Good fun - rather more fun than this one below I did last summer for a UK publication as a tie-in with the Xpanded rerelease of E-Flash, although I was set the taller task of covering almost the entirety of electronic dance history rather than just rave-as-rave, and in a tighter word count. Still I did have some fun with the letter Z, and also with Q. Which is one of the only overlaps with FACT's A to Z, in fact.
ACID. This trippy form of Chicago house music took the UK by storm in 1988, its wriggly Roland 303 basslines turning dancers into robot-zombies and inspiring the mass chant “acieeed!”.
A is also for keyboard whiz turned pop-rave pin-up ADAMSKI, and for APHEX TWIN, king of weirdy-beardy electronica.
B is for...
BERLIN. Synonymous in the 90s with minimal techno (harsh, stripped-down, punishing) and in the 2000s with minimal (exquisite, detail-oriented), Berlin is now the mecca for clubbing tourists from all over Europe. Taking advantage of the cheap fares offered by airlines like Easyjet they take mini-vacations that skip historical landmarks in favor of clubs like Berghain.
B is also for Big Beat, the hip hop meets house party-sound pioneered by The Chemical Brothers.
C is for....
CASTLEMORTON, the biggest illegal rave in British history. which in May 1992 drew 40 thousand crusty travelers and urban ravers to party for a whole week in pastoral Worcestershire. Instigated by renegade sound systems like Spiral Tribe, Castlemorton ultimately led to the Criminal Justice Bill’s anti-rave legislation.
C is also for CHICAGO, birthplace of house music.
D is for...
DAFT PUNK, the robot-mask wearing French duo who pioneered disco-house with 1997’s Homework, Eighties-revival electro with 2001’s Discovery, and in 2013 staged a triumphant comeback with the Seventies flashback epic Random Access Memories.
D is also for DUBSTEP, the last decade’s most innovative UK sound, and for DETROIT, the spawning ground of techno.
E is for...
ECSTASY, the catalyst for rave culture’s take-off and still a staple party potion in clubland. Sold as pills or powder, MDMA makes people “loved up” and gives them energy to dance all night. It fits the sleek futuristic textures and repetitive rhythms of electronic dance like a glove. But it can also kill, through bad reactions or heatstroke, while over-indulgence can lead to paranoia and depression.
E is also for EDM, America’s rebrand name for techno, and for ELECTRO, the 2000s trend for Eighties-influenced retro-synth sounds.
F is for....
FATBOY SLIM. Onetime indiepop musician turned DJ/producer, Norman Cook became king of Big Beat with unsubtle but hugely effective sample-based anthems like “The Rockefeller Skank” and “Praise You”. His peak of popularity was the 2002 free party he threw on Brighton’s seafront, which drew 250,000 and got very messy indeed.
F is also for FUNKY, the Afro-influenced house that ruled London’s pirate radio in the late 2000s, and for FWD>>, dubstep’s foundational club.
G is for...
GATECRASHER, the Sheffield superclub at the fore of the late Nineties trance explosion. Its dedicated following called themselves “nutbags,” worshipped DJs like Paul Van Dyk, and developed a distinctive look blending New Romantic, cyberpunk and Ibiza-style fancy dress: green and blue hair, toy robots, flashing T-shirts.
G is also for GOLDIE, metal-toothed public face of drum & bass, and for GABBA, the Dutch-born genre of ultrafast, tough-as-nails techno still globally popular under new names like jumpstyle and hardbass.
H is for..
HOUSE REVIVAL. 30 years after its birth in Chicago, house is more popular than ever with British youth, resurging recently with Duke Dumont’s #1 smash “Need U”, the minimal house that soundtracks the London dance craze “shuffling”, and the North-of-England house mutant known as Jackin’ Bass.
H is also for HACIENDA, the club at the epicenter of “Madchester”, and stomping ground for HAPPY MONDAYS, rave ‘n ‘ roll rapscallions.
I is for...
IBIZA, the Balearic isle where DJs Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling experienced the synergy of house and Ecstasy, then imported the laidback, let-it-loose vibe of clubs like Amnesia back to London. Like its Mediterranean rival sunspot Ayia Napa, Ibiza has remained a destination for raving tourists ever since.
I is also for IDM or Intelligent Dance Music, electronic braindance that’s rarely danceable and usually not as smart as it thinks it is.
J is for...
JUNGLE, the most innovative and exciting sound of the 90s, a frenetic mash-up of hip hop breakbeats, reggae bass-boom, and hardcore techo’s sinister synth-riffs. Rising from the pirate radio underground, the one-time black sheep of the rave family became trendy, smoothing out into coffee table drum and bass by the likes of LTJ Bukem.
J is also for JACKING, the Chicago style of frenzied-yet-robotic dancing, as celebrated in UK’s first house #1 single, Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s “Jack Your Body”
K is for
KETAMINE, the potent dissociative drug, properly used as a vetinerary anesthetic but adopted by some clubbers because a small bump up the snout makes music sound really weird. Loathed by other clubbers for creating anti-dance vibes tinged with squalor: “ket zombies” slumped in a glass-eyed stupor, or stumbling into you and dribbling on your shirt.
K is also for The KLF, “stadium house” surrealists who ruled early 90s pop, and KOOL FM, London’s leading jungle pirate station.
L is for...
LONDON, whose multiracial melting pot has spawned innovative rave sounds for the past 25 years, from jungle through speed garage and 2step, to grime and dubstep. But it’s the non-central parts of the capital that have been central in this story: Zone 2 and Zone 3 hinterlands whose tower blocks make for pirate radio transmission sites. Above all those Eastern post-codes inaccessible by the Tube. London underground sounds are strongest where the London Underground doesn’t go.
L is also for LFO, pioneers of bleep, the bass-heavy, electro-influenced house sound that emerged from North East cities like Leeds, Sheffield, and Bradford to pummel early Nineties dancefloors.
M is for...
MADCHESTER, nickname for a city and an era, when clubs like Hacienda and Thunderdome, producers like A Guy Called Gerald and 808 State, and flares-wearing crossover bands like Stone Roses and Happy Mondays made NW England the driving center of UK dance culture. As gangs fought to control the E trade, Madchester became Gunchester and the “baggy” dream turned nightmare.
M is also for MEGADOG, haven for crusty-ravers, and DERRICK MAY, Detroit techno innovator best known for eternal rave classic “Strings of Life”.
NEW YORK and NEW JERSEY, birthplace of garage, the soulful deep house style named after Larry Levan’s club The Paradise Garage, and synonymous with DJ legends like Masters At Work, Danny Tenaglia, and Todd Edwards.
N is also for NITRO DELUXE, the New York outfit whose electro-tinged “This Brutal House”” rocked UK dancefloors in 1987.
O is for...
ORBITAL, aka Sevenoaks-based Phil and Paul Hartnoll, creators of tingle-triggering rave anthem “Chime” and the breathy, ethereal-girl bliss of “Halcyon”, and perennial festival faves as a crowd-pleasing live techno act.
O is also for ORBITAL RAVES, 1989’s increasingly massive outdoor parties thrown in fields and aircraft hangars at locations near the M25, and for THE ORB, whose dub + cosmic rock + whimsy albums made them the spliffhead’s chill-out choice.
P is for....
THE PRODIGY, Braintree’s finest, led by demon producer Liam Howlett, and rave faves for their kick-ass live PAs. Loved and lambasted in equal measure for the toytown techno fad they inspired with 1991’s“Charly”, the Prodge reinvented themselves as rocktronica stars and conquered America with the killer riffs of “Firestarter”.
P is also for PLASTIKMAN, aka, Richie Hawtin, co-founder of Detroit’s PLUS 8 label, and one of the world’s most inventively slamming DJs.
Q is for...
QUEUE, a fixture of the rave experience, whether due to poorly organized ticketing and guest lists or to intensive body-searches for illegal substances by bouncers (in some cases confiscated, then resold to punters inside the venues).
[here's FACT on Q too]
R is for...
RAVE and RAVERS, terms whose tangled history includes Sixties psychedelic happenings (Pink Floyd’s All Night Rave) and Fifties trad jazz fans gone riotously crazy on beer and Acker Bilk at 1961’s Beaulieu Festival. In 1988 warehouse parties kept getting bigger until promoters started finding outdoor locations. Illegal or semi-legal (with the landowner’s permission, but unlicensed and anarchic), these provoked a massive police clampdown. From 1991 raves went legal, commercial and increasingly well-organised, and today are closer to rock festivals. But a free party scene of outlaw raves still exists.
R is also for ROLAND, maker of house and techno’s iconic drum machines the 909 and 808, plus the acid-house bass box, the 303. And for RAGE, London’s seminal hardcore club, where Djs Grooverider and Fabio reigned as lords of darkness.
S is for...
SKRILLEX, whose bass-blasting but euphoric take on dubstep and spectacular state-of-the-art audio-visual projections have made him the biggest draw on the US EDM festival circuit.
S is also for SPEED GARAGE, the sexy, bumpin’ blend of American house and London jungle that bubbled up from the pirate radio underground in 1997, and for SPIRAL TRIBE, mystic-anarchist free party sound system and key catalysts of Castlemorton.
T is for ...
TRANCE. Invented by Germans in 1993 as a coldly cosmic branch of the techno family tree, it gradually absorbed a dose of Ibiza’s idyllic summer vibes and remerged at the other end of the Nineties as the cheesy-and-choonful people’s choice when it came to E-friendly floor fodder. Comes in many flavours, from psychedelic to hard to progressive to fluffy, purveyed by DJs as diverse as Tiesto, Sasha & Digweed, and Judge Jules.
T is also for 2-STEP, the 1998-2000 mongrel of garage, jungle, and R&B, hatched by the pirates but rising rapidly to become the turn-of-millennium sound of UK pop (even Victoria Beckham got in on the action, fronting Truesteppers’s smash “Out of Your Mind) and recently returned to the charts with retro-steppers Disclosure.
U is for...
UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE. Vanguard of Detroit techno’s second wave, the guerrilla trio of Mad Mike, Jeff Mills and Robert Hood unleashed some of the fiercest tracks of the early Nineties, militant monsters like “Riot” and “Death Star”. Then they split, with Mike going mellow and jazzy, Hood helping to invent minimal techno, and Mills becoming a DJ superstar famed for his three-turntable mixing.
U is also for UNIQUE 3, Bradford bleep pioneers.
V is for...
ARMAND VAN HELDEN, renegade DJ-producer from New York but an honorary Brit, having topped the UK charts twice. First with 2000’s uncharacteristically sensitive and disco-y “U Don’t Know Me” and then again with 2007’s “Bonkers”, in partnership with grime star Dizzee Rascal.
V is also for “VOODOO RAY” by A Guy Called Gerald, a hit in 1988 and still, arguably, the U.K.’s greatest homegrown house track ever.
W is for...
WARP, which started out as a Sheffield record shop, noticed the burgeoning boom of white-label DIY techno by bedroom producers, and became the leading label for bleep, with acts like LFO and Nightmares on Wax even scoring hits. Warp reinvented itself as the home of “electronic listening music”, its roster of mindbending experimentalists including Aphex Twin and Autechre.
X is for...
X, what American say instead of E as shorthand for Ecstasy. Other American MDMA-related slang terms include “rolling” (as in, “I’m rolling hard”, i.e. under the influence) and Molly (via molecule, the nickname for MDMA in powdered form rather than pressed pills)
Y is for...
YELLOW MUSIC ORCHESTRA, Japanese electronic outfit whose 1979 single “Technopolis” and 1981 LP Technodelic are contenders for the seeding the concept of “techno” in the minds of Detroit techno’s founding triumvirate Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. Another is Alvin Toffler’s concept “techno rebels” , featured in his 1980 book The Third Wave. Kraftwerk, generally considered godfathers of techno, released “Techno Pop” on their 1986 LP Electric Café, but Juan Atkins’s first group Cybotron had already released the track “Techno City” in 1984.
Y is also for YOLO, or “you only live once”, the reckless get-wrecked rallying cry of EDM America.
Z is for...
ZOMBY, genius UK producer famous for his hallucinatory take on dubstep with tracks like “Aquafresh” and for his retro-rave album Where Were You in 92.
and as a palate cleanser, the spoof rave audio-flyer / ad mentioned in the FACT A to Z