow's kinda dropped the ball lately, Endtroducing is a classic. Avalanches are good, but... I dunno...

This list is epic fail.
posted by symbioid at 11:38 AM on June 29, 2008


The fact that the list omits Wendy Carlos (Switched-On Bach remains, to my knowledge, the best selling classical music album of all time), Larry Fast/Synergy, Tomita, Vangelis and the many other important electronic music artists of the early part of e.m. history, shows that the author is a total moron.
posted by dbiedny at 11:41 AM on June 29, 2008


No X but Y!

Slant Magazine asked 300 music journalists, DJs and record label-folk to tell us what they thought were the most important electronic albums of the 20th Century.

So you can't really expect anything esoteric
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:48 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The list is far, far too focused on UK acts from the nineties.

Possibly, but that's not too bad a focus.

I was all about ripping any list they could throw up to shreds, but yeah, that's not super bad. Certainly better than most of the "this list is wrong because..." suggetsions.
posted by Artw at 11:48 AM on June 29, 2008


Slant Magazine asked 300 music journalists, DJs and record label-folk to tell us what they thought were the most important electronic albums of the 20th Century.

So you can't really expect anything esoteric


It's probably going to introduce a certain bias towards things you'd actually want to listen to.
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Link c reminds me of Koyanasqatsi. Appropriate given the Philip Glass influence I guess.
posted by Artw at 11:54 AM on June 29, 2008


Oh and... what no Pendulum!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:58 AM on June 29, 2008


I've listened to about a third of these in the last month, so I can't complain.

Of course I have some quibbles, but a couple of these really made me say "Yay!". 76:14 & Leftism. Yay!
posted by aubilenon at 12:01 PM on June 29, 2008


The Orb, Brian Eno, ok, ok...

...wait, LEFTFIELD? That miserable failure of hybrid-pop, something so anemic, predictable and flat that the first time I heard it played people got up and left the room before someone eventually removed the CD and silently smashed it to bits with nary a complaint from anyone? That Leftfield?

And Moby? That tailcoat riding little sycophant? The same Moby that is known for stripping naked at gigs and posing like a crucified Christ while standing on his keyboard, all backlit and godlike while a fucking MIDI or DAT track takes over for him? Fuck Moby. All that guy has is a big fat mouth backed by an overinflated sense of his importance and regard in the electronic music scene, and the ability to copy shit, badly, for immediate commercial resale. Fuck Moby with an electrified, contact-mic'ed chainsaw.

ARGH. SO ANGRY AT DUMB LIST. NEED BOOM BOOM. MUST GO CLEANSE EARS WITH STRONG MUSIC. GIVE ME TERRORFAKT AND MANU DE MALIN AAARRGHHH *speakers explode*
posted by loquacious at 12:05 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've always liked Slant Magazine, but I think they have better grasp of pop than any other genre (their Vital Pop list has some interesting choices.) That's probably because they're much more unabashed about their pop music coverage than other sites.

Can't really comment on this list, though. Don't know too much about electronic music.
posted by Weebot at 12:06 PM on June 29, 2008


not_on_display: Hey, Daddy, I want a n Oompa Loompa Moog Guitar. I want you to get me a n Oompa Loompa Moog Guitar right away.
Mr. display: All right, Veruca, all right. I'll get you one before the day is out.
not_on_display: I want a n Oompa Loompa Moog Guitar now!
Violet Beauregarde: Can it, you nit!
posted by not_on_display at 12:07 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The list is too broad to be of any use, really. I'd rather see a list that focused on the early pioneers who influenced the breakout of ambient, techno, d&b, trance, etc.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 12:09 PM on June 29, 2008


Wtf? Art of Noise not #1??? Bah, I sniff at yon list.
posted by Zangal at 12:12 PM on June 29, 2008


Soft Cell
Yello
Sparks
Devo
Pet Shop Boys
Brian Eno
Richie Hawtins
and freakin' VANGELIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!![pi]

EPIC FAIL
posted by humannaire at 12:16 PM on June 29, 2008


this may be YFBS Syndrome, but no Amon Tobin = bad list
posted by spiderwire at 12:21 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would have for sure put Vangelis' Albedo 0.39 on that list. That album is straight up freaky-deaky in places.

Oh, and pretty much the entire Ralph Records lineup: Snakefinger, Tuxedo Moon, Residents, MX_80, Artbears, Fred Frith, Yello...
posted by sourwookie at 12:22 PM on June 29, 2008


Wtf? Art of Noise not #1??? Bah, I sniff at yon list.
posted by Zangal at 12:12 PM on June 29 [+] [!]


More like Closer to the Discredit, amirite?

Also, I think it's worth pointing out that this is a list of full-length albums in a culture where singles/EPs were/are at least as important as their LP brethren.
posted by basicchannel at 12:22 PM on June 29, 2008


Also, I think it's worth pointing out that this is a list of full-length albums in a culture where singles/EPs were/are at least as important as their LP brethren.

That's a very sharp point to make.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 12:30 PM on June 29, 2008


Not a bad list, but they skipped the early 80's completely- I guess they were avoiding anything poppy.

also where is Eno's "Another Green World"- undeniably the best electronic album ever.
posted by bhnyc at 12:33 PM on June 29, 2008


No Wendy Carlos?
Carlos/Switched on Bach made #8 on the 2nd link.
posted by MtDewd at 12:43 PM on June 29, 2008


One album I wish was on the list is DJ Spooky's Rhythm Science. Not only does it do a pretty good job of surveying the history of electronic music, it's a great sampled album in of itself.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 12:52 PM on June 29, 2008


Thanks for the post, good download fodder.

swift: Yes. Rather short on the "classic" drum & bass albums in general, I'd say. Also I'd mention Logical Progression and Newforms.

Also these two albums by μ-Ziq.
posted by DLWM at 12:55 PM on June 29, 2008


That being said, it's not a bad list.

No, it's a really really bad list. No Koenig. No Stockuahsen. No Subotnick. No Can. No Tangerine Dream. No Klaus Shutlze. No Neu. Not even Gary Numan or Rick Wakeman. Say what you will about the last two. They popularized it and that list is pretty much only about more recent popular music. On the topic, either are more important than anybody on that list other than Kraftwerk.
posted by 3.2.3 at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, where's Suicide or Depeche Mode?
posted by beaucoupkevin at 1:08 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


this list would be more aptly titled "albums most important to music journalists that used the word 'electronica'" - it is kind of useful as a historical document of albums that were considered classics during that mid-90's period when the US and English press were under the impression that DJ Shadow and Tricky were going to save music - and kind of frightening as evidence of the fact that many music journalists seem to still be living in that period.
posted by huffa at 1:08 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would have included Wendy when she was Walter, and I would have placed this one damned near the top.

And just out of curiosity, is Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells not here because it's not considered electronic or because I'm the only one around who really likes it a hell of a lot more than most of the stuff on this list?
posted by Mike D at 1:12 PM on June 29, 2008


That being said, it's not a bad list.

I like most of the music on that list, but it's an usually shitty list if your goal is to make a list of significant electronic music. The author pretty obviously doesn't know that "electronic music" means something besides ambient, dance music, or New Wave pop. Just to add a few more names to 3.2.3's list, there's no Cage, no Clara Rockmore, no Louis and Bebe Barron, no Ligeti, no Varèse.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:26 PM on June 29, 2008


unusually
posted by octobersurprise at 1:27 PM on June 29, 2008


No Carl Craig?
posted by yertledaturtle at 1:29 PM on June 29, 2008


[Bjork's] music is derivative, and most of all, she cribbed her vocal style from Ari Upp of the Slits

I don't regard "derivative" as too strong a criticism in popular music. Nearly every popular musician--maybe nearly every musician full stop--is derivative of some earlier figure. Anyway, each to his own, I like Bjork's voice and her persona entertains me. I like her early poppier stuff best and I'm still fond of her jazzier vocals on Gling Glo.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:36 PM on June 29, 2008


Overall this list leaves me with a meh feeling. I don't think these albums are bad--I've owned most of them at one time or another--but meh in the sense that, like much classic rock, I really never need to hear them again and when I do, they're so close to me that I can't really tell if I'm appreciating their artistry or if I'm high on nostalgia.

For the record, my favorite electronic album is Bobby Birdman's Born Free Forever.
posted by dobbs at 1:44 PM on June 29, 2008


...no Louis and Bebe Barron...
Thank you! The Forbidden Planet soundtrack is a big fave.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:50 PM on June 29, 2008


Also missing, I just realized: Perrey and Kingsley.

And, personally? Robert Rich or or Tetsuo Inoue. LEFTFIELD!? AAAAAAAAAAAAAA GOD YOU'RE KILLING ME.
posted by loquacious at 1:51 PM on June 29, 2008


why do people make top 10-20-25-50-100 lists? no, really: why? it's pretty much a guaranteed way of inviting everyone & their moms to come over & tell you why your favorite band sucks

why does everything have to be "the best" or "the greatest"? why not just "25 electronic albums you should check out"?

of course, the main problem with this whole idea of "25 greatest" is that electronic music embraces multitudes - to choose just 25 is an insult to the wondrously huge & diverse field of creativity that it has become

and hooray for that - all the more for us to feast & groove on!
posted by jammy at 1:52 PM on June 29, 2008


I really liked the historical background. I listen to sparring amounts of purely electronic music. I'm not overly fond of the style on it's own; but mixed in with other genres it's absolutely beautiful. The Project Hate does an excellent job of mixing heavily down-tuned death metal with electronic elements (among other things). Very nice combination to these ears.

Best of lists are a losing gambit by design; I didn't bother with them, but I liked the whole breakdown of the Detroit scene. Good post, even if I'm not a huge fan of the subject matter. Well done.
posted by Dark Messiah at 2:32 PM on June 29, 2008


It has been said elsewhere, but egads, that Moog guitar looks like quite the piece of shit. Could they make it any uglier? And how in the world is it worth anything close to seven thousand dollars?

And, I mean, come on: A Moog guitar? Really? Why not a Frigidaire motorcycle?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:45 PM on June 29, 2008


Boy that second link is pretty weird. Revolver? Duran Duran? What genre are we talking about where the best 100 includes Tangerine Dream and De La Soul?

But really I came in here to say: William Orbit, Strange Cargoes. What the hell is wrong with all of you people that you missed this?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:47 PM on June 29, 2008


It's got Bjork, of course, but Homogenic is also pretty much MarK Bells best albulm.
posted by Artw at 2:58 PM on June 29, 2008


why do people make top 10-20-25-50-100 lists?

As linkbait and to prompt No-X-but-Y? conversations, obviously.
posted by Artw at 2:59 PM on June 29, 2008


Okay, the top 200 is acceptable. It's the Top 25 list that cause the soul to wince.
posted by humannaire at 3:07 PM on June 29, 2008


Some day I'm going to make a gigantic "No X... but Y???" thread with every list possible. It will get 100 favourites and well over a thousand comments about how awful the lists are.
posted by Artw at 3:10 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuck Moby Terrorfakt. All that guy has is a big fat mouth backed by an overinflated sense of his importance and regard in the electronic music scene, and the ability to copy shit, badly, for immediate commercial resale.

Fixed that for you.
posted by starscream at 3:11 PM on June 29, 2008


William Orbit, Strange Cargoes

Hey, Madonna, Ray Of Light gets a mention.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on June 29, 2008


Only 6 of those top 25 are from outside the UK. Maybe acceptable for 1987-1991 electronic music, but badly lopsided for the entire history. Also too much weight on trip-hop/crossover acts.. Oh well, I was expecting worse.
posted by p3t3 at 5:03 PM on June 29, 2008


New Order too low (Below the Chemical Brothers who openly admit to worshipping them?), and also "Substance" has too many bad 12" remixes. It's also not really an album. "Technique" is far better as a Album in the classic sense of the word. Still, goodo on the concept.
posted by grapefruitzzz at 6:05 PM on June 29, 2008


No Delia Derbyshire? WTF?
posted by geekhorde at 6:14 PM on June 29, 2008


I guess if you wanted to go out & buy yourself 25 generally decent & listenable electronic albums, this list wouldn't be so bad as an introduction to the genre.

However, if it's supposed to represent the most 'important' albums, I'd expect less of the late 90s & much more of the 70s & early 80s, and more of the European acts who really kicked things off, not the big British dance groups who capitalised on the groundbreakers.

Notable absentees who really really should be in a list of "most important" alongside Kraftwerk would include Suicide, Neu!, Jean-Michel Jarre, probably also the Residents & Yello. I'd throw in Can as well, although I don't think they truly count as electronica, no matter how heavily they influence the development of the genre.

It's a bit of a shame, too, that the list is heavily weighted towards the poppy, dancy end of the spectrum, and low on the ambient stuff put out by the likes of Harold Budd, Brian Eno or one of my contemporary favourites, Susumu Yokota.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:15 PM on June 29, 2008


(And I know Delia wasn't really known for albums per se)

Also, no Steve Roach. Which is stupid.
posted by geekhorde at 6:15 PM on June 29, 2008


1974 - a sprinkling of clouds - gong
posted by pyramid termite at 6:36 PM on June 29, 2008


WHAT NO TERRY RILEY??? C'mON!

Yeah, I think it's clear that this is a flawed list with a very narrow "mid-late 90's" perspective.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:56 PM on June 29, 2008


This is a list of the top 25 greatest electronic albums, and they include Leftfield and not Autechre or Coil or Squarepusher? Who cares about this list?
posted by xmutex at 8:55 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Greatest? Electronic? Meh.

I think this list would be better titled: 25 most influential albums of the music press's 1990s fabricated term "Electronica".

Music made from electronic technology is as various as the works of Stockhausen to Afrika Bambaataa. To title a list GREATEST ELECTRONIC MUSIC OF THE 20TH CENTURY and then to only include works made in the last 25 years and within a couple of narrow (mostly poppy) sub-genres, is pretty ridiculous.

Anyway, there is a good bit of really great music on that list.
posted by wigglin at 11:08 PM on June 29, 2008


Any list of punk classics that doesn't include Buddy Holly sucks!
posted by Artw at 11:11 PM on June 29, 2008


Artw:

No.

But a list of The Greastest Rock N Roll Albums of the 20th century that doesn't include Buddy Holly might, arguably, suck.
posted by wigglin at 11:47 PM on June 29, 2008


Nez Order too low indeed (i rate Power Corruption and Lies as #2). And no Joy Division? Surely Closer should be there if Portishead is there?
posted by MrMerlot at 2:20 AM on June 30, 2008


thread summary:

I have the time and energy to snark on this (admitedly shite) list of 25 'electronic' artists, but not to produce a similar list myself.

Are we talking most influential? Highest selling? Most groundbreaking and yet under-appreciated? Most/least danceable? Including/excluding chiptunes/computer game music?

It doesn't take someone with a Phd in beepology to tell that this list is flawed. Also, Vince Clarke.
posted by asok at 3:35 AM on June 30, 2008


I have the time and energy to snark on this (admitedly shite) list of 25 'electronic' artists, but not to produce a similar list myself.

well, fuck. when i have a paid job as a music journalist, maybe i'll spend an hour or two putting together a list like this, but until then, what's my incentive? being thrown to the snarks?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:41 AM on June 30, 2008


[Bjork's] music is derivative, and most of all, she cribbed her vocal style from Ari Upp of the Slits

Holy crap are you ever right.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:22 AM on June 30, 2008


The list is ok. That 808 State and Global Communication (Tom Middleton & Mark Pritchard) make the list means that all is right with the world.
posted by gen at 7:12 AM on June 30, 2008


The list should expand to include any piece of music recorded after these became obsolete.
posted by not_on_display at 12:35 PM on June 30, 2008


This list is about 23rd on my "100 Worst Best-Of Lists" List.
posted by Foosnark at 3:29 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously? No Future Sound of London?

No ISDN?

That album changed my life, and still does, every time I listen to it. FAIL.

FSOL is the barometer of everything I consider genius in the electronic music industry, and their Amorphous Androgynous albums were wicked, too.

The Isness not withstanding, that is... I consider that their failed attempt at recreating Sgt. Pepper for the new millennium.

I'm still impressed that The Black Dog is on the full list, though. Fucking brilliant. Also, nice to see Cybotron on there as well, since Juan Atkins was a direct influence on 808 State.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:37 AM on July 1, 2008


Ha! I LOVE The Isness. It is pure quality (also sounds a lot more influenced by Pink Floyd than The Beatles to this ear...)
posted by bifter at 4:37 AM on July 2, 2008


Hadjiboy - I love it. Great post.
posted by mosessis at 4:41 PM on July 2, 2008


Bifter, you are totally right about it being more Pink Floyd than Sgt. Pepper... I was trying to think of an eclectic 70's concept album and Sgt. Pepper was the first thing that came to mind!

Still, it's a radical departure from their other music. I say that having recently purchased The Peppermint Tree... I can't hate them, they are brilliant, always. I just wanted more "My Kingdom" style music...
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:49 AM on July 3, 2008


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