The Golden Era of Electronic Music

After disco, acid jazz, and synthpop had their moment, artists explored a vast array of sounds that ranged from slow and atmospheric trip hop (proven by Massive Attack and Portishead) to lean and tracky hip-hop; synthpop bands took inspiration from Japanese Yellow Magic Orchestra and British acts such as Ultravox or Human League to produce futuristic-sounding synthpop bands that combined traditional sounds with futuristic aesthetics; the result being trip hop.


Though many consider the 1990s to be the golden era of electronic music, many beloved albums from this genre date back to before this era. From early hedonistic techno pioneers and ambient, experimental trip hop and IDM pioneers through to ambient, experimental trip hop and IDM productions that defined this decade, many genres in dance music came into being during these 80s years.

Juan Atkins, best known by his Cybotron and Model 500 aliases, played an essential part in creating what we now refer to as Techno music. Through repetitive beats and looped vocal samples he pioneered a futuristic blend of funk with machine-like synth beats; today we call this sound Techno.

Atkins’ influence can be found throughout this playlist and our Top 100 EDM songs list, and beyond. While electronica was originally considered to be predominantly British and boys-club-oriented in its early days, this has since drastically evolved with such artists as Australian Roza Terenzi whose synthesizer jams connect back to Kraftwerk and 80s electro, and Illinoisan Eris Drew who creates uptempo rave breaks with tapestries of sound that recall boho 90s chillout spaces reminiscent of tapestries of sound weaved throughout her uptempo rave breaks and tapestries of sound that create tapestries of sound which recall the bohomian vibe of 90s chillout spaces reminiscent of his early influences.

Orbital’s hypnotic track provides the ideal accompaniment for an early morning dance party and captures perfectly the spirit of its time. Goldie’s combination of drum ‘n bass with techno gives this track an otherworldly quality that transcends dance floors into our minds and transcends physical movement into spiritual experiences.

In the 1990s, electronic music became part of everyday life as Britons adopted its ambient musical heritage (created by Brian Eno in the 70s) into daily life with ambient dub, trip hop and IDM becoming common. Artists such as Aphex Twin and Richie Hawtin pioneered more abstract electronica which can be heard here through this playlist featuring songs from artists who experimented with sonic abstraction.


Techno was the dominant genre in Europe at this time, while house music reigned supreme in America. House productions by bands like Basement Jaxx, The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim were known for being relaxed yet elastic; often working out their ideas over two day recording sessions rather than using today’s more rigorous production processes to bring them into fruition.

In the 1990s, house music experienced an extraordinary surge in popularity, giving rise to sub-genres such as breakbeat hardcore, drum and bass/jungle and UK garage. These styles often featured more aggressive, faster beats ranging from 140-161 BPM.

Synth-pop was also prevalent during this era, with synthesizers used by acts like Men Without Hats, Depeche Mode and Trans-X from Canada; Peter Schilling from Belgium; Sandra from Germany and Yello and Azul y Negro from Spain among many others using them to emphasize that their music represented technology and future-facing sounds. Many artists also donned futuristic-style clothing to further strengthen this connection between technology and their music.

North American audiences were witnessing an increase in IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), as evidenced by labels such as Drop Beat, Isophlux and Suction supporting artists like Dino Felipe, Machinedrum and Phoenecia on these labels. Meanwhile in Miami the scene flourished further with artists like Cex, Kid 606 and Kevin Blechdom performing under different aliases such as Basic Channel or Maurizio.

Lo-fi house was another innovative genre. This type of house combines rough sounds with melancholic, ironic aesthetics influenced by vaporwave. Producers in this genre produce tracks that sound as though they were recorded on cassette – with muffled drums and fuzzy synths.

Nu-nrg was an amalgam of genres, blending Chicago ghetto house, Detroit techno and Miami bass into four-on-the-floor rhythms. Nu-nrg pioneered lyrics within its genre – usually performed by female vocalists – giving it more human appeal that helped it cross over into pop charts.


Hip hop music has long been one of the world’s most significant and influential genres. Originating in the late 1970s as an alternative to European-influenced, watered down disco music that pervaded radio airwaves, its early style featured rapid-fire rhymes, hard funk instrumental loops sourced from vintage funk records, and a distinct African American musical identity. By the 1990s, however, Hip hop had reached unprecedented popularity, with artists such as Diddy, LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys enjoying immense global recognition while other rappers such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Twista enjoyed notable success as well.

Hip hop’s more materialist subject matter and innovative production techniques gave it a distinct urban edge that appealed to a broad audience. Producers like Sean Combs and Timbaland built rosters of talented artists under their label Def Jam; Scott Storch’s upstart Cash Money label dominated midwest and southern rap scenes; both artists utilized elements of G funk and Miami bass music along with rapid rhyme schemes from new school rap into their productions.

Richie Hawtin and Carl Cox pioneered underground techno music through experimental improvisation and advanced synthesizer programming techniques, stretching beyond its party-centric origins and into jazz, funk and rock genres. Hawtin used an 808 drum machine and 303 acid line on his 1992 single, “The Juke Box”, considered by many to be a breakthrough for this form of dance music.

In the 1990s, contemporary R&B flourished with artists like Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men becoming household names worldwide. D’Angelo also saw immense success, becoming known for her unique neo-soul sound as her duet with Boyz II Men on “One Sweet Day” became an international smash hit.


The 1990s marked an international renaissance in electronic music. US house and UK rave cultures collided, giving birth to breakbeat hardcore, big beat from acts such as Prodigy and Chemical Brothers and drum and bass/jungle from Fatboy Slim and Orbital; old styles also found new life with Aphex Twin’s Detroit techno, Autechre’s soulful Detroit techno and acid jazz by acts such as Jamiroquai Incognito and Brand New Heavies among many others; thanks to cheaper polyphonic synthesizers and MIDI definition, musicians could produce their own electronic music–a trend known as synth-pop or techno-pop!

Radio DJs and club DJs in the US began remixing classic disco and funk records using effects and drum machines, creating modern versions. This trend was furthered with CD format’s increased versatility as more people could record and play their own remixes; moreover, many older styles like third wave ska, swing revival or industrial rock could once again be heard through its replay value in contexts that ranged from third wave ska, swing revival or grunge revivals.

Synthesizers quickly became ubiquitous throughout the decade, from progressive rock and art rock to the icy funk of Yellow Magic Orchestra and Italo disco of Berlin Blondes and Ultravox acts. MTV helped facilitate this growth, leading to a rise in synth-pop – an emerging style of pop music which used synthesizer sounds as its primary melodic instrument and targeted mainstream pop markets.

Men Without Hats, Rednex and Daze found international success with synth-pop; Canadian acts Trans-X and Lime subsequently followed them; The Human League, Ultravox and Style Council all played significant roles as British bands; Toy-Box, Gigi D’Agostino and Captain Jack also produced hit Eurodance tracks while merengue quickly spread through Latin America to become popular across Puerto Rico and elsewhere in this region.