Styles & Forms | Tech-House | Dance
The term tech-house came from one of the music’s main proponents and champions. Mr C, the former Shamen rapper, coined it to describe the fusion of tough, US garage ‘dubs’ – instrumental versions of vocal tracks – and deep, Detroit techno that London DJs such as Eddie Richards, Colin Dale, Terry Francis and C himself were playing from the early to mid-1990s.
It would, however, be incorrect to categorize tech-house as one easily definable style. Mr C – one of the scene’s most influential producers – famously called it ‘a genre without a genre’. Tech-house is dancefloor-friendly, but it takes its cues from reggae, dub, breaks, electro and even two-step sources, as well as using funky techno and US house as its dancefloor basis.
Long before tech-house was a recognized sound, Detroit producers such as Octave One (with their 430 West label), Blake Baxter and Kevin Saunderson were experimenting with techno and house fusions. Octave One’s Burden brothers’ dense rhythm funk, Baxter’s Chicago-influenced sounds and Saunderson’s earliest productions – even mainstream cuts such as ‘Good Life’ and ‘Big Fun’ – were explorations of futuristic techno depth and utopian house rhythms.
By the early to mid-1990s, the style had spread beyond its London roots and the Scottish label Soma and the imprint 20/20 Vision (based in the north of England) adopted this open-minded aesthetic. Subsequently, releases by Random Factor, Maas and Slam preempted London’s affiliation with tech-house. However, it was the UK capital’s club and underground party scene that eventually forced dance music’s media to realize that there were lasting and significant changes taking place in the middle ground between house and techno.
Mr C and Layo’s End nightclub, Terry Francis’ Wiggle parties, and word-of-mouth events such as Heart & Soul and Whoop Whoop brought a new wave of UK-based producers to the fore, including Tribalation, Mark Ambrose, Pure Science, Get Fucked, Matthew B, Asad Rizvi, Haris and Alien Funk Movement. Characterized by dense and dubby rhythms, futuristic and trippy sounds and deeply musical elements, this new wave of producers have been supported by mainstream names of late, with big-name DJs such as John Digweed and Pete Tong professing their support for tech-house.
While this is viewed as a positive development by most tech-house producers, there are fears that the music is being hijacked by progressive DJs and producers desperately seeking fresh, post-backlash sounds. However, in spite of this development and a lack of obviously spottable ‘songs’, tech-house has never been in a healthier state.
Producers such as Mazi, EBE, Patrick Turner and Jay Tripwire have given tech-house a distinct North American identity. Meanwhile, Brazilian producers such as Renato Lopez and Anderson Noise have given it a fresh Latino slant. The Visitor label and Haris’ releases have helped build support for tech-house in Belgium and Croatia, while the minimal approach favoured by German producers such as Steve Bug, MRI and Ricardo Villalobos has opened up possibilities for the music on other fronts.
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