This list is a compilation of albums that have been influential in pushing niche electronic music to our current state of sonic possibilities.
We consider our list more extended in scope to other lists on electronic music because we cite music outside of pure electronica, such as hip-hop and original funk cuts. Hip-hop needs to be included in any album list because it is a form of sample-based electronic music production that has helped revolutionise the way dance music is done.
The list is not perfect, because it’s limited to only a hundred picks. We can accept any critisism, and we have made the executive decision to not rank the albums. We have presented this list subjectively from an Australian point of view too. You’ll see some of your favourite Australian artists, and also you’ll see artists you might have never have heard of.
Feel free to make comments, and tell us why you agree/disagree with a choice we might have made. Tell us your favourite picks and why. We hope this is a nice journey for you.
Kristian Hatton xx
ps. Soon we’ll add youtube clips and links for album purchase to this list.
Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (EMI/Harvest – 1970)
Pink Floyd’s fifth album was their first number one in the UK. But why it’s really of note here in influence to electronic music was that it was mixed and recorded specifically for quadraphonic (four-channel) sound. The progressive rock journey on the first six-part 23 minute track has sampled and recreated electronic sounds that garner the thought of many modern producers for how old – yet how new – they are.
Kool & The Gang – Wild And Peaceful (De-Lite – 1973)
This was New Jersey funk band Kool and the Gang’s first noted commercial success. It makes this list because this album is still frequently sampled in modern house and hip-hop music, and the original sounds were foundational (amongst many others) influences for 70s disco. This album certainly helped the infusion of swag, soul, bounce and attitude during the pioneering of electronica.
Tangerine Dreams – Phaedra (Virgin Records – 1974)
Berlin’s pioneering of electronic music is complicated and it’s pretty hard to give it the justice it deserves in such a broad spectrum as this. However, it’s fair to say that German electronic band Tangerine Dreams and their album Phaedra’s use of Moog sequencers was a first in garnering widespread attention from the public. The analog sounds were carefully crafted, yet imperfections in equipment allowed a cerebral soundscape to be crafted with poise and touched by humanity.
Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (Kling Klang – 1976)
Arguably modern electro’s finest and most influential album. Some may argue that Kraftwerk’s 1974 album Autobahn was their most defining release, but Trans-Europe Express revealed electronic music to the public in a way no other electronic music album up to this point did. It couldn’t be mistaken for anything except electronic music. It was confident and minimal in a way that could be defined as actual pop.
Lee Scratch Perry and the Upsetters – Super Ape (Mango – 1976)
Dub music magician Lee Perry’s finest work, and its trickle-down effect encompasses all UK bass and dub-based music. An unavoidable addition to this list, and pure Upsetter mastery of the rawest variety. It’s amazing that someone of Lee Perry’s caliber can be so unrecognised for the amount of work he’s contributed to not just electronica, but indeed all music. This album personifies his work.
Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Disques/Polydor – 1976)
Arps, Korgs, Moogs and Jarre all contributed to the 70s pool of Musique Concrète with the warm and biological Oxygène. The synthesis of electronic music contrasted Kraftwerk through classical elements, atmosphere and ambiance. It gave a broader public the complex emotion of humanity in space through use of electronica to convey this. Perhaps no other music outside of electronica is capable of this.
Brian Eno: Ambient 1 – Music For Airports (Polydor – 1978)
This defined the 70s period as being a time in electronic music for tasteful listening, and one of music being akin to installations you might check out at an art gallery. The aesthetic helped give true definition to the word ambient as free of all melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures to present a soundscape devoid of personality. The influential creation of this space is masterful and one many try to imitate today.
Tom-Tom Club – Tom Tom Club (Sire/Warner Bros – 1981)
An early 80s gem of sunny rhythms, art-school intellectualism and street spunk. An album frequently raided for samples and a slice of New York history when hip-hop, dub and indie music were growing together. The project included Chris Frantz of Talking Heads and the vocals of Tina Weymouth. Talking Heads may have been a bigger band, but Tom-Tom Club were arguably more influential for club beats.
Vangelis – Blade Runner OST (EMI/Atlantic – 1982)
A continuity and mastering of Jarre’s humans-in-space theme, except this time given actual image and motion in the sci-fi classic Blade Runner. This was composer Vangelis’ first merging of film soundtracks and electronica, aside from Chariots of Fire. Blade Runner was more influential as it showed the ever-present parallel between humans and spaces, which influences most electronic music producers.
George Clinton – Computer Games (Capitol – 1982)
It could be argued that Parliament’s interaction with electronic music was one of the first that really infused funk and swag into it. It’s undeniable that this interaction influenced other American producers’ interest into the possibilities of more dancefloor and club-friendly electronica. The sounds of this album are discernible in G-funk, future beats and juke, just to name-drop a couple of modern genres.
ESG – Come Away With ESG (99 Records – 1983)
South Bronx’s ESG brought the ghetto funk and this album was a hit with early 80s club DJs with its focus on central dance beat and cool vocals. The drums and bass are infectious as hell. Maybe this hasn’t got your attention yet. You might not have heard of this band, but their sounds and this album has been sampled by such biggies as DJ Shadow, Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys and NWA. Oh really?
Soulsonic Force – Planet Rock: The Album (Tommy Boy – 1986)
This album was most important for the electro movement with classics ‘Planet Rock’, ‘Looking for the Perfect Beat’ and ‘Renegades of Funk’. Among the large team of producers working on it were Perfect Sky, Ennio Morricone and Kraftwerk, as well as Arthur Baker, KeithLeBlanc and of course the larger-than-life Afrika Bambaataa, who assisted in bringing Americanised and bombastic club energy into global dance beats.
James Brown – In The Jungle Groove (Polydor Records – 1986)
Why this album in particular out of Jame Brown’s massive discography of funk-driven albums? Two words – ‘Funky Drummer’, the most sampled song in hip-hop history. You’ll find James Brown samples all over electronic music. The drum breaks are unmistakable and stand alone as real club and dance talk. It also gives a good overview of funk/soul’s biggest hype man and his band members up to that point.
Pet Shop Boys – Please (Parlophone – 1986)
Yes, the Pet Shop Boys. No really, these guys have done it all. This classic album marked a massive debut for where eclectic singles ranged from disco hits to gay anthems to slit-your-wrists pathos to Euro-trash to posh experimental intrigue to Italian house all gave something for someone. Don’t be scared of giving credit where it’s due. Chicago house DJ Abe Duque also co-produces for PSB on occasion.
New Order – Substance 1987 (Factory – 1987)
If one album could be tracked as a bridge between rock/punk and dance/electronic, that album would be Substance. ‘Blue Monday’ led the way for a dancefloor revolution in the UK, along with other dance singles ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, ‘State of the Nation’ and ‘True Faith’. Honourable mention goes to Joy Division, the trio’s former band with Ian Curtis (RIP), also important this logical transition.
Depeche Mode – Music For The Masses (Mute Records – 1987)
British band Depeche Mode have a trickle-down legacy primarily taken up by an American audience. The album is aptly titled – although encased in irony for its dark and nihilistic undertones – as it was embraced by a mass audience, although also loved by fans of alternative/underground sounds too. Big synths, big drums and much eeriness present a disturbing dystopian soundscape still influential today.
Enya – Orinoco Flow (Reprise/WEA – 1988)
No, we’re not trolling. We recognise Enya’s contribution to electronic music in the field of New Age music, and was also inspirational in how it was derived from geography and nature. You know you’re getting older when you appreciate new age songs. Feel the serenity. Enya’s ‘Boadecea’ has been sampled by The Fugees in ‘Ready Or Not’, so she got mad street cred.
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (Capitol Records – 1989)
A less successful album that is considered the Beastie’s most credible by today’s standards. The production by The Dust Brothers on Paul’s Boutique is complex with heaps of insider’s references that just keep on giving to modern beat geeks. The masterful sampling ranges from Johnny Cash to Chuck D, and the way in which the tracks are executed is humourous, witty, funky and precise along a range of tempos without need for over-the-top electronic embellishment.
Coldcut – What’s That Noise? (Tommy Boy – 1989)
UK’s first real sample-based production team have some credits to their names. You might not know this, but they mixed the pop version of Eric B and Rakim’s ‘Paid in Full’, as well as Yazz and the Plastic Population’s ‘The Only Way is Up’, which hit #1 in the UK charts. This classic breaks album went silver, but the team took preference to the underground and whelped alternative label Ninja Tune.
808 State – Utd. State 90 (Tommy Boy/Warner Bros – 1990)
Acid house busted in on the electronic music scene in sweaty warehouses all over the UK (in particular Manchester, which was going through dance floor revolution inspired by New Order), carrying on from Chicago house sounds from the states. It was an eclectic album, ranging from industrial to percussive to ambient to funky sounds, which in turn inspired the evolution of newer UK bass and techno sounds.
Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet (Def Jam/Columbia – 1990)
One of hip-hop’s most important albums. PE’s production team – The Bomb Squad – created complex rhythms and set precedents for sample clearance, with dozens of sources in every track. The message was politically empowering for African-Americans, spearheaded by the socially conscious lyrics of Chuck D and the hype of Flava Flav. The result is the real deal, uncompromising golden-age hip-hop.
The Orb – Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld (Big Life – 1991)
This psychedelic album took earlier concepts of electronic soundscaping, ambiance and the progressive rock movement into more modern realms of house music. This was an important album that defined lounge and chill sounds for many years with its dub overtones, nature sampling, classical influences, radio/film voice lending and gentle looping house movement that transports the listener to another realm.
The KLF – The White Room (KLF Communications – 1991)
Jimmy Cauty (earlier Orb affiliate) and Bill Drummond intended this release as a soundtrack for a film, funded by their pop song success ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis.’ The film fell through, but the album was still released. It represented a commercial peak for acid house into a sound they dubbed “stadium house.”, which helped evolve rave culture. It’s sample-heavy, vocal-laden and very cheesy but no doubt a classic.
Massive Attack – Blue Lines (Wild Bunch/Virgin – 1991)
A must-have on any influence list. This heralded the sub-genre known as trip hop, logical accumulation of progressive/psychedelic rock, hip-hop, dub and ambient house sensibilities. It pioneered an evolution in sophisticated downtempo sounds, and also comparative to modern rap and dancehall production. It has been remixed and remastered, but is still the same classic and still regarded as the cutting edge.
Jeff Mills – Waveform Transmission Vol.1 (Tresor – 1992)
Jeff Mills is regarded by many as the godfather of modern techno, and this album is an adequate representation of much of his 30+ years worth of work. Detroit’s wizard obliterates the senses with hard-edged techno permutations that bang without remorse. These sounds were revolutionary and formed a sort of techno apocalypse that stands to this day with millions of rabid fans in warehouses across the world.
Dr Dre – The Chronic (Death Row/Interscope – 1992)
This G-funk classic bred one of the sounds that influenced an important geographic location in the global niche electronic music climate. The new sound pioneered by Dre typefaced America’s West Coast as a geographical location for beats, and brought the hip-hop game up a notch. This clean, minimal swag has to be factored into electronic evolution, as it was influential to glitch-hop, trap and future beats too.
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (Apollo – 1992)
Richard D James is one of electronic music’s most important figures, yet his sounds sit on the fringe away from everyone else. He has no-one who could really be dubbed an imitator; a strange thing in niche electronic music culture. Selected Ambient Works 85-92 has been selected in particular because it’s Aphex Twin’s benchmark sound. Its signature permutations have stood strong for 30 years now.
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral (Interscope – 1992)
Trent Reznor’s most accomplished earlier work that managed to creep into the mainstream charts despite its industrial and uncompromising nature. It even managed to pick up a Grammy for best alternative music album, something never before achieved by an industrial electronic outfit. It’s just so ahead of its time and breath-taking in scope, and I doubt anything like this can be accomplished again.
Prodigy – Experience (XL – 1992)
The strength of The Prodigy was in their production; everything else was a gimmick. Let’s face it, the whole punk thing marked their decline from relevance. In this album, producer Liam Howlett lays down signature shuffling ravey breaks, pre-cursor to UK bass music. These scorching beats stood the test of time and didn’t need a guy with a silly haircut yelling gibberish, although that was gateway electronica for many.
Snog – Lies Inc. (ID – 1992)
Snog head and Melbourne’s own David Thrussell is one of Australia’s most prolific producers. His production and film sound credits are impressive to say the least. Snog was a dark industrial outfit that had strong and individually empowering social and anti-capitalist/anti-consumerism messages recreated and punctuated in their music. ‘Corporate Slave’ surprisingly had a lot of commercial success.
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The 36 Chambers (Loud/RCA – 1993)
Hip-hop production continued to evolve with the drop of the lo-fi classic, which stood in direct opposition to the crispy-clean G-funk sounds being laid down on the other side of America. Producer Rza’s sounds spoke dirty urban terrains whilst embedding them with intangible mythology through usage of far eastern music and kung-fu movie sampling. These beats have influenced grimey, off-beat producers to this day, and have also been sampled by artists like The Prodigy in track ‘Breathe’.
Black Dog Productions – Bytes (Warp – 1993)
The third compilation by Warp Records (in the Artificial Intelligence series), and a hallmark for IDM styles with various artists displaying trademark elaborate beat structures and rhythms. It’s influenced much brain-journeying electronic friendliness, and is for those who’d rather wear headphones than hit the smelly dancefloor. Producers on this album include Plaid, Close Up Over and Balil.
Orbital – Orbital 2 (FFRR Records – 1993)
One of the albums that helped establish a modern stamp on atmospheric techno and other spacious electronic releases. Layers upon layers of progressive sounds flow from one track to the next, giving the listener a fully immersive listen that defines how you create an album objectively. The elements are fluid and the permutations have almost quality in placement, creating seeds for future producers to muse over.
Itch-E and Scratch-E – Itch-E Kitch-E Koo (Volition Records – 1994)
Another influential win in Australia for duo Paul Mac and Andy Rantzen. It showed that electronic music in our country – although always influenced by America and Europe – could gain attention from a mainstream audience despite being from the underground. Despite this, they still managed to score one for the underground by thanking “the ecstacy dealers of Sydney” in their ARIA award acceptance speech.
Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman (Junior Boy’s Own – 1994)
They were actually around before as synth-pop band Freur before reincarnating. When Underworld came back, they scorched the earth with this one. Their pop sensibilities dictated an album that showcased current underground UK in an accessible format that was fresh rather than plastic, with massive rave tracks and acceptably cheesy UK pub vocals that unify the people for the dance.
Portishead – Dummy (Go! Beat – 1994)
When you talk about the questionable Bristol scene and trip-hop sounds, you can’t go without mentioning Dummy. The musky and sensual lyrics of Beth Gibbons created a cabaret lounge atmosphere within the sub-genre. They helped serve Geoff Barrow’s insidious and soulful sounds for a broader audience who had never been able to stomach Massive Attack without an injection of pop medicine and vocals.
Tricky – Maxinquaye (Island – 1995)
The continuity of trip-hop led to its logical peak as vocalist Tricky stepped from Massive Attack’s shadow with his production Maxinquaye. This was a popular album that set off hundreds of imitations. The underrated songstress Martina Topley-Bird certainly contributed to the album’s success, and this chaotic hybrid of sounds and combination of vocals created a versatile album that represented the times perfectly.
Leftfield – Leftism (Hard Hands/Columbia – 1995)
Leftfield was another logical progression of hip-hop infused with techno sounds and production techniques. Leftfield pioneered the more house-friendly, progressive and funky side of UK bass music – breakbeat , which created welcome variations in percussion alongside the traditional 4-4 structure of techno. This album escaped any total pop classification (as paradoxically confirmed with the featured vocals of Johnny “Rotten” Lydon) and remained firmly rooted in underground dance culture.
Chemical Brothers – Exit Planet Dust (Junior Boy’s Own – 1995)
Discussion of breakbeat and an accumulation of 90s big beat sounds always leads back to Manchester’s Chemical Brothers. They were originally called the Dust Brothers in homage to the American Paul’s Boutique producers – who threatened to sue them. This debut album continued 4-4 dance music’s focal point on percussion, and is one of the great pop/underground cross-over electronic albums of the 90s.
Goldie – Timeless (Metalheadz – 1995)
Goldie said it himself, Timeless is probably the greatest drum and bass album of all time and is classic. It’s stood the time test and helped initially serve the sub-genre to the public. Its interwoven rhythms and melodies take you back for repeated listens to catch some little thing you might have missed before, and it has a way of telling grimey urban life in crystalline liquid fashion that’s dirty real yet heavenly clean.
Carl Cox – F.A.C.T (React – 1995)
Some puritans may disagree with this selection as the F.A.C.T double album is actually a couple of DJ sets, but it was mixed by the UK’s most influential house DJ at this time and remains arguably his most well-known work – even over his own production. This introduced refined modern sounds from producers like Jeff Mills, DJ Hell and Drax, and also helped in the evolution of progressive house/techno. It still is a classic and beautifully wrought couple of mixes, even by today’s standards.
Hallucinogen – Twisted (Dragonfly Records – 1995)
Simon Posford’s seminal work that took the outdoor electronic music scene by storm. This album marked a transition from the crazy, archaic sounds of Goa trance into the more widely digested psytrance, and still stands head and shoulders above most of its ilk. Twisted brought DIY electronic renegades from all over the shop together, and doof culture became a more global thing under the banner of psychedelic trance.
Moby – Everything Is Wrong (Mute/Elektra – 1995)
He’s a pretty ambitious producer, and this album conveys a dense palette of sounds to the broader audience. It strings together techno and metal aesthetics accessibly not to just newbies but also to those who already liked electronic music, thanks to the deftness of Moby’s production, his guest cast of vocalists and haunting ambient opera-style interludes. Classically done for a major pop work.
Wiseguys – Executive Suite (Wall Of Sound – 1996)
Downtempo jazz joints on the happy hip-hop instrumental tip. This is in the list because of the finesse and popularity of this release, pre-‘Ooh La La’ and ‘Start The Commotion’. It paralleled the “big-beat” hip-hop/breaks hybrid championed by labels and artists like Fatboy Slim and Ninja Tunes at this time, and the 50s movie sampling accompanying the funky and soulful beats made this a lounge classic.
DJ Shadow – Endtroducing (Mo’Wax – 1996)
The grail of all downtempo albums and a definite top ten. If anyone says that sampling is stealing and not really music, this is your response. Hip-hop instrumentalism was completely changed on this one’s drop. Textures, chords and voice sampling all conspire to create a dimensional door into the sacred. It set a precedent that was followed by many other crate diggers and beat makers.
Squarepusher – Hard Normal Daddy (Rephlex – 1996)
Squarepusher is one of the pioneers of IDM, and was given the nod with a debut release of Aphex Twin’s label – Rephlex. It came out when broken beats were only starting to catch on, so it was probably a little much for fans to understand at this time. The intense drum and bass was layered with much guitar and bass instrumentation and its rapid pace, textures and eclecticism will have your head swimming.
Everything But The Girl – Walking Wounded (Atlantic/Virgin – 1997)
EBtG were originally a folk outfit, but Tracey Thorn’s guest vocals on Massive Attack’s Protection in 1995 showed them another direction and home they felt comfortable in. They released this pop treatment of soulful jungle and prototypical garage sounds. It acted as gateway for newer listeners whilst accepted by older electronic fans, although some commented on its sterile nature without variation.
Drexciya – The Quest (Submerge – 1997)
Detroit’s Drexciya were less rated than Jeff Mills, but no less important for that sort of hard-edged techno with a side of deep, subtle funk. This album was a collection of songs from previous EPs like Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller, and represented a fictitious underwater mythical race and narrative as detailed by song titles and liner notes. This was manifested in deep, menacing analog synths and 808 drum patterns.
Daft Punk – Homework (Virgin Records – 1997)
A popular electronic release that relies on production values to spread its sound and message, without need for embellishment or gimmick. With this minimal fusion of techno and house, Daft Punk pioneered the sleek electro-house sound, put France on the electronic music map, and managed to impress both underground and advertising/marketing scum of all descriptions.
Roni Size/Reprazent – New Forms (Talkin’ Loud – 1997)
New Forms was one of the few albums in drum and bass to get broader mass attention around this time without accommodating for a pop audience. There’s no single track within the genre that has the recognition of ‘Brown Paper Bag’. The album didn’t resort to cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and Size’s band Reprazent set an instrumental precedent that gave a live edge to the album and to the genre as a whole.
Bjork – Homogenic (Polydor.K.K – 1997)
Bjork really came into her own as a producer and musician here, assisted by Markus Dravs and Mark Bell. In Homogenic, her aim was to create a simple sound that evoked her native Iceland. The resulting sound was powerful nature in hi-tech and futuristic form, and heralded as one of the greatest albums of the decade. Bjork continues to empower female musicians worldwide and pushes electronic music to new heights.
Plaid – Not For Threes (Warp – 1997)
Ed Handley and Andy Turner were involved in the Black Dog project, and were inspired by a tour with Bjork to start a Plaid album together on the Warp label. The result was Not For Threes, a work of slippery and glitched-out broken beats, quirky aesthetics and delicate melodies, that features a great deal of instrumentation and guest vocals from the likes of Massive Attack’s Nicolette and the aforementioned Bjork.
Amon Tobin – Bricolage (Ninja Tune – 1997)
Before Amon Tobin released under his own name, he released some more archaic breaks-based albums that weren’t that critically acclaimed. With Bricolage, Amon Tobin displayed the production finesse in recreating an old-school jazz equivalent using modern technology, and also blurred the lines between jazz and jungle styles of music. It showed an organic variety of electronica, bordering on the classical.
Air – Moon Safari (Source/Virgin Records – 1998)
It’s questionable whether or not Air are truly a “classical” electronic outfit – in that perhaps their sounds won’t really stand the test of time. However at this particular time, Air’s influence was widespread and their sounds were lauded. Moon Safari was fluffy and easy listening that was among the first to celebrate kitsch/retro styles of electronica within an ambient environment.
Shpongle – Are You Shpongled? (Twisted Records – 1998)
The first downtempo collaboration between Simon Posford (Hallucinogen) and Raja Ram (known as the “godfather of psytrance”) led to this album release. Loosely speaking, Shpongle is a combination of world music, psytrance and the more stock version of chill/ambient electronica. However, this album was far from stock and mastered the art of doof chill. The act eventually translated into a massive live band, touring such outdoor events as Rainbow Serpent Festival.
Nam Shub of Enki – Consciousness Encoder (WMS Records – 1998)
An underrated Australian legend. Nam Shub produces for psychedelic horror circus troupe Monster Zoku Onsomb under his production alias Kiki iLL. His punk approach to bass music was noted by such electronic luminaries as BBC1 broadcaster Mary-Anne Hobbs. This album hallmarked his enigmatic style of industrial noise, with chunky choppy drum programming and gut-turning synth lines for real ravers.
Fatboy Slim – You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (Skint Records – 1998)
Oh man, dorky big-beat club music. You’d always cringe and duck your head when you’d hear this song, but there’s no denying that the Fatboy elevated the stance and appeal of electronic music to the globe. Also for many 90s kids, it was an accessible gateway for them to get into more select beats. It’s a lot harder to write nauseatingly catchy stuff like this, and it was good fun in a cringey way.
Basement Jaxx – Remedy (XL – 1998)
Basement Jaxx are an afterthought when you think of electronic acts that had commercial success in the 90s. Their broad scope travels through house, ragga, pop, latin and northern club music, flexing a flavour for all listeners. Remedy intermeshes future funk, complicated dance rhythms and uplifting house sounds that parallel the likes of The KLF, but upgraded to infuse modern UK garage.
Boards of Canada – Music Has The Right To Children (Warp – 1998)
One of the few albums rated a perfect ten by Pitchfork who judged it as a “predominant inspiration for IDM”, and for good reason. It’s all about the textures with this one, as well as an eloquent handling of all elements to be true food for the brain. I could live off air listening to this over and over for a week. Darkness and light woven in a grand pattern that digs right into your psyche.
Mr Oizo – Analog Worms Attack (F Communications – 1999)
This French producer one-upped Daft Punk, focusing more on the underground dirty house game over disco sensibilities, and taking the electro game to twisted and sophisticated heights. Lead single ‘Flat Beat’ led the way for mid-range fart-noise in house synths and rocked clubs around the world. While not mind-blowing as an album, it was important in pioneering hip-hop sensibilities in electronica.
Handsome Boys Modelling School – So…How’s Your Girl? (Tommy Boy Records – 1999)
Collaborating producers Prince Paul (of De La Soul and Gravediggaz) and Dan The Automator (of Deltron 3030, Gorillaz and Dr Octagon) killed it on this eclectic smorgasboard of rap treats. This collaboration of many of the most creative producers and MCs in the game was the finest of champagne alternative hip-hop, and forged the way for other forward-thinking producers to step outside the box.
Missy Elliot – Da Real World (Elektra – 1999)
Missy Elliot and Timbaland were true innovators who pioneered crunk – part of the futuristic “dirty south” sound morphing to trap – and put hip-hop squarely in a new millennium. They also managed to garner a large following, partly through their extravagant and creative film clips. Broken, minimal beats with a fresh approach and a dancefloor-friendly approach to hip-hop re-established the B-boy/girl movement.
The Avalanches – Since I Left You (Modular – 2000)
This was the debut release of one of Australia’s most popular live electronic exports, and contains over 900 samples. It’s quite a feat that the album got released. To be fair, the samples were re-contextualised that gave The Avalanches an individual style that was brave, fun and dynamic. Their hyperactive collaging of sounds received live backing through their own instrumentation and live show.
Autechre – Confield (Warp – 2001)
We had to mention one of their albums. Autechre is a notoriously difficult listen destined for music nerds collections, but undeniably influential to modern aesthetics for being truly unique production. Confield – like all the pair’s work – needs multiple listens in order to synthesize it properly. To broadly define this album in layman’s terms, it orders chaotic sounds into repetition, and is warmer and more fun than earlier releases.
Venetian Snares – Songs About My Cats (Planet Mu – 2001)
Aaron Funk’s first solo album helped carve out a core for IDM drill and bass sounds, with the kind of rapid-fire panned onslaught of beats we’ve come to expect not only from Venetian Snares, but many others who use Funk’s unique style of aesthetics to compliment their own vision of electronica. It pulls no punches with its chopped cerebral salad, which can be a bit harsh and intimidating for your average listener.
Techno Animal – Brotherhood of the Bomb (Matador Records – 2001)
Released on 11 September, 2011 and featuring alternative rappers Antipop Consortium, El-P and Dalek. Dirty, heavy industrial beats, and feedback that smashes your brain apart, and the uncompromising havoc will send shivers up your spine. It represented a brave marriage between noise, dub and hip-hop, creating a signature sound which led to collabs with digital hardcore outfit Atari Teenage Riot.
Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner (XL – 2003)
Dylan Kwabena Mills was only 18 when this debut album was released. This is the album that brought grime to the mainstream. The raw and bombastic beats – produced in part by Dizzee – smash discordant synth noises and blend chunky 8-bit noise, gabba and bass to match the ghetto climate of rugged East London. Boy In Da Corner was embraced by both electronic aficionados and the broader audience.
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (BNE/Yoyo Records – 2003)
Quite a few purists would disagree with me, but this really is the most influential Infected album. One side is their vintage goa-style psytrance, whilst the other is a braver and more experimental. Vocalist Duvdev emerged in this album; a major transistion for Infected – which didn’t gel for many fans. There’s no disputing that ‘I Wish’ is a classic anthem of the big psytrance dancefloor, especially Skazi’s remix of the track.
Ricardo Villalobos – Alcachofa (Playhouse – 2003)
This debut album carves out a murky and enigmatic niche, doing things only the way Villalobos can do them – minimally with a great deal of quirk. His focus on smaller sounds is evident, and plays on the idea that ambiance can still rock. The use of space allows for the art of listening to take over, and the modular development of his sounds create a synergy with silence that is truly magical and unique.
Prefuse 73 – One Word Extinguisher (Warp – 2003)
The real concept of “glitch-hop” started around this point, except it was a majorly different thing from the rushed production of what glitch-hop eventually turned into as a shelf. Prefuse 73 was grounded with real hip-hop, instruments, jazz samples and lyrics complimented with use of glitch and fizz elements – rather than overusing midrange sweeping bass and fart noises like pretenders of glitch-hop did later on.
Soundmurderer and SK-1 – Rewind Records (Rewind Records – 2003)
The Amen Break has had a hundred kinds of shit thrashed out of it, but this is probably the biggest trouncing it’s ever had (although we recognise Amen Andrews – one of Luke Vibert’s alter-egos – as being up there too). SK-1 is also one of the most amazing ragga MCs you’ve heard, and turns this chop-chop-chop fest into a live and ridiculously exciting adventure that is a must-have for any self-respecting junglist.
EdiT – Crying Over Pros For No Reason (Planet Mu – 2004)
EdiT was Prefuse 73 on steroids without vocals. It progressed the idea of the “glitch-hop” genre a step further with frequent embellishments and complete digital glitch-outs. The result was something akin to cutting in turntablism; an entirely original and influential notion at the time. This release is also grounded in hip-hop soulful chill and feels, which act to contrast and compliment the ultra-electronic element.
Diplo – Florida (Big Dada – 2004)
Diplo’s influence spreads to electronic crunk, trap and smaller genres like New Orleans bounce. This album is one of his earlier works and is a gentler journey into trip-hop aesthetics that showcase his breeding ground and finesse into the big-beat lord he is now with Major Lazer. Florida is more soulful and shows a side of Diplo that perhaps many purists would have loved to have heard a continuation of.
MIA – Arular (XL/Interscope – 2005)
Of course MIA has to be mentioned after Diplo on a time-scale. Before, in fact. The album was supposed to be released in 2004, but half of Maya Arulpragasam’s lyrics went to Diplo’s mixtape Piracy Funds Backlash. MIA kept 100% integrity with a pop cross-over, because she done what she set out to do with her foundational production – creating fusion between Baile funk, dancehall and grime aesthetics with her active patois vocals.
Sensient – Pressure Optimal (Zenon Records – 2005)
It’s safe to say Australia “found” the sound pioneered by head of Zenon Records – Sensient aka Tim Larner. Any sound akin to his synthesis of dark and funky progressive techno with minimal components has been described as “Zenonesque.” Whether or not you agree, new aesthetics for outdoor parties were fully realised, and Pressure Optimal represented a new Australian evolution and preference of techno over psytrance.
Matmos – The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast (Matador Records – 2006)
Musique Concrete – the art of recording raw sounds for sampling – has evolved from Faust, to Matmos’ artistic homage to a collage of the 20th century’s most enigmatic and creative figures. It’s one of electronic music’s few examples of listeners interest of how it was made over how it sounds. To be honest, it wouldn’t attract as much attention if the tracks weren’t sampled utilising items like a cow’s reproductive tract.
Trentemoller – The Last Resort (Pokerflat – 2006)
This album encapsulated the prominent electro-house sound getting around in popular circuits at this time. The Last Resort turned this aesthetic into a richer and more organic soundscape, coupled with the minimal techno poly-rhythmic structures populating the underground European scene. While Trentemoller didn’t really stand the test of time, his scope for this album stands as classic.
The Knife – Silent Shout (Rabid Records – 2006)
The Knife were to the mid 2000s as were what Portishead was to the 90s – in terms of electronic music coupled with vocals. The third album of Swedish brother-sister team of Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson sets off the otherworldly and eccentric mood of the twisted synth-pop sounds, which create a soundscape that is dissonant and compelling in even strokes for the listener.
Released three days before Dilla’s death. He produced 29 of the 31 songs on the album on his death-bed at hospital on a Boss SP-303 sampler. A deeply personal statement, a classic hip-hop instrumental and a deeply meaningful album for modern beats producers all over the globe. Donuts upgraded soul music and sounds with sampling finesse that helped bring hip-hop instrumentalism into a new decade.
Skream – Skream! (Tempa – 2006)
This is probably dubstep’s most important album in the era where UK club FWD>> was in its supremacy, and groups of niche producers began having amazing revelations about the possibilities of bass music. ‘Midnight Request Line’. That is all. Unfortunately Rusko barged in with the more generic-sounding “brostep” and – along with Skrillex – proceeded to demolish all the subtle elements of dubstep.
Ellen Allien and Apparat – Orchestra of Bubbles (Bpitch Control – 2006)
Both of these cats needed to be highlighted in this list, and what better way to do it than recognising this fusion between the directors of Shitkatapult (Apparat, with partner T. Rauschmiere) and Bpitch Control (Ellen Allien). This show of compositional elegance took electro out of the 4-4 club variety so popular in the mid noughties, and gave a picture of possibilities in the marriage between succinct analog techno sounds and off-pace grainy breaks. Eclectic, nimble magic.
Kode 9 always kept to his vision of bass music throughout the rise in popularity of dubstep. His label Hyperdub continued to push UK bass into the future and bring out exciting new artists, such as with his introduction of Space Ape, an engaging and poetic MC. Kode 9’s eerie and abstract production was partnered with Space Ape’s lyrics to create a true “artist’s album” in the realm of bass music.
Burial – Untrue (Hyperdub – 2007)
Another artist that Hyperdub brought to prominence was Burial. This album was undeniably one of the biggest breakers in the 21st century beats game through its depth and subtlety rather than through brute force. Untrue made it almost cliché to use skittering organic percussion and disembodied, androgynous vox. It’s one of a kind and any imitation of the formula inevitably leads back to Burial comparisons.
Carl Craig – Sessions (!K7 – 2008)
Pitchfork noted in review of this album that Carl Craig is hard to talk about, because he is more about reform rather than revolution. His tracks are solid, and the main thing you get off this particular album is that it’s just a real solid house album. However, there can be no understatement when you talk about solid dancefloor music. The simple ideas and motions are often the best when it comes to waggling your booty.
Flying Lotus – Los Angeles (Warp Records – 2008)
FL’s sophomore album is regarded as his most fully-formed work as a whole, and also the most influential. The next logical step for future beats after Prefuse 73, Los Angeles seeded the idea of ambient noise textures and static interacting with off-time organic clattering and other hypnotic rhythms. The most charming thing about this spreading sound is how loose and odd it is, it doesn’t need to be clean to be tight.
The Bug – London Zoo (Ninja Tune – 2008)
Top gunning dancehall and heavy digital grime of the highest and most classic order. This album is regarded as a classic in traditional UK bass music circles. ‘Skeng’ (feat. Flowdan) and ‘Poison Dart’ (feat. Warrior Queen) are dubstep’s two most rewound songs ever. ‘The Bug’ producer Kevin Martin’s other projects include Techno Animal, Pressure, King Midas Sound, Black Chow and Curse of the Golden Vampire.
Zomby – Where Were U in 92 (Werk Discs – 2008)
Sometimes in a man’s life, we all have to face some hard facts. Zomby is known notoriously as a toe-stepper in public electronic circles. It’s hard to for some to recognise and admit he was ahead of everyone else seven years ago. Now remixing hard rave days is all in trend, and Zomby’s all like, “where were you in 2008?” The idea of producing jungle throwback with new eyes was genius then.
Opiuo – Slurp and Giggle (Addictech – 2010)
New Zealand’s #1 glitch-hop export has cemented so-said genre all over the globe. Australian ex-psytrance artists all over the country try to emulate his style, but none come close to his particular brand of sound of massive slabs of funk set off with powerful synth wobs. Opiuo helped transform the Aussie doof and festival soundscape to beats digestable for an audience no longer interested in psytrance.
Skrillex – Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (Big Beat/Mau5trap – 2010)
Never has an album raised more hackles in subversion of a genre into a less subtle and more commercially viable form. It was from this album that dubstep took off worldwide, and niche bass music producers were screaming for blood. However, the influence on electronic music is undeniable and melted mass floors everywhere. Who are we to say what music is going to change the world?
Bonobo – Black Sands (Ninja Tune – 2010)
Described as “middle-brow”, Black Sands is an artist album that appeases both hipsters and more mainstream listeners. Bonobo breaks out of background music mode to give others a shot to hear what this multi-instrumentalist has to offer. ‘Eyesdown’ and other tracks shows more a sense of deft accomplishment than previous outings, with the scope of a director seeing music as a movie.
Rudi Zygadlo – Great Western Laymen (Planet Mu – 2010)
The Glaswegian native’s sweeping mid-range bass and glitchy, melodic laz0rs compliment an industrialised pop-synth approach to dubstep. What completes this picture are Rudi’s own haunting, whimsical vocals floating ghostly. A beautiful album many discounted because of over-saturation of electro-infused dubstep at this time, but we feel it has stood the test of time and is classic.
VA – Bangs and Works Vol.1 (Planet Mu – 2010)
The first compilation that clued in tourists to the land of Chicago footwork, as placed by Planet Mu and beat seeker extraordinaire Mike Paradinas. Featured on this compilation are Teklife DJs Rashad, Spinn and Nate, as well as RP Boo and Traxman. It’s 808s on crack with soul, hip-hop and reggae sample inflections, done in a trippy and energetic way to complement the dance that the genre is named after.
James Blake – James Blake (Atlas – 2011)
The complete package with a dynamite voice and an insane and woozy production sensibility. This album has been the make-out music for nearly every dubstep fan in existence at one time or another, and also a great background for MD comedown, overly-vulnerable self-hatred bordering on cutting yourself type feelings. This is a true candlelit classic to inappropriately play at a party.
Mala – Mala in Cuba (Brownswood – 2012)
An ambitious piece by one half of Digital Mystikz – Mala. Geographic location and culture, and its impact on the craft of a producer make this of particular note for UK niche bass music. Although it has been reviewed by some publications as falling short of translating the mastery of Cuban musicians into electronica, it sets a benchmark and does an admirable job in translating the atmosphere.
Distal – Civilisation (Tectonic – 2012)
Atlanta’s Distal does something I can’t get my finger on. He evades genre but helps create a new fusion of UK-style bass that is eerie and minimal that carries a similar pressure to dubstep. It contains elements of acid house and southern state “trappy” sounds that generally went under the radar. However, we think that it was more important on a sonic level as an album than previously credited for.
LiL JaBBA – Scales (Local Action – 2013)
Australian-born Alexander Shaw previously represented the Teklife fam at the time of this release, and presents an offering with Scales that went right under the radar. However, we feel that this album is so ahead of its time to be something called post-footwork. It helps when listening to this to think of Adventure Time, and hopefully does the trick of transporting you to other realms.
Jon Hopkins – Immunity (Domino – 2013)
This album updates the techno album artist formula to the n-th degree by being an engaging work, flowing from killer dancefloor tracks like ‘Open Eye Signal’ from ambient transistional tracks like ‘Sun Harmonics’. The warm synthesis of Immunity is moving forward into the 21st century and blurring lines between organic and mechanic, making electronica more relatable for human beings.
DJ Koze – Amygdala (Pampa Records – 2013)
German Stefan Kozalla aka Koze first produced hip-hop beats as one half of Fischmob in the 90s, and this influence shows in the eclectic Amygdala. The true power of this album is shown in Koze’s minimal and melancholy signature beats, laced with guest vocals and instrumentation. His warm whimsy shows a humane side to the serious and cold world of techno, and leads the way for alternatives in these realms.
Darkside – Psychic (Matador records – 2013)
Epic dance music meets inevitable Pink Floyd comparisons with the spacious and lazy/tight Psychic, a collaboration between electronic composer and vocalist Nicholas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington. Superbly crafted, this album takes the listener into realms that could have been sculpted by prog-rock space travellers in the 70s, mastered to contemporary sonic perfection.
Lodsb – Helicon 1 (Retort Records – 2014)
Lodsb actively works to deconstruct pre-existing forms whilst flexing his insanely crisp modular sound to create a world where form continuously glitches to create new forms. Released on Australian label Retort Records, Helicon 1 is perhaps Lodsb’s most digestible work travelling on a 4-4 format to make soundscapes that are challenging but rewarding, yielding new possibilities by melting the old.
Written by Kristian Hatton – If you have any suggestions for the lists, comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – please share if you enjoyed this list!