Minimal techno is a subgenre of techno that, as the name implies, is characterised by its stripped-down nature in comparison to other genres of techno. Similar to other subgenres of techno, the origins of minimal techno can be traced back to Detroit in America.
The genre developed through the 2000s in Germany as artists like Richie Hawtin became increasingly popular. Due to the stripped back minimal nature of the music, minimal techno is often blended with ambient techno. In more club-orientated settings it is not uncommon to hear minimal techno fused with acid house or tech house.
Let’s dive in and check out some of the essential artists in the genre. You can hear all these artists on Pink Wafer’s minimal techno playlist on Spotify.
One cannot mention minimal techno without mentioning Richie Hawtin. Hawtin was one of the innovators of the genre and since then has been instrumental in spreading minimal techno as a genre across the globe. Hawtin has a variety of monikers he has used over his career, the most famous being Plastikman – a name he uses for more acid techno releases. He also has been known as F.U.S.E, Circuit Breaker and Concept 1.
The British-Canadian producer originally started making music in Ontario in Canada where he was influenced by the Detroit techno scene. Hawtin’s 30-year career has seen him start various record labels and has earned him a reputation as a great audio-visual artist as he has incorporated art into his performances.
An excellent introduction to his work is his 1995 collaborative album From Within with Pete Namlook. This album incorporates minimal techno and ambient techno to create a space age feel.
The Field is the performing moniker of Swedish DJ and electronic producer Axel Willner. The Field was adopted as his moniker in 2003, and since then he has been releasing minimal techno fused with microhouse and ambient techno.
His debut 2007 album, From Here We Go Sublime was widely acclaimed and solidified him as a name within the genre. The album is a great example of Willner’s skill as a producer, even at one point splicing up Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ with techno grooves on the track ‘Silent.’
If The Field seems like the sort of thing you’d like to check out, try starting with his debut album or his 2013 album Cupid’s Head.
Boris Brejcha is a German minimal techno producer, known for his iconic venetian masked look. He describes his music as ‘high-tech minimal’ and the ‘intelligent music of tomorrow.’
He has a distinctive sound that bridges the gap between minimal techno and tech house. Brejcha has gained popularity particularly in South America and in Europe throughout his career.
Although regarded as a techno producer, Brejcha will not be constrained within those bounds and incorporates elements of minimal, house and IDM into his music to continue pushing the genre to evolve.
Robert Hood is one of the founders of minimal techno hailing from the birthplace of techno, Detroit. Alongside famous electronic DJs like Jeff Mills, Hood was a prominent part of the techno scene and founded the minimal techno label M-Plant in 1994.
Often seen as the father of minimal techno, Hood was one of the first to experiment with the stripped back style of production whilst also taking influences from soul music. His 1994 release Minimal Nation is regarded as having defined the genre, so check out this album to see how minimal techno really began.
Hood has used various monikers throughout his career, including Floorplan where he produces more club orientated tracks with his daughter.
Ricardo Villalobos is a classic name within minimal techno, standing alongside Richie Hawtin, whom he took inspiration from at the beginning of his career.
Villalobos is renowned for both his minimal techno and microhouse work. Villalobos is incredibly well-versed in percussion instruments and has cultivated this throughout his entire life. At a young age, Chilean born, Villalobos and his family had to flee Chile after a coup in 1973, settling in Germany.
This is allegedly why despite his fame worldwide, Villalobos will not perform in the US – due to the fact the CIA assisted the coup. His 1990s track ‘Dexter’ is a great introduction to his work and to the genre more broadly.
German electronic supergroup Moderat is composed of electronic producer Apparat and the duo Modeselektor who consists of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary.
The group combines a variety of genres in their releases ranging from minimal techno to IDM, to house. Their eponymous album from 2009, is a great example of their work, containing their most famous track ‘A New Error.’
The group took an extended hiatus in 2017, but earlier this year announced their return with their fourth studio album entitled MORE D4TA due to be released in May 2022.
The electronic music group Monolake was started in the 1990s in Germany by Gerhard Behles and Robert Henke. The group produce minimalist-dub techno and started gaining popularity as part of the Berlin-based record label Chain Reaction.
Interestingly, Behles and Henke founded the music production software Ableton in the late 1990s alongside software engineer Bernd Roggendorf. Today, Henke still works under the name Monolake, as Behles left in the early 2000s to focus more on the production of Ableton.
Henke has been joined by other collaborators over the years, but through this all Monolake continues to put out minimalist dub techno which is detail rich, orientated for at home deeper listening. Monolake’s 2001 album Cinemascope blends minimal dub techno alongside glitch and IDM to create a night-time urban ambience reminiscent of 90s techno.