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THUMP's 101 of 303: Detroit Techno

From "Strings of Life" to "Losing Control," here's your sample platter of Detroit techno classics.

While house music was taking shape in Chicago in the 80s, a small group of teenagers in Detroit were developing their own sound, influenced by the austere sounds of Kraftwerk as much as the raw funk of George Clinton. The result was a music genre that captured the mechanical drive of the Motor City.

We're teaming up with Apple Music to present a series of playlists celebrating the roots of electronic dance music. Next up: a sample platter of Detroit techno classics. Head over to Apple Music to hear the playlist—and read below for why these tracks rep the 313.


Derrick May – "Strings of Life" [Transmat 1987]

Inspired by the work of European groups like Kraftwerk, a young Derrick May found the perfect marriage of sounds both mechanical and ambient, churning and blissful with his most iconic production, "Strings of Life." The outcome? Techno.

Plastikman – "Spaz" [Plus 8 Records 1994]

Plastikman is known for delivering acidic and bare sounds, and "Spaz" is a prime example of his tight-as-a-knot minimal techno.

Inner City – "Good Life" [10 Records 1988]

When Kevin Saunderson and Paris Grey joined forces as Inner City, it was "Good Life" that best exemplified the duo's positive, life-affirming message. The club track became a crossover hit, even landing them an appearance on Top of the Pops.

Model 500 – "No UFO's" [Metroplex 1985]

Like many early techno innovators, Model 500 took pride in their futurist outlook, flexing their sci-fi bent on tracks like "No UFO's."

DJ Assault – "Ass-n-T*****s" [Assault Rifle Records 1997]

As raunchy as they come, DJ Assault's "Ass-n-T*****s" lyrical persuasion comes in the form of three slang words.

Cybotron – "Clear" [Fantasy 1983]

The engulfing synths and heavy-hitting drums of Cybotron constructed a narrative of Detroit nightlife: the funk found in the clubs combined with the raw nature of the city streets.

Galaxy 2 Galaxy – "Amazon" [Underground Resistance 2005]

Galaxy 2 Galaxy's "Amazon" takes jazzy undertones and melts them into fast-paced drum breaks and progressive synth cords. Referred to as Underground Resistance's take on "hi-tech jazz," it creates a unique sound that is as entrancing as it funky.


DJ Rolando – "Knights of the Jaguar" [Underground Resistance 1999]

Approachable and worthy of dance, "Knights of the Jaguar" epitomizes classic cool. It builds so well that you could play it through ten times without realizing—a true sign of DJ Rolando's ingenuity.

Moodymann – "Dem Young Sconies" [Planet E 1997]

Moodymann created a classic Detroit anthem using a consistent bassline, a little bit of acid, and audible grit.

Matthew Dear – "Dog Days" [Spectral Sound 2003]

Matthew Dear isn't a Detroit native, like many of its boundary-breaking artists, he took what he did best and spun it. With "Dog Days," Dear pushed the evolution of tech-house, adding vocals on top of a mesmerizing, indie-esque bassline.

Carl Craig – "At Les" [Planet E Communications 1997]

Craig's "At Les" placed techno on a grand, epic scale by blurring the lines between a conventional club track and full-on orchestral symphony.

Paperclip People – "Throw" [Planet E 1994]

Paperclip People is the pseudonym Carl Craig used for this dancefloor chugger, which drives forward with a hat tip towards another bona fide classic, Loleatta H's "Hit & Run."

Detroit Grand Pubahs – "Sandwiches" [Jive Electro 2000]

Sometimes techno doesn't need to be poetic or prophetic. With their funky beatline and comical lyrics, Detroit Grand Pubahs turned the bizarre into songs you just want to dance to.

Drexciya – "Bubble Metropolis" [Underground Resistance 1993]


Drexciya weren't ones to shy away from the wild or extreme. Their track "Bubble Metropolis" feeds into their mythical narrative of coming from and existing in a subaqueous utopia, fusing the acid-like techno with fast paced, bubbling synths.

Shake – "My Computer Is an Optimist" [Frictional Recordings 2000]

Shake is relatively unknown for his early contributions to the Detroit techno scene, but "My Computer Is an Optimist" establishes the repetition and stripped-down beats that run a hard-hitting course.

DBX – "Losing Control" [Accelerate 1994]

While his musical peers were pushing towards big, dramatic expression, Daniel Bell's track "Losing Control" (under his alias DBX) went in the opposite direction, employing a looping, filtered vocal to hypnotic, minimalist perfection.

Robert Hood – "Alarm" [M-Plant 2013]

An original member of Detroit collective Underground Resistance, Robert Hood has a firm place in techno history. "Alarm" was the standout on the prolific producer's 'Eleven' EP—a tightly controlled number where a brittle groove blooms over nine minutes into heady, melodic resonance.

Terrence Parker – "Love's Got Me High" [Intangible Records & Soundworks 1995]

Oozing emotion, the lush and swingy "Love's Got Me High" is a master class in paying tribute to Detroit's soul without stepping too far into over-indulgence.