The Standout Capital-T Techno Releases of 2015

"Capital-T Techno" gained more steam in 2015, but how can we tell good from bad when there's so much to choose from? Techno is dead. Long live techno!

It’s pretty tough to ascertain what counts as the “best” techno of the year when the staggering consistency of the music barely allows us to differentiate the innovative from the banal. Stefan Goldmann recently equated this issue with the problem of contingency; when there’s so much techno to choose from and so little variety of formal characteristics, we’re left with a situation where the tracks themselves are often interchangeable. Of course, this is basically the same argument used by those who say dance music “all sounds the same,” but the point here is that a certain brand of techno has become so proliferated as to warrant a serious assessment of how good and bad actually functions among the glut of carbon copies.

This perception of techno is backed up by an ever-growing audience and a stable economy of clubs, DJs and promoters, who work together to create the hyper-consistent mass that we’ll call Capital-T Techno (CTT). Though many a CTT diehard will tell you otherwise, its aesthetic became ossified after the Sandwell District era and many of the same labels and artists we turned to back in 2008 are still kings of the game. Think of the likes of Semantica, Token and Time To Express, all of whom still release fine music. To use a reductive definition, the English tendency to bludgeon, exemplified by labels like Downwards or Blueprint, interacted with the continental European propensity for patient headfucking, (think Donato Dozzy or Villalobos) divided by a generous dose of the Detroit sound that birthed both tendencies in the first place. In 2015 you can still place most CTT between these poles with the occasional rave flourish or industrial trope added to taste.

Various commentators have been alluding to this “crisis” since the mid-’90s, so we shouldn’t act like this is a unique brainwave nor try to simplify the aesthetics of the problem as we’ve thus far attempted. It’s just getting harder and harder to resist taking part in the backlash as dark, masculine, trippy, banging techno becomes something more akin to a mathematically predetermined tool for fueling an economy and enforcing strict limits than an exciting vein of music. However, what follows are a selection of capital-T 12-inches that we bought, played out, talked about or heard in clubs, because no matter what we think about the state of techno, there’s still a bunch of tight producers out there able to draw thrills from the old formula. Perhaps “true fans” will say we obviously misunderstood the whole thing, but that won’t stop us from sorting the wheat from the chaff.


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