Tune diggers from around the world will be able to give you a long list of their favourite tracks from decades gone by. When looking back at defining tracks from the past, it’s not hard to find some absolute classics in the pile.
These songs may have first entered the limelight long ago, but they still resonate with audiophiles in the present day. It’s tracks like these which inspire generation after generation to delve ears first into a back catalogue of music that defined an era.
Timewarp takes a trip back to those golden years of electronic music, looking at the best tracks year on year. For the first ten selections, we take a trip back to 1991 when the rave revolution was in full swing. Each and every dancefloor pearl celebrates its 30 year anniversary this year, but they still bang speakers with the same ferocity as when they were first dropped.
The Prodigy – Charly
Kicking off with a track that kicked off the career of one the most infamous bands in dance music, Charly divided opinions upon first release. The now iconic vocal sample that was taken from a UK government commissioned cartoon, lead to Prodigy be charged with plagiarism (later acquitted) and accused of producing bubblecore (i.e club music for kids). Prodigy’s punk spirit won over the fledgling rave scene however, and the group were written into history as pioneers of hybrid dance music.
Outlander – Vamp
It’s was hard to pick out a R&S record from the bunch as they were killing it around this time. But the first of our two inclusions from the ‘prancing horse’ label is undeniably a dancefloor hammer. Marcus “Outlander” Salon sets the stage with big drums and an acid line, but it’s the addition of the recognisable hook and DIY stabs that make this track stand out as techno-esque heavy hitter.
The Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea
When chronicling the best tracks to come out of the nineties, this track is mentioned time and time again. To that fact, Pitchfork charted the song on their top 200 singles from the 90s, with writer Tom Ewing declaring it “A great example of breakbeat techno’s early, optimistic peak, when simply nailing the right vocal sample– here Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance– put you halfway to something memorable.”
Crystal Waters – Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)
After parties would not be the same without chants of La La Dee La da Da from this sexy select. Crystal Waters‘ smooth and sensual vocals layered over catchy piano house keys conquered the global charts back in ’91. The summer runaway hit eventually went gold with over 500,000 records sold, and has been an inspiration for many remixes and badass bootlegs since.
Ce Ce Peniston – Finally
From one famous songstress to the another, Ce Ce Peniston provides soulful good vibes in this massive house jam. The American singer penned the lyrics to Finally during a school lesson, and despite its humble origins, it has stood the test of time. This beloved vocal mix is a favourite of DJs around the world, some consider this to be one of the perfect closing tracks.
Bizarre Inc – Playing With Knives (Quadrant Mix)
This mad blend of industrial sounds and acid keyboards has featured on many “now that’s what I call rave” compilations, but no one can deny that those throbbing basslines are addictive. This electric composition was the brainchild of DJs Mark Archer (who would later become one part of Altern-8) and Dean Meredith. To this day it is still rated as one of the best early breakbeat hardcore tracks.
Moby – Go (Woodtick Mix)
At first people scoffed at ‘Go’, the B-side of Moby‘s debut single Mobility. The musical craftsman himself said “Even I wasn’t playing it when I DJed. It was too subdued and too poorly mixed to be played alongside any other house or techno records.” But the fates intervened when he sat down to watch an episode of Twin Peaks. Afterwards, he made the Woodtick Mix utilising ‘Laura Palmer’s Theme’ from the show, and the rest was history.
Second Phase – Mentasms
Joey Beltram is widely considered to be one of the godfathers of Techno and this second selection off R&S’ back catalogue is one of his finest productions. Co-produced with Mundo Muzique and released under the artist name Second Phase in 1991, the track that gave birth to the ‘mentasm riff’ – dirgelike synth pattern that wormed into techno’s communal genome and has since been mutated and reused in thousands of records.
Orbital – Belfast
Following up from the eternally beautiful piece of music that is Chime was never going to be an easy feat, but the story behind the headlight wearing duo’s follow up hit is a heartwarming one. During the nineties, Belfast had a rough reputation during The Troubles conflict, and needless to say the brother DJs were a bit worried at first when they visited in May 1990. But the gig at the city’s Art College went down a storm, and as a homage to that phenomenal night they named their follow-up single after the Northern Ireland capital.
Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy
The wild card of this list, but no less famous is the trip hop stylings of Massive Attack. Classical meets modern in this song filled with feeling, and to think the string section were originally played on synths. The group’s producer DJ Mushroom had to sell a Mitsubishi Shogun in order to pay for the cost of an full Orchestra, which they finally recorded in Abbey Road Studios. The gamble paid off however and Unfinished Sympathy went on to be classed as ‘one the best songs of all time’.