From Detroit to Berlin and beyond, this list showcases some of the best techno songs the world has ever known.
In the decades since its inception in 1980s Germany and the US, techno has spread to clubs around the world, becoming one of the mainstay genres of club music.
Over the years, a few techno classics have risen to the surface. Whether due to mainstream chart success or underground rave cult status, these tracks have helped to shape the genre.
These anthems represent a culture of raving, partying, and rebellion, with lifts and drops that will make your eyes melt straight out of your head.
Let’s dive in to discover the techno classics that rightly deserve a place amongst the best techno tracks of all time.
1. No UFOs – Juan Atkins
Year of release: 1985
Widely regarded as one of the first techno songs ever, ‘No UFOs’ shook the 80s with a new sound that was made up of entirely electronic instrumentation.
Juan Atkins came from a musical family, his father a promoter, and started playing and composing as a young teenager. At university, he started experimenting with electronic sounds that were influenced by artists such as Prince, James Brown and Peter Frampton.
Under the alias Model 500, Atkins created his own music label Metroplex which he released No UFOs through. The track was incredibly popular in Detroit and Chicago and earned significant radio play in that area of the US.
It has influenced a whole new genre of musicians and paved the way for a lot of the techno music we hear today.
2. Good Life – Inner City
Year of release: 1988
‘Good Life,’ from the album Paradise, quickly became a cult classic for techno music fans after its release in 1988.
The track features vocals from Paris Grey combined with the innovation of writer and producer Kevin Saunderson who used house and techno elements ahead of their time.
Their previous single ‘Big Fun’ became a fast success encouraging the pair to create ‘Good Life,’ their highest charting single to date which peaked at No.1 in Finland, No.4 in the UK and No.1 in the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.
Mixmag also ranked it at No.20 in their 100 Greatest Dance Singles of all Time and the record has been featured in many reputable music magazines for its influence within the genre.
3. Energy Flash – Joey Beltram
Year of release: 1990
For those familiar with the production of techno music, the TR-909 drum machine will not be an unheard of sequence of letters and numbers that it might be with the unacquainted. This drum machine, created by the Roland Corporation, has a distinct punchy sound that many electronic musicians use to create their sound.
As was the case for basement producer Joey Beltram who, in 1990, created his track ‘Energy Flash,’ a hypnotic track that many consider one the definitive techno tracks of all time.
The song was made using a tried and tested technique of running multiple MIDI cables along the floor and tweaking them to create the perfect vibe.
Energy Flash has received many remixes over the years and still, 30+ years on, remains an anchor to which many techo artists draw inspiration from.
4. The Bells – Jeff Mills
Year of release: 1996
“If you ain’t listened to The Wizard, you ain’t have a f****** clue what you was missing” says Eminem – and he’s right.
Jeff Mills, also known as The Wizard, is a household name in techno with an impressive CV of both music and film securely under his belt.
Mills began his career under the pseudonym and soon founded his own techno collective in the late 1980s alongside Mike Banks and Robert Hood. He eventually left the group and created his own record company, Axis Records, in 1992 which he released the majority of his solo work through.
‘The Bells’ is arguably his most respected work, filling dancefloors since its release in 1995 and ravers will still lose their minds trying to keep up with the psycho rhythms.
5. E-Dancer – Kevin Saunderson
Year of release: 1996
Kevin Sauderson, along with Juan Atkins and Derrick May, were known as The Belleville Three, and totally dominated techno in the 1990s from the heart of the Detroit techno scene. The three electronic musicians were pioneers of the genre and produced some of the most genre defining and best techno songs ever.
‘E-Dancer’ was released during the growing hype of electronic music, managing to encapsulate the classic techno techniques as well as creating this new hypnotic quality that encouraged even the most sceptical to give the genre a go.
6. Elements – Carl Craig
Year of release: 1996
Described by Pitchfork as a “techno pioneer”, Carl Craig led the charge of the second wave of Detroit techno in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Influenced by sounds from soul and jazz, Craig’s music has a more relaxed feel compared to other techno titans.
His record ‘Elements’ displays this style beautifully, with a slower than average BPM and less abrasive chord choices. Elements set the example for techno not always being the mind-melting tracks we may first think of, but being a calmer genre too.
Craig’s innovative flair soon saw him founding his own record label Planet E Communications in 1991 and had him Grammy nominated in 2008.
7. La La Land – Green Velvet
Year of release: 2001
Green Velvet helped carry techno music into the 21st century with their release of ‘La La Land’ in 2001. The track peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Dance Club Song chart and contains one of the most distinctive vocals techno has ever seen.
Although other singles had more chart success, La La Land possessed a unique balance between classic techno and experimentation. It had to come out on top.
8. Get Ready For This – 2 Unlimited
Year of release: 1992
This is perhaps the most recognisable track on this list with arguably the most catchy hook. ‘Get Ready For This’ is the ultimate feel-good dance techno track with a riff you can sing along to just as easily as the words. The track can be credited with bringing elements of techno to a wider audience. The song was especially popular in Europe, reaching the top ten in several countries.
2 Unlimited are a Belgian/Dutch act who have scored a whopping sixteen international hits and sold eighteen million records worldwide. The tracks from the duo have received so much love over the years partly contributed by them being used in many American sporting events such as the NBA and NHL.
Without a doubt, one of the most popular techno songs ever.
9. Master Jack – Robert Hood
Year of release: 2016
Robert Hood was considered a pioneer of the genre minimal techno, a genre that exploits minimalism and produces music that’s characterised by its understated sound and repetitive nature.
‘Master Jack’ explores this style of techo. The track displays trance-inducing techniques with a foreboding build up before the drop that pumps the adrenaline through your veins. One of the best techno songs of all time from a true techno legend.
10. Xtal – Aphex Twin
Year of release: 1992
Aphex Twin is an electronic musician who gained popularity amongst techno fans with his ambient techno albums. His track ‘Xtal’ has a much more serene and cathartic mood when compared with your average techno track.
With no formal teaching behind him, Aphex Twin had, and continues to have, a very successful career that grew from an initial cult following he gained in the West Country. He soon expanded his horizons and created his impressive music resume with many publications calling him “the most influential artist in contemporary electronic music.” This high praise has seen him nominated for many awards and has snagged him a few wins too.
11. Minus/Orange 1 – Richie Hawtin
Year of release: 1999
Richie Hawtin is considered a driving force in the second wave of minimal techno in the late 1990s. Along with an impressive resume of award nominations, winning Best Techno DJ three times, Hawtin has spent a chunk of career as an entrepreneur, founding Plus 8 Equites, a music technology fund with the aim to advance music and develop new technologies to push the music industry along.
‘Minus/Orange’ 1 is one of Hawtin’s defining tracks. The record has a scratchy, stilted sound that allows the listener to descend into the depths of their mind. ‘Minus/Orange 1’ is a true generational anthem and a clear contender amongst the all-time best techno songs.
12. Hurt – Seth Troxler
Year of release: 2009
If there is anyone in the world who lives and breathes techno, it’s Seth Troxler. As a young boy, Troxler used to sit in on his Step-Father’s radio show where he would play a huge catalogue of electronic music. When he was 14, his family moved to Detroit, the techno hub of America, and began going to raves frequently. He held his own underground parties at just 15.
Troxler used his techno youth to his advantage throughout his career, Hurt being the pinnacle of his knowledge. The track swings towards minimal techno with its bubbly sound. The record is very experimental and displays the most contemporary sound of its time.
13. Dexter – Ricardo Villalobos
Year of release: 2003
With an interest and natural talent in music making itself present at the age of 10, Ricardo Villalobos has become one of the most significant minimal techno musicians within contemporary music. Formulating his distinct sound at multiple university house parties, Villalobos is famous for his long DJ sets that often leave the rave-goer altered in some way.
‘Dexter’ shows off the DJs talent within the genre coming in at a whopping nine minutes of slightly sinister beats that have a somewhat ominous mood about them. Where this track differs from others in this list is the feeling of narrative that runs throughout the playtime.
There’s a real sense of story that shines through the record despite its repetitive nature.
14. Go – Moby
Year of release: 1992
Moby is a slightly unusual entry to this list as the majority of his work is not techno. It could fall under the umbrella of electronic but it definitely has a more ambient rock feel rather than traditional techno.
‘Go,’ however, is Moby’s definitive techno track and for a musician who covers so much, it seems only right that he would throw some techno in the mix. ‘Go’ is synth heavy and trudging, wading through your ears, sending you into a trance. Just when you get comfortable, the beat kicks in and it establishes itself as a rave classic.
15. Born Slippy – Underworld
Year of release: 1996
Movie fanatics will be familiar with this track thanks to Danny Boyle’s huge cult classic, Trainspotting. Although originally only a B-Side, ‘Born Slippy’ is now, without a doubt, the trios most recognisable tune and is considered a dancefloor must-have at any rave.
Even if you’d never heard this song before, there would be no doubt in your mind that ‘Born Slippy’ came out of the UK; the name alone will give you a hint. The style of music has the UK’s 90s scene written all over it – a fusion of techno, drum and bass, and trace stylings. One of the best techno songs of all time.
16. Magnese – Surgeon
Year of release: 1997
Hard-hitting, frantic, and delirious. If these words trigger an excited response in you, you’re in for a treat with Surgeon. The pseudonym of UK-based electronic musician Anthony Child, Surgeon’s techno tunes blend a cinematic style with good old fashioned, dirty club music. It will grate down to your very core.
The raw and hard-hitting sounds of ‘Magnese’ capture Surgeon’s contribution to the genre down to a tee. Crack this one on for a maddening taste of industrial techno.
17. Jaguar – DJ Ronaldo
Year of release: 2009
Let’s take a journey back to 1986. A young Ronaldo Rocha goes to a Jeff Mills performance and is blown away. Something switches on in Rocha’s brain and he knows the electronic life is the life for him. The following year he got himself some DJing equipment and DJ Ronaldo was born.
DJ Ronaldo’s most famous track ‘Jaguar’ is his crowning achievement. The melody will have your body rippling with goosebumps with its ability to sound both futuristic and nostalgic. With the addition of the synthesisers midway through the track, ‘Jaguar’ wouldn’t feel lost in a Mortal Kombat-esque game and it’ll certainly get the blood pumping.
18. Domino – Oxia
Year of release: 2017
For those who think that techno hit its peak back in the early 1990s, please turn your attention to ‘Domino,’ a giant techno tune that first graced our ears in 2006. It went on to become a classic and one of the best techno songs of all time.
‘Domino,’ although released in the early 2000s, holds up to the tracks of techno’s heights. Spine tinglingly hypnotic, this record will pick you up and drop you just to pick you up and drop you once again.
There’s something melancholic about ‘Domino’ almost as if the producer were reflecting on a time gone by – enjoying the memories yet also hopelessly aware that those times are gone.
19. Subzero – Ben Klock
Year of release: 2015
Often described as a timeless masterpiece, Ben Klock’s ‘Subzero’ is a genre-defining techno track. There’s a mystery developing in the layers of this composition, an uneasiness that switches on inside of you when you hear the bass.
A stalwart of the Berlin techno scene, the German producer is resident at the legendary Berghain club in Berlin.
20. Ghetto Kraviz – Nina Kraviz
Year of release: 2012
Nina Kraviz made waves in 2012 with her techno track ‘Ghetto Kraviz,’ an electronic track like no other in its darker stylings. The tune has a melody that wouldn’t feel out of place on a modern day runway – it has the perfect strutting tempo and delivers a powerful energy that reflects the striking nature of a model’s walk.
Kraviz has her own record label Trip which has seen a lot of success over the years. It has allowed more techno artists to lean into a harsher approach to techno that Kraviz has created a blueprint for.
Header image: The Belleville Three – Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson
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