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The Evolution of Electronic Music with Juan Atkins

I dropped by Detroit Techno Pioneer Juan Atkins’ talk during this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event.

Atkins took us through a history of electronic music by sharing notable tracks through the genre's evolution. Here are the records that I wrote down from the talk, listen along with the Spotify playlist with all the tracks:

  1. Family Affair - Sly and The Family Stone (1971)

    • This was the first record that Atkins bought when he was 10. Atkins noted it was, “one of the first records that used a drum machine on it,” which was what drew him to the record.

    • Track: “Family Affair”

  2. Maggot Brain - Funkadelic (1971)

    • Atkins has been heavily influenced by Funkadelic. Maggot Brain was the first Funkadelic record he heard.

    • Track: “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks”

  3. Mothership Connection - Parliament (1975)

    • Atkins admits he was a, “hardcore Parliament and Funkadelic fan,” here. This album album would be played out at his parties when he was in middle school -- no DJing yet, just putting records on.

    • Track: “Give up the Funk”

  4. Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome - Parliament (1978)

    • Juan described this album as “high tech funk,” saying, “if you listen to it, it is mostly all electronic...it just blew my mind.” The album is one of the first  R&B records to synths for basslines and, “all these weird sounds.” This album inspired Juan to pick up his first Korg MS10.

    • Track: “Flashlight”

  5. “The Robots” - Kraftwerk (1978)

    • This single, “blew my mind [because] the preciseness of it,” Juan said. At this point he was making demos with his Korg MS10, but it was “real loose and all hand played.”

    • Track: “The Robots”

  6. Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk (1977)

    • When Atkins heard this track and about Kraftwerk on the radio in the 70s, he ran to the record store and picked up this record.

    • Track: “Trans-Europe Express”

  7. The Pleasure Principle - Gary Newman (1979)     

    • Atkins relates this track to some of the Kraftwerk he was listening to at the time. He describes the track as having a, “cold European make up,” with, “robotic imagery behind it.”

    • Track: “Cars”

  8. One Nation Under a Groove - Funkadelic (1978)

    • “This brought me back to my funk,” Atkins said noting that this is one of his favorite records of all time. This was released at the end of the 70s in the disco era when, “you had the funk, and the disco, they were kind of intertwined.”

    • Track: “One Nation Under a Groove”

  9. Midnight Express - Giorgio Moroder (1978)

    • “I learned about sequencers from reading the back of Giorgio’s album covers,” Atkins said when playing this record. The calls “The Chase” a “electronic disco track.”

    • Track: “The Chase”

  10. “I Feel Love” - Donna Summer (1977)

    • Moroder was the producer for Donna Summer, Atkins played Moroder’s track and then Summer’s “I Feel Love” to show how close the sounds were in both the tracks.

    • Track: “I Feel Love”

  11. “Dancer” - Geno Soccio (1979)

    • This Italo-Disco track was one of the “first, most important ones,” according to Juan.

    • Track: “Dancer”  

  12. Uncle Jam Wants You - Funkadelic (1979)

    • Track: “(Not Just) Knee Deep”

  13. The B52’s - The B52’s (1978)

    • “Can you imagine 200 black kids dancing this record in a backyard?” Atkins says when he plays this track. He also pretends to swim to in his chair to demonstrate some dance moves from the era...

    • Track: “Rock Lobster”

  14. Computer World - Kraftwerk (1981)

    • This album was long-awaited for Atkins and, “it did everything everyone thought it would do.” Atkins also notes that, “The whole electro-movement started from this record.”

    • Track: “It’s More Fun to Compute” & “Numbers”

  15. Enter - Cybotron (1983)

    • This is Atkins’ first release with Richard Davis. “It’s all these influences rolled into one record...you can hear the funk in here, some Kraftwerk.” He describes the track he played as “Techno-Funk.”

    • Track: “Alleys of Your Mind”

  16. “R-9” - Cybotron

    • This track fell in the beginning of the Chicago Social House movement according to Juan.

    • Track: “R-9”  

  17. “Strings of Life” - Derrick May (1987)

    • This release was from around the time records from Detroit began getting exported. “UK started going to Chicago, then Detroit,” Atkins said.

    • Track: “Strings of Life”

  18. Techno! The New Sound of Detroit

    • Atkins is featured on this compilation that was on rotation as an import in Europe.

  19. Paradise - Inner City (1989)

    • Atkins ended the talk with the track, “Big Fun” of their 1989 release.

    • Track: “Big Fun”

I missed some tracks throughout the talk, but Atkins will be running through all 26 of his selections from the talk on Deep Space Radio on October 24 at 10 p.m. EDT.  

- Naomi Menezes, Promotions Director