The term electronica was first coined at the turn of the 21th century
to designate various trends in electronic music that first came into being in the
1980s. Emerging during this period was an innovative style that borrowed from disco
and funk - both of which enjoyed widespread popularity in the United States - but
was also marked by electronic experimentation, with German-based groups Tangerine
Dream and Kraftwerk leading the way.
On its influential albums Autobahn (1974) and Trans-Europe Express
(1977), Kraftwerk used robotic, repetitive and hypnotic sounds
held by many to illustrate the growing impact of new technologies on modern society.
A host of factors - greater access to synthesizers and samplers, the revolution
brought about by beatboxes and MIDI systems, the transition to digital technology,
the newfound possibilities inherent in mixing, modifying or combining various sounds
and melodies - spurred the rise of house music in Chicago and techno in Detroit,
the two chief vectors of electronic music in the 1980s.
Drawing inspiration from European techno-pop, Afrika Bambaataa's
Planet Rock and the experimental efforts of Kraftwerk,
American DJ, producer and remix artist Frankie Knuckles is widely
regarded as one of the pioneers of house music. In the early 1980s, Knuckles was
a fixture at Chicago's Warehouse club, where he used a beatbox to shape his
mixes. Under his leadership, funk and disco beats were enriched with synthetic sound
With the creation of Trax Records in 1984 and DJ International in 1985, house gained
even broader appeal. The young and talented composers of this period included
Jesse Saunders, whose tracks On and On and Funk You Up
are now considered house classics.
Also gaining popular favour during this period was a Detroit-based brand of music
dubbed "techno", characterized by cold, mechanical and robotic sounds,
and rhythms more hard-edged and industrial than those of house. Inspired by radio
host and DJ Electrifying Mojo, who gave considerable airplay to
European electronic groups like Kraftwerk and Telex,
young American musician Juan Atkins founded Metroplex, the first
Detroit-based techno label, in 1985.
Fellow musicians Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson
played a part in the genre's growing popular success. In 1986, each founded
a record label - May creating Transmat and Saunderson
KMS Records - as well as produced a string of hits, none more popular than Big Fun.
Underground Resistance, the electronic music label founded by producers, musicians
and DJs Mike Banks and Jeff Mills,
also helped the genre to flourish. Artists such as Carl Craig,
Kenny Larkin and Stacey Pullen personify the new
wave of Detroit techno.
All the Rage in Europe
After earning widespread followings in Chicago and New York, house music quickly
crossed the pond, where it was discovered by some well known English DJs. In 1987,
Chicago house artists starred in London and Manchester - with the Hacienda club
serving as nerve centre for house in the U.K. It was here that French DJ Laurent
Garnier discovered the style he would go on to popularize in the trendy
nightclubs of Paris in the early 1990s.
Techno quickly earned loyal legions of fans in England and Germany - particularly
in Berlin through the Tresor label and nightclub. Techno's
repetitive, hypnotic loops, soaring climaxes and ear-splitting beats supplied much
of the dance material for a generation of clubbers.
Techno, house and its cousin, acid jazz, were the driving force behind the rave
movement that first emerged in the U.K., with thousands of young people drawn to
all-night trance parties. Acid-house was characterized by a heavy synthetic bass
sound made popular by European groups such as S'Express and
Offshoots of techno and house that came along later include ambient house, hardcore,
tech-house, trance, jungle, and drum'n'bass. Electronic music is also represented
by more experimental branches such as intelligent dance music (IDM), long
associated with the British label Warp and its flagship groups,
none more influential than Autechre.
In the mid-1990s, electronic music began to steal some of the thunder from established
rock stars, as DJs became music celebrities in their own right. Among the leading
techno artists were Moby, The Chemical Brothers,
The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, The Orb,
Air and Underworld.
At the Festival
In 1999, a huge Festival crowd gathered to dance to the jazz- and electro-inspired
Afro-Cuban rhythms of American DJ and techno producer Carl Craig
and his Innerzone Orchestra. In 2003, the German collective
Jazzanova brought its soulful blend of jazzy electro to the Festival.
Among the Quebec-based artists who've tread the boards at the Festival are Montrealer
Akufen, who delivered an electrifying performance in 2005, and
DJ Champion and his G-Strings, who brought down
the house as part of the Grand Événement General Motors. The previous
year, Champion treated Festival fans to a memorable show alongside Barbara Brown,
alias Misstress Barbara. The Montréal-born DJ also appeared
at the Festival in 2009 and 2010.
In 2008, Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts presented
tracks from Face à l'Est (2007), their newest album, a techno
house effort with touches of afro, funk, gospel and swing. The Festival's 2009
lineup included Montrealer DJ Kobal (who opened for Stevie
Wonder), DJ and singer-songwriter Martin Granger (alias
Dee), and Montreal-based quintet Pawa Up First,
which blends dub, electro, hip hop and jazz. Also along for the party was Thunderheist,
the tandem made up of Nigerian-born Toronto singer Isis and Montreal-based
remixer, producer and DJ Grahm Zilla. Thunderheist
is well known for its dance mixes combining hip hop, electro, funk
After making their Festival debut in 2008, Montréal duo Beast -
made up of musician Jean-Phi Goncalvès
and singer Betty Bonifassi - headlined the Événement
spécial Bell in 2010. To mark the 20th anniversary of Ninja Tune, the famed
English electronica label, the 2010 Festival played host to English DJ Andy
Carthy (alias Mr. Scruff), singer Andreya Triana,
DJ and musician Bonobo, DJ Food, as well as
Kid Koala and The Slew Live project. Poirier
gave a high-spirited performance at Club Soda on June 28, teaming up with Kode9
to concoct a dance-electro Karnival tinged with soca and
tropical rhythms. Finally, French electro-swing-manouche group Caravan Palace
shared the same concert bill with French DJ Wax Tailor.