From Ruth White to Aphex Twin: our guide to the best electronic music
Tape tinkerers, Moog botherers, oddball visionaries, dancefloor heroes...
So, for the purposes of this here guide, what counts as electronic music? The early innovators such as Delia Derbyshire and Morton Subotnik? Naturally. Forward-thinking 1970s groups like Kraftwerk? Of course. What about what happened in the 90s - when everything was blown open into sub genres like techno, house, acid, trance, jungle, rave, chill-out, and IDM? Please someone, send help.
No, we don't have unlimited time. So what we'll try to do here is give you an overview of the primary movers and shakers in the electronic music field - from Stockhausen’s early experiments right through to some of today’s most innovative artists. We’ll take a look at the formation of the genre, how synths rose to prominence and popularity, and how the template laid out by the early innovators came to be used by scores of artists to create everything from club-friendly, hedonistic dance music to the sort of laid-back sounds best enjoyed at home with headphones, cocooned from the world.
It’s a minefield for sure - but we’ll do our best. And we're even working on a separate ‘techno’ section to round up those guys to stick to the 4/4 beat.
KarlHeinz Stockhausen was one of the most important and controversial visionaries of modern day music.
His compositions encompassed a wide range of styles and a bewildering array of instruments and equipment, but his main work in the electronic genre began in the early 1950s with the two volumes of Electronic Studies, which formed the first published score of electronic music. Dispensing with all acoustic sound sources and using only the pre tones of a frequency generator, Electronic Studies was presented on 19th October 1954 and was the first time the public had heard a purely electronic piece based on sine tones. It was to become one of the most important milestones in the development of electronic music.
Later he produced the noted Gesang der Jünglinge by combining electronic textures with vocals by a 12 year old boy. In 1964 he produced Mixtur, combining compositions for orchestra with live electronics. And after that, Microphonie - using microphones not only as the recording mechanism but also the source of the music. Taken together, these works formed a tryptych of live-electronic works that had lasting impact on electronic music composition.
But Stockhausen also experimented outside electronic music and his work influenced classical, opera and jazz composers as well as the fledgling pop and rock composers like Pink Floyd and the Beatles. His influence is particularly notable in the latter’s 'A Day in the Life' and 'Revolution 9' and his face appeared on the iconic cover to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Founding members of both Can and Kraftwerk studied with Stockhausen at the Cologne Course for New Music. Yet despite his influence recordings of his work are extremely hard to come by, and most exist only on bootleg and other unofficial sources.
Morton Subotnik is best known for his debut album Silver Apples of the Moon, released in 1967. It was notable for being the first electronic piece commissioned by a record company, and is said to be the first electronic music released on the album format.
It comprised a two-part title track made using early analogue synthesizers that Subotnik himself helped to develop. Like Wendy Carlos, Subotnik used electronic tones to create melodic music based somewhat on classical music but that eschewed the avant garde approach of earlier composers like Stockhausen, whose ideas were more purely experimental. The album sold incredibly well, and brought Subotnik some celebrity by way of catching the attention of rock bands like Grateful Dead.
Subotnik continued to work within the electronic field, writing for symphony and chamber orchestra and multimedia productions. He lectured at the California Institute of the Arts, and developed apps to allow children to create music. But in electronic music circles he is still best known for Silver Apples of the Moon, influencing so many of the artists that came after him - none more than the innovative electronic duo the Silver Apples who named themselves after the album.
Delia Derbyshire was one of the initially unknown musicians behind the BBC Radiophonic Workshop collective, and most famously provided the arrangement of the futuristic theme tune for Doctor Who. The piece was originally written by composer Ron Grainer, but Derbyshire’s arrangement was so distinctive that Grainer pushed for a co-writer credit for her. Yet, because the BBC at the time liked to keep the Workshop anonymous, no-one knew exactly who was behind the theme they’d hear whistling from their TVs each week.
Which is just one of the reasons why it took a while before Derbyshire’s cut-and-splice techniques and tape experiments were noted by electronic music aficionados. But the spooky music she produced was light years ahead of its time, and the Doctor Who theme is now recognised as a classic piece of early electronic music. And whilst Derbyshire never quite repeated that standout success, throughout the 60s she worked on various electronic projects both inside and outside the Radiophonic Workshop. These included Unit Delta Plus, a collective playing and promoting electronic music who, most notably, assisted David Vorhaus on the first White Noise album - a groundbreaking piece of future electronica that was highly influential on groups like Broadcast.
Between 1968 and her retirement from music in 1975 Derbyshire worked on several soundtrack projects including the theme from Work is a Four Letter Word and a sadly unreleased score for the Yoko Ono short film Wrapping Event. It was not until after her death in 2001 that her work was properly rediscovered and it became clear how influential she had been in the birth of electronic music. Since then there have been various retrospectives, and an archive of her work is now kept at Manchester University's John Rylands library.
An explosion of new electronic music seemed to happen in the period between 1967 and 1970, with groundbreaking releases from the likes of Morton Subotnik and Wendy Carlos. And right there at the centre of it all was Ruth White, who released three groundbreaking albums in the period - most notably perhaps her 1969 album Flowers of Evil.
White had previously studied music and composition at Carnegie Tech Philadelphia, and by 1964 she had built her own studio and become intrigued by the possibilities of electronic music. White had already created the music for a choreography performance entitled 7 Trumps From the Tarot Card and Pinions when she started work on Flowers of Evil. The album was based on a book of poetry by Charles Baudelaire, with White providing electroacoustic accompaniment to readings of Baudelaire’s words. The result was an occult-ish blend of strange electronic backdrops, drones and tape collages. The album was a significant milestone in the development of electronic music, and though it only received limited exposure at the time on the Limelight Records imprint it was incredibly highly sought after for years before finally being re-pressed in 2013.
Emerging in the early 90s, Richard D James very quickly became one of the most revered and inspirational names in electronic music, trading mainly under his Aphex Twin moniker but also known as AFX, Polygon Window and a host of other pseudonyms.
He claims his isolation growing up in rural Cornwall initially led to him making the sort of music that he wanted to hear, as he was unable to access it by other means. But then Richard D James claims a lot of things, to the point where it's almost impossible to separate fact from fiction when it comes to discussing his work. His first releases (probably) were the acid-influenced Analogue Bubblebath series. Around the same time, alongside Grant Wilson-Claridge, he set up the label Rephlex purely for the purpose of releasing Aphex Twin and other records inspired by the acid genre. But it's his first full length, Selected Ambient Works 85–92, that really caught attention. A classic of its time, it expanded ambient music way past the blueprint of Brian Eno and the other earlier minimal composers.
It also marked a career-long attempt to subvert genres. James playfully dabbled in all kinds of electronic sub-genres, often using different names to blur the truth. His most commercial success came in 1997 with the Come to Daddy and Windlowlicker singles which, accompanied by groundbreaking videos from Chris Cunningham, saw Aphex Twin break out of the electronic underground and into the singles charts. Since then his career has continued in its maverick vein, with James often spending years out of the spotlight before sudden bursts of random creativity - such as dumping over 200 tracks onto Soundcloud and deleting them...but not before they were quickly shared with fans.
Boards Of Canada
Scottish duo Boards of Canada have become one of the most lauded and loved electronic acts in recent years - especially here at Norman Towers.
Their sound is an organic and melodic form of downbeat, dreamlike electronica made using vintage synthesisers and old school analogue equipment. Their music is hazy and nostalgic, almost psychedelic, almost shamanistic, utilising samples from 70s television shows and nature documentaries. Their analog tape machines loop, distort and decay their music, giving it a faded, sun-dappled feel - as if it has been left out in the elements for too long.
Their first two albums, Music Has the Right to Children and Geodaddi, are both now seen as classics whilst later records such as The Campfire Headphase and Tomorrow’s Harvest dabbled in other territories. The former showcased a more acoustic ‘chill out’ sound, whilst the latter brought John Carpenter and Fabio Frizzi-style horror-influenced synth tones to the fore.
The band remain a guarded and insular entity, rarely giving interviews and almost never playing live. Their solitude has only increased the mystery around the group, and whilst they have influenced scores of like-minded travellers who have replicated their sound nothing quite has the distinct graininess and dreaminess of the original.
Emerging out of Rochdale in 1987, Autechre are a long-running electronic act whose music initially had roots in techno and electro. Over the course of their lengthy career, however, they have increasingly become known for more experimental works and in recent years have experimented in 'computer propelled' music, using both software and hardware to create sounds that can be made without direct human input.
Their first few records (some early recordings were released under the name Legofeet on the legendary Skam imprint) were less percussive and more melodic affairs, the last of which (the self titled album known as LP5) saw them begin to blend their original, warmer sound template with the complicated machine-like beats and intricate arrangements they’d become known for.
From 2001's Conefield onwards Autechre albums became more experimental and complicated affairs as the band worked with synthesis and algorithms. They remain hugely prolific, and in 2018 announced the release of music from a residency at online radio station NTS which has been described as Autechre’s most challenging but also most rewarding work.
The Black Dog
Founded in 1989, The Black Dog were just as important to the early 90s electronic movement as the likes of Autechre, LFO and Aphex Twin. After several self-released records, they signed to the legendary Sheffield imprint Warp and became early proponents of its influential, techno-based sound. They were initially a three piece, but founding members Andy Turner and Ed Handley went off to form equally influential electronic act Plaid leaving Ken Downie to continue alone, before he too hooked up with Martin Dust and Richard Dust in 2001.
Though early records were notable for their ‘post rave’ sound, drawing on minimalism, breakbeat and Detroit techno to give listeners a more sombre ‘home listening’ experience than they might expect at the clubs, the Dust brothers helped propel the band into even more adventurous sonic territories. This was particularly notable on their 2010 album Music For Real Airports which was a contemporary response to Brian Eno’s 1978 ambient work Music For Airports. Whilst their early work is justly revered they are still going strong, and in 2018 they released two albums - the forlorn and gloomy Black Daisy Wheel and the percussive and driven Post Truth.
B12 are a British electronic duo founded around the same time as the early 90s explosion of electronic travellers centred on the Warp label.
With a sound clearly in love with Detroit techno pioneers such as Juan Atkins and Derrick May like a lot of their contemporaries they initially recorded under a series of pseudonyms including Musicology, Redcell and Cmetric. But they became known for their label B12 records and the mysterious limited edition 12”s they would release.
A lot of these tracks were collected on their debut full length release Electro-Soma, on Warp’s Artificial Intelligence series. After further releases on Warp and B12 records, the duo disappeared from sight in 1998, only re-emerging almost a decade later with the Slope EP and Last Days of Silence - both on B12. There was a further gap of eight years before six further EPs which were collected together again on Warp records for a second Electro-Soma compilation. Their mysterious approach to record making and huge unexplained gaps in output have led them to become a highly collectible concern amongst fans of electronic music. Alongside Aphex Twin and The Black Dog they were pioneers of IDM and techno and the re-issues of Electro-Soma and the subsequent Electro-Soma II are both essential listening for fans of the golden era electronica that sprawled out of the Warp stable.
In 2018 B12 are once again active again, now solo piloted by Steven Rutter who also runs the FireScope label.
How to sum up the career of electronic maverick Squarepusher in just a few sentences?
Tom Jenkinson’s music has veered across a multitude of genres in his twenty-plus year career, dabbling in jungle, free jazz, electronic rock, acid, breakbeat and even famously writing music to be played by robots. His early work emerged from the jazz-inspired jungle and breakbeat scene of the early 90s. Already an incredible jazz funk bassist, Jenkinson married his complex bass runs to Aphex Twin inspired beats on debut full length Feed Me Weird Things - its opening track 'Squarepusher Theme' a devastating salvo of jazzy guitar chords and madcap beats which defined his early work.
The album in fact was a compilation (selected by Richard D James no less) from over 50 Squarepusher tracks given to James on a hard drive, but it wasn’t long before his first album proper Hard Normal Daddy started to shift his sound away from jazz and into a more squelchy acid feel. This sound was perfected on follow up Big Loada, influenced by 8 bit computer sounds, and in 'Journey to Reedham' had one of Squarepusher’s best loved tracks.
From then on, each Squarepusher album had a different influence or concept behind it. Jenkinson dabbled with tape editing on Music is a Rotten One Note; the gamelan on Budakhan Mindphone; synthetic processing on Go Plastic. In 2010 his Shobaleader One project saw him perform with a band and sing for the first time, whilst even more radically in 2013 he made Music For Robots - a collaborative project performed by three robots. His restless creativity knows no bounds and his wild, haphazard and original music has influenced scores of subsequent electronic artists.
Starting out as part of the early 1970s kraut-rock scene alongside the likes of Can and Neu!, Kraftwerk quickly embraced electronic instruments such as synthesizers and vocodors and as a result became hugely influential on all manner of artists and musical styles from synth pop to electro to hip-hop and even punk.
Following their early kraut-rock explorations, their breakthrough record was Autobahn with its now-famous 22 minute title track showcasing their clipped electronic minimal sound. The fact that an edited version hit number 11 in the UK charts was the first indication that their music could be both innovative and commercially viable. There then followed what was seen as the four classic Kraftwerk albums. The first, the obtuse Radio-Activity, was perhaps a transitional record before they honed their economic melodic electronic style on Trans-Europe Express (1977) and The Man Machine (1978) - the latter containing future classics 'The Model' and 'Neon Lights'.
Kraftwerk then pretty much sat back and watched the entire world absorb and modify their unique sounds, from the minimalism of punk to the nascent synth-pop scene, in particular bands like The Human League, OMD and Depeche Mode. They also had a huge impact in Detroit, where their extensive radio play influenced the nascent techno scene.
All this meant that when they returned in 1981 Kraftwerk felt somewhat of their time rather than ahead of it, but Computer World still sounded like music from a distant planet, particularly the gorgeous 'Computer Love' - one of their most beautiful tracks. Only one further album has followed so far - 1986’s disappointing Electric Cafe - but Kraftwerk protect their legacy by continuing to play live shows to this day. They remain a mysterious and unpredictable entity, seemingly reclusive and uncontactable even as they play enormous concerts across the globe.
Future Sound of London
If Radiohead had the early hit single ‘Creep’ to thank for allowing them enough financial security to dabble and experiment then Future Sound of London had ‘Papua New Guinea’. The haunting dance track appeared on their debut album Accelerator and immediately became a popular rave and club tune, reaching number 22 on the singles charts. The success of the track ensured that the band signed a lucrative deal with Virgin, who gave the band free rein to record what they liked.
And so the duo began experimenting with more ambient and spiritual textures, which led to the Tales of Ephidrina album of 1993 released under their Amorphous Androgynous alias. Their 'proper' follow-up Lifeforms utilised their new-found interest in ambient music but also had percussive elements and an exotic, ethnic sound influenced by nature and wildlife. The band described their sound at this time as ‘classical ambient electronic experimental’ and in 1996 they furthered their mix of ambient textures and dance music on 1996’s Dead Cities.
That turned out to be the final new release under the Future Sound of London moniker. From then on, they worked primarily under the Amorphous Androgynous alias including the mindbending psychedelia of The Isness - their most ambitious folly to date using a host of different guests and musicians. Each further Amorphous Androgynous release mined a different strand of psychedelia or progressive rock, and the duo even worked on a doomed collaboration with Noel Gallagher.
Meanwhile, the only Future Sound of London projects were a series of archive releases including the previously unreleased album Environments. They also had an impact in multimedia, with their 1997 Glastonbury performance beamed direct from their London studio via ISDN - truly pioneering, if hugely unpopular at the time.
Pye Corner Audio
He has gained a reputation for making retro sounding electronic music on analogue equipment, bringing to mind in particular the mid-70s work of John Carpenter. His ability to reroute old sounds as futurism saw him sign to the label Ghost Box - a perfect combination of artist and label, lost in search of dusty, attic-dwelling recordings.
Unlike a lot of producers who chase after the sound of British Schools TV shows in the 1970s, Pye Corner Audio manages to make his music sound authentic - as if he’s wheezing out this slow mo techno and electro nostalgia on big old synths one step away from malfunctioning. You'll find none of the cheesiness that abounds elsewhere, and instead a slinky, almost sensual sound that is as in love with clipped electro funk as it is with Boards of Canada-style wooziness.
Archive-sounding music that isn’t actually archive. That’s his game. Hinting at going overground, the love of his music by touring partners Mogwai can be felt in their most latest record Every Country’s Sun and their recent soundtrack work Kin.
Suicide were a bunch of musical primitives who used only synthesizers, drum machines and vocals to create proto-synth, proto-punk sound that made them one of the most important bands of their era.
Their sound was like nothing else around at the time. Combing the electronic buzz of Silver Apples, the rock and roll snarl of Elvis Presley, and a pre-punk DIY attitude their confrontational music and style was a huge influence on the industrial dance, noise, techno, ambient, and electronic scenes that would emerge in the 1980s and 1990s. They would, of course, also influence rock bands such as Jesus & Mary Chain, Joy Division and REM. Even Bruce Springsteen's minimal compositions on his 1982 album Nebraska owe something to Suicide’s blueprint.
Their live shows were often violent affairs as singer Alan Vega wielded bicycle chains and goaded the audience. But their self titled debut was an utter classic, and became the cornerstone of their career. It’s follow up, the bizzarely titled Suicide: Alan Vega and Martin Rev, had a fuller sound produced by The Cars' Rik Ocazek, but it retains the simplistic repetitive approach of their debut and its glassy sound was an influence on UK house. Further albums followed at sporadic intervals, but Suicide made their mark with their debut and never bettered it.
Matmos are an experimental electronic duo originally from San Francisco who are notable for the unusual samples - the sound of cut hair, the squelches of surgical procedures - they use to make their glitch-based sound.
They began in 1997 with their self titled debut, and already they were using unusual sound sources (the nerve activity of a crayfish) to create their blend of jungle, glitch and experimentalism. 2001s A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure, however, is their most successful and most notorius album. Here the duo used samples of medical procedures such as liposuction in an attempt to soundtrack the horrors of the plastic surgery industry.
Each Matmos album has some kind of concept or thought process behind it, right up to their most recent album Ultimate Care II which consists entirely of sounds produced by the Whirlpool Ultimate Care II washing machine. They remain a fascinating, self-contained unit and although it could be argued that their ideas and concepts can sometimes outshine their actual music they are consistently original, truly forward-thinkers in terms of what music can be. They have also collaborated extensively with Bjork, particularly on her albums Vespertine and Medúlla, proving that heavily abstract leanings do not prevent musicians from straddling both the experimental and mainstream worlds.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
One of the most important and influential of the early electronic practitioners wasn’t an artist at all, but instead a faceless sound effects unit of big corporation. The BBC set up its Radiophonic Workshop to provide soundtrack music to their programming of the era. Despite vague attempts to keep the workshop anonymous, several of its composers - including Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, David Cain and John Baker amongst others - have since become known as true innovators in the field.
Initially set up for radio work, the BBC Workshop moved into television in the early 1960s making electronic idents, theme tunes and jingles particularly for the BBC's Schools programmes. They had access to some of the most futuristic equipment in the UK, long before the advent of synthesizers or anything that could be afforded by a wider audience. Probably one of the most well known pieces was Delia Derbyshire’s re-imagining of a Ron Grainer composition which would become the Doctor Who theme tune. Beamed into millions of households every week, this was a crucible moment for electronic music. The theme's presence during the closing credits of the show lent a mysterious, eerie air but the truth was that these were BBC employees feeding everyday sounds through delay and reverb units, or manipulating them simply by slowing down or speeding up the tape. Formative techniques, in other words.
As synthesizers became available in the late 1960s the Workshop changed face, and the old guard left to be replaced by musicians more interested in using those synthesizers over things like tape techniques. The Workshop was still going strong throughout the 1970s, contributing to at least 300 BBC shows a year, but it slowly lost its significance and finally closed in 1998. Its legacy, though, is huge - and the belated recognition of innovators such as Delia Derbyshire entirely deserved.
Most of the music on this list comes from European and US artists, and when we think of electronic innovators we tend to think of Euro-sheen or the skills of early Detroit. So for geographic variety as much as anything, we’ve added in Australia’s Severed Heads - not just to buck that trend but because one listen to their music will tell you that this was a band whose influence on subsequent electronic artists cannot be undervalued.
Their sound was a curious blend of hard-hitting industrial rhythms, skewed synth wobbles and surprising pop melodies, all topped off with vocals more akin to one of the guitar-led Flying Nun bands. They had the disco pulse of the more tuneful end of the Throbbing Gristle catalogue but they were never conventionally synth pop. Their earlier records were characterised by noisy tape loops and industrial clatter, and with their dark and sometimes gruesome subject matter could be compared to the noise/funk experiments of Cabaret Voltaire.
After a series of line up changes, the band started to get some international success and eventually, improbably, dabbled with major labels. In 1988 they released possibly their most successful album in Rotund For Success, with its lead single 'The Greater Reward' giving them dance chart success and sounding not unlike a slightly lop-sided version of New Order. They band were always inspired, playful, innovative and ahead of the game and to some their influence should be put alongside more well known innovators such as Kraftwerk. They also pioneered emerging video technology and computer graphics, and developed ways of releasing music purely on the internet developing innovative products for music distribution.
Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works Vol 1
One of the pivotal moments in electronic music history, Selected Ambient Works Volume 1 is sometimes regarded as the birthplace for modern electronic music. Its title is rather misleading as it’s not really ambient music...you’ll need Volume 2 for that. Instead, this is a smorgasbord - and maybe still the purest example of how Aphex Twin matches melodic invention with skittery beats, with the ever-present influence of acid and techno as an ointment beneath the melody.
Boards Of Canada - Music Has The Right To Children
Though Scottish duo Boards of Canada has already released three EPs by the time they got round to recording their debut full length LP in 1998, it's the album that went on to cement their reputation as purveyors of a particularly worn and nostalgic form of electronica.
They once professed to trying to make their music sound like it had been found weathered in fields and Music Has The Right To Children is the perfect hazy encapsulation of that aesthetic. Its mixture of retro synths, slowed down breakbeats and dialogue from TV shows was hugely influential for many years after the album’s release.
Autechre - LP5
By the time of 1998 Autechre had moved some way beyond the initial acid squelch of debut Amber. Its warm sounds were replaced by a busy and complex form of programming. What LP5 did perfectly is combine the two sounds of Autechre. It's bright and melodic, hugely listenable with an emotional core. Yet it points forward to the more challenging, more percussive work they’d produce later. Now seen as a landmark release, it scored at no 8 in Pitchfork’s list of best ever IDM records.
Kraftwerk - Autobahn
Autobahn was a huge leap for the German band Kraftwerk who had previously peddled a ‘kraut-rock’ sound closer to that of fellow countrymen Neu! And Can. Here, they swerve away from their earlier sound especially on the side long title track - a blueprint for everything they would go on to do with its crisp, tight electronic pop with simple vocal hooks.
Experimental, but catchy enough that an edited version almost became a Top 10 hit in the UK, the B side contained four instrumental electronic pieces showcasing their new sound. But it’s the A side that has passed into legend.
Burial - Untrue
"I'm a lowkey person and I just want to make some tunes," said Burial’s Will Bevan when it was rumoured that his anonymous persona was because he was Richard D James (he wasn’t). His best tunes came on his second album Untrue which took the rave, garage and grime influences from his debut and added further depths of soulful vocals and gorgeous, late-night atmospheres fired by beautiful string samples. To date he hasn’t made another full length album, quite possibly because it’s probably impossible to top this.
The Bug - London Zoo
Kevin Martin had already made groundbreaking music with God (alongside Justin Broadrick, formerly of Napalm Death and later of Godflesh) and as Techno Animal, but The Bug could be considered his landmark project. Influenced by dancehall, noise, grime, and hip hop, he’s pursued a distinct path and in London Zoo reached a high water mark with a series of dub ragga/dancehall nuggets.
Tangerine Dream - Phaedra
This was the fifth album by the German synthesizer lot, but it's notable for several things. First, that it was released on Virgin: way before trying to go to space and messing trains up, Richard Branson was a cheerleader for early kraut and electronic music. Second, the band got a good advance to go out and buy a huge Moog synthesizer. The results are a huge cosmic slab of undulating electronics, layered synth patterns and the first forays into their classic sequencer driven sound. It was popular too, reaching no 15 in the UK album charts despite zero airplay.
Jean Jacques Perrey - Moog Indigo
Moog Indigo was Jean Jacques Perrey’s eighth solo album and extends his early day, sampledelic approach, with all kinds of found sounds being thrown together to form an infectious songsuite of electronic textures. It’s been sampled all over the place (most notably on E.V.A by Gang Starr) but its visionary approach is perhaps best exemplified on the 'Flight of the Bumblebee' made using recordings of real bees...
Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven
Daniel Lopatin has become one of the most admired producers in electronic music in recent years. This 2013 album is certainly part of the reason for his success. Here, he used the synthetic sounds of MIDI instruments and presets, synth patches and VSTs extensively for the first time - piecing together an album that became his most accessible, but still retained the dissonance and outright weirdness of previous releases.
Wendy Carlos - Switched on Bach
Switched On Bach was notable for being the first album to use synthesizers in a melodic, tuneful way rather than in an abstract fashion, as with the earlier experimental techniques used by the likes of Stockhausen. It was a collection of ten classical pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, played by Carlos and Benjamin Folkman on a Moog synthesizer. It went on to sell over a million copies and brought the synthesizer fully into popular music. Carlos went on to become a notable figure in popular music with groundbreaking soundtracks for the likes of A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Tron.
LFO - Frequencies
LFO (Low Frequency Oscillation) were true electronic music innovators. They gained early success on the fledgling Warp label, particularly with the club track 'LFO' which even made mainstream charts. Comprising of Mark Bell and initially Gez Varley, they combined acid-y synth work with rave influenced vocals and thumping drum patterns to form a dancefloor-friendly yet experimental form of bass-heavy techno. Frequencies is their debut album, and is a seminal release which gave a unique twist on techno music. Bell went on to work significantly with Bjork who described her main influences as Stockhausen, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno...and Mark Bell.
Telefon Tel Aviv - Fahrenheit Fair Enough
One of the great albums of the early 90s explosion in artists influenced by both the classic era of Warp Records and the more recent glitch sounds emanating from the likes of Mille Plateaux. It blends rhodes-heavy jazzy electronica with frantic cut ups and gorgeous guitar trills. Its evocative atmospherics, click-and-cut programming and an almost neo-classical approach to melody mark it out as being an album both supremely listenable and with thrilling production techniques.
Fennesz - Endless Summer
Back in 2001 we were all a bit in love with the micro glitch. Glitch music was everywhere, particularly with the releases on the Mille Plateaux album and artists like Oval and Pan Sonic. Austrian composer Christian Fennesz made one of the genre's most coveted albums with Endless Summer which added a particular shimmer to the cut ups. Laptop music had never been so emotional, melodic or inventive.
Arovane - Tides
Arovane is German electronic music artist Uwe Zahn, who has dabbled in several styles over his stop-start career. But his turn-of-the-millenium album Tides is a breathtaking moment. It showcases a melodic, thoughtful form of electronica using guitars and organic keyboards to construct an evocative sound world with only minimal beats and a healthy dose of melancholy. Not completely dissimilar to Boards of Canada in sound and texture, it's a beautiful and timeless record.
Raymond Scott - Soothing Sounds for Baby
Raymond Scott was almost everything at one time or another - bandleader, composer, inventor, scorer for countless Warner Brothers cartoons. He was also an electronic music trailblazer, most notably on this 1964 album. It was initially intended to help soothe children to sleep, but adult listeners found that it predated similar ambient works by the likes of Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream. The three volume set is split into three parts, each soundtracking a particular part of the child’s development - so as the child gets older, the music gets more complex.