Kraftwerk – ‘Trans-Europe Express’ (King Klang, 1977). This week is the 20th anniversary of The Prodigy’s ‘Music For The Jilted Generation’: a genuine game-changer that exploded dance music in new directions. But what other LPs changed dance music forever? First up: Kraftwerk’s seminal ‘Trans-Europe Express’: a sleek, intelligent masterpiece which marked them out as peerless innovators.
David Bowie – ‘Low’ (RCA, 1977)
Bowie’s Berlin trilogy still stands out as his most daring and challenging work, and ‘Low’ is the pick of the bunch. An experimental and forward-thinking collaboration with Brian Eno, it owed a debt to the likes of Kraftwerk but was an influential album in its own right.
Donna Summer – ‘I Remember Yesterday’ (Casablanca, 1977)
A dancefloor classic and home to one of the finest singles of all time, ‘I Feel Love’. But even beyond the hits, Summer’s fifth album shows how revolutionary her work with the legendary Giorgio Moroder was. Disco’s arguably not seen a better pairing since.
Philip Glass & Robert Wilson – ‘Einstein On The Beach’ (Tomato, 1978). A lengthy four-part opera written by electronic music maestro Phillip Glass, which clocks in at a whopping five hours and is inspired by scientist Albert Einstein. A spellbinding achievement.
Grace Jones – ‘Nightclubbing’ (Island, 1981). Grace Jones has always been a force of nature, and her fifth album ‘Nightclubbing’ is her at the peak of her powers. It was voted NME’s Album Of The Year back in 1981, and it still sounds just as groundbreaking now.
Beastie Boys – ‘Paul’s Boutique’ (Capitol, 1989). The Beastie’s classic celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, too, and its snot-nosed, bratty brilliance remains undimmed: a masterclass in sampling, lyrical greatness and top-notch production courtesy of the Dust Brothers.
Massive Attack – ‘Blue Lines’ (Virgin Records/Circa, 1991). The debut album by trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack, ‘Blue Lines’ is often regarded as one of the best albums ever made, and its second single ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ as one of the best songs ever made. Quite an achievement, eh?
Primal Scream – ‘Screamadelica’ (Creation/ Sire/ Warner Bros. Records, 1991). Widely acknowledged as one of the best albums of the 1990s, the Primals fused rock, dance and house in brain-melting ways on their third album. Things would never be the same again.
Jeff Mills – ‘Waveform Transmission Volume 1’ (Axis Records, 1992). Setting new standards for intelligent, hardcore techno, Jeff Mills’ ‘Waveform Transmission Volume 1’ is the DJ’s earliest solo work. With its bloodthirsty, adrenalin-pumping synthlines crashing against your cranium, it’s a sonic wonder.
Underworld – ‘Dubnobasswithmyheadman’ (Junior Boy’s Own, 1994). Of Underworld’s third album, NME said: “Before Underworld’s startling remixes for Björk and Orbital last year, no-one would’ve put money on [them] making the first visionary record of ’94. By writing ‘songs’ – albeit playful, deranged ones – they’ve come up with a solution for the facelessness that blights some dance music.”
Leftfield – ‘Leftism’ (Hardfield/Columbia, 1995). Leftfield’s debut helped keep Britishhouse music alive in 1995: a record of irrepresible spirit, spikiness and energy that included the powerhouse ‘Open Up’, recorded with Public Image and Sex Pistols legend John Lydon.
Goldie – ‘Timeless’ (FFRR Records, 1995). Ranked No. 10 in our `Top 50 Albums of the Year’ for 1995, ‘Timeless’ is a groundbreaking record in drum and bass history, and Goldie’s blend of complex textures and sounds helped secure the album’s place as one of the key moments in the history of all dance music.
Aphex Twin – ‘The Richard D. James Album’ (Warp, 1996). Claiming the prize for the most undanceable dance album on this list, the self-titled ‘Richard D. James Album’ is one of electronic music’s greatest innovators at his best. Dance music at its most twitch worthy and an album which has inspired Radiohead, Four Tet and loads more.
DJ Shadow – ‘Entroducing…’ (Mo’ Wax, 1996). Almost entirely comprised of samples, and entirely brilliant, too: a landmark moment in dance music.
The Chemical Brothers – ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ (Astralwerks, 1997). Released in 1997, The Chemical Brother’s second album is one of the best loved British albums ever made. With even Noel Gallagher lending his vocals, the album was vibrant, immediate, intense and exhilarating to listen to from start to finish.
Daft Punk – ‘Homework’ (Virgin, 1997). Daft Punk’s 1997 debut proved to be massively influential over the world’s dance scene. ‘Homework’ represented the very best of house, techno, electro and hip-hop merged together, and in the process, changed pop music for ever.
The Prodigy – ‘The Fat Of The Land’ (XL/ Maverick, 1997). ‘The Fat Of The Land’ was The Prodigy’s third full release, and the first to feature vocalist Keith Flint. A complete reinvention after ‘Music For The Jilted Generation’, it was almost single-handedly responsible for breaking electronica in the US.
Fatboy Slim – ‘You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby’. With his second album, Norman Cook became the first EDM artist to enjoy US Top. 40 success. Considered a s one of big beat’s great success stories, the Fatboy also proved the could deliver the soul, too, sampling 70s spoken-word poet Camille Yarbrough on the soul-funk ‘Praise You’.
Paul Oakenfold – ‘Tranceport’ (Kinetic, 1998). Founding father of British rave Paul Oakenfold’s eighth mix album, ‘Tranceport’, is often regarded as one of the best trance albums ever made. A further five ‘Tranceport’ records were made by different artists as part of the series, including Max Graham and Sandra Collins.
Amon Tobin – ‘Permutation’ (Ninja Tune, 1998). Tobin’s third album found him delving deep into the depths of trip hop, jazz and swing music, forging more variations on the form than anyone else had before him.
Basement Jaxx – ‘Remedy’ (Astralwerks, 1999). 1999’s debut by Basement Jaxx, ‘Remedy’ was released to massive acclaim. We said at the time: “It’s probably as good a dance album as anyone from these Isles has produced this decade. It’s a wonderful new frequency where house, ragga, techno, soul, funk, flamenco are all mashed together and it feels like some kind of perfect moment.”
Moby – ‘Play’ (V2, 1999). Released in 1999, Moby’s fifth album was a phenomenon. Producing nine singles that would dominate the worldwide charts for over two years, extensive licensing of the songs for adverts, films and TV brought Moby to the masses. But ‘Play’ was influenced by gospel and blues, and was a pop album at its purest, bringing dance out of raves and into homes.
Royksopp – ‘Melody AM’ (Wall Of Sound, 2001). Writing on the Norwegian group’s debut, our reviewer Alex Needham wrote in our 8/10 review: “The music is a spectral combination of bleepy 80s synths, lightly crunching backbeats and dreamy vocals; the mood is pure post-clubbing afterglow, in bed with your loved one, in some snowbound Ikea log cabin. Sounds nice? It is.”
The Avalanches – ‘Since I Left You’ (Modular, 2001). Using an estimated 3500 samples from the likes of Blowfly to Madonna, ‘Since I Left You’ is an undisputed triumph. Released in November 2000, we described the album as “a joyous, kaleidoscopic masterpiece of sun-kissed disco-pop”, and we really couldn’t have been more right. It is unbelievable how much fun ‘Since I Left You’ really is.
The Streets – ‘Original Pirate Material’ (Locked On/679, 2002). Mike Skinner introduced himself to the world with the fresh, geezerish charms of his debut ‘Original Pirate Material’ – a record which was in turns funny, touching and startling, and changed UK garage forever.
Michael Mayer – ‘Immer’ (Kompakt, 2002). An influential mix album crafted by the German EDM artist, ‘Immer’ was released at a critical point when rave culture was declining in the 2000s . It tugs at the heartstrings, seduces you with its atmospheric beats and flows beautifully from track to track.
2 Many DJs – ‘As Heard on Radio Soulwax Vol. 2’ (PIAS, 2002). Released in 2003, this was the debut album by Soulwax members David and Stephen Dewaele, also known as 2ManyDJs. ‘As Heard on Radio Soulwax Vol. 2’ features 45 remixed tracks from the likes of Dolly Parton, Basement Jaxx and Kylie Minogue.
Underworld – ‘Anthology, 1992-2002’ (JBO/V2, 2003). As NME’s Antony Thornton said: “Its evocative mystery, innovative dirty baselines and starry-eyed urban romance give this a timelessness that’s evaded their contemporaries. These are grimy urban tales every bit as evocative as ‘London Calling’, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ or anything by Smiths. But you can dance to them as well. Sorted!”
Various Artists – ‘Trax Records: The 20th Anniversary Collection’ (Casablanca Trax, 2004) . Legendary house record label Trax Records was famed for producing some of the best house music out there, and this mammoth collection showcases their sensational work in one easy-to-digest location.
Modeselektor – ‘Hello Mom!’ (BPitch Control, 2005). Modeselektor’s debut excels in thrilling robotic rhythms and sounds to keep you dancing. They’ve become regular collaborators with Radiohead man Thom Yorke in recent years.
Juan Atkins, ’20 Years Metroplex: 1985-2005′ (Tresor, 2005). One of the founding fathers of the entire techno genre in the 1980s, Atkins created the legendary techno label Metroplex. ’20 Years Metroplex: 1985-2005′ showcases the varied, futuristic techno vibes Atkin made his name out of, creating a record that is unceasingly fresh, exciting and contemporary.
Various Artists – ‘Journey Into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story’. The resident DJ of the Paradise Garage in New York, largely thought at the time to be the greatest club in the world, Larry Levan perfected the DJ-role before EDM became the enormous force that it is today.
LCD Soundsystem – ‘Sound of Silver’ (Capitol/EMI, 2007). James Murphy’s second album, ‘Sound of Silver’, had arguably the greatest three track run of any album with ‘North-American Scum’, ‘Someone Great’ and ‘All My Friends’. Here, Murphy immortalised himself in the dance music halls of fame with an album that is an undiluted joy to listen to.
Justice – ‘†’ (Ed Banger, 2007). The opera disco record that rocked the 2000s, ‘†’ has got to be one of the most melodramatic dance albums ever made. Despite the biblical referencing and Catholic imagery, Justice also proved on ‘†’ that they were more than capable of crafting electronic-pop songs for the masses too, as seen on ‘D.A..N.C.E’, with its kids choir and disco-bound bassline.
Burial – ‘Untrue’ (Hyperdub, 2007). Burial’s cinematic second album, ‘Untrue’ marked the start of a new direction for the British electronic artist, such as the prominent utilisation of vocal samples and influences from garage and hardcore music.
The Orb – ‘The BBC Sessions 1991-2001’ (Island, 2008). A double CD chronicling all their recordings for the radio station over a decade, ‘The BBC Sessions 1991-2001’ features epic-length tracks that were borderline prog and even one song called ‘EDM’ before the term EDM was available in the vernacular. This was foreward-thinking craftsmanship at its very core.
Carl Craig – ‘Sessions’ (K7, 2008). Cataloguing all of the hallmarks that have made Carl Craig one of the greatest techno musicians of all time, ‘Sessions’ further cements Carl Craig’s own legacy in the genre’s hall of fame. The perfect introduction to a producer who never disappoints, never stops enthralling audiences and never stops producing the very best techno in the world.
Nicolas Jaar – ‘Space Is Only Noise’ (Circus Company, 2011). An album more concerned with moving your mind than your feet, Nicholas Jaar’s second LP is a delicate, sparse declaration of just how good slo-mo house can be.
deadmau5 – ‘4×4=12’. A breakthrough commercial success for deadmau5, 2010’s ‘4×4=12’ (his fifth effort) represented what many consider to be his best album to date from the Daft-Punk-influenced ‘Animal Rights’ to the ultimate deadmau5 anthem ‘Raise Your Weapon’.
Skrillex – ‘Bangarang EP’. Although our initial review was unfavourable, Skrillex has gone on to prove us wrong. The ‘Bangarang EP’ marks the moment when a new EDM wizard was truly born, who was able to showcase arena-funk alongside hip-hop and a whole lot of bass. Unstoppable and irresistible fun.