Techno is a type of electronic dance music played on synthesizers and drum machines featuring often dark menacing robotic-sounding melodies with squelchy synth and deep bass lines set to a four on the floor beat.
In 1980's Detroit, the Belleville three, first Juan Atkins (Cybotron, Model 500) and later his friends Derrick May (Rhythim is Rhythim) and Kevin Saunderson (Inner City, Reese) began experimenting with synthesizers to create electronic dance music. Derrick May described it as sounding like George Clinton (of Parliament and Funkadelic) and Kraftwerk stuck in an elevator. Atkins' early tracks were akin to the emerging electro of Hashim, Herbie Hancock and Man Parrish, and also shared an emphasis on drums found in the freestyle of Freeez, Shannon and Paul Hardcastle combined with the deep bass and danceability of British new wave synthpop (eg. New Order, Simple Minds, Pete Shelley) and the spacey sound of italo disco (eg. Rizo Ortolani, Laser, Charlie). There was also a lot of crosspollination between Detroit techno artists and Chicago house artists particularly noticeable in Saunderson's work with Inner City. Chicago acid house by Steve "Silk" Hurley and Lil' Louis sounds particularly close to techno. In 1988, Atkins, May and Saunderson released a compilation album, 'Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit.'
The word or prefix 'techno' had been used by or about the Techno Twins (1977), Kraftwerk (1978 in Japan's 'Rock Magazine'), Yellow Magic Orchestra (1979 single Technopolis), but Detroit Techno had a darker sound with more bass, and was often played at a faster more 'danceable' tempo. Skinny Puppy is another early band that had been described as 'techno' (e.g. in Billboard 1985), but they were perhaps closer to the ebm of Front 242. In the early 1980's, the Sheffield band Cabaret Voltaire went electronic, and moved into a funkier direction, and came to be classified as techno. In Saunderson's Reese band, he was influenced by and influenced Belgian new beat (eg. A Split Second, 101).
When British bands such as The KLF and Psychic TV were formed in the mid-1980's, they took 'techno' in a psychedelic direction, and along with acid house, it began to be played at rave parties, impromptu dance events held in abandoned warehouses or outdoors. Techno-influenced west European bands began to score major hits in the late 1980's early 1990's (eg. Snap!, Technotronic, 2 Unlimited) and came to dominate club music for a time. In 1990, The KLF released "What time is love? Live at Trancentral" sparking a spate of releases with crowd noise. In 1991, Second Phase released "Mentasm" leading to the increasing use of the Hoover sound effect in rave/techno releases. Breakbeat, chillout, hardcore, trance and trip hop developed within the techno rave scene, and eventually split off as separate genres. The popularity of techno faded somewhat after 2000 (supplanted to some extent by house and trance), but minimal techno continues to be produced. Gabber and happy hardcore developed out of hardcore techno. Big beat bands such as The Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method, The Prodigy are also commonly classified as techno. Rave techno is still an influence on electro house artists such as Benny Benassi, Bingo Players, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Global Deejays, Krewella and Vitalic.
This style of music uses loop-sequencing and turntables. Though often strongly mixing melodies and heavy bass lines, techno music relies on pulsing rhythms. Techno songs rely on heavy syncopation. Most songs are in 4/4 time and feature time marked with bass drums on the quarter note and hi-hats every second eighth note. .