Ten of the best 90s techno tracks selected by Holden Federico

If you are a fan of techno and love to find new music, Holden Federico’s 90s Techno Redux is the place for you . Acknowledged as one of techno’s best kept secrets, the online project seeks to spotlight techno tracks from years past ranging from obscure finds to sleepier classics. Essentially Holden aims to spread interest and passion for the genre’s early years, providing a resource for diehards seeking unique track IDs and newcomers looking to further discover the genre.

With an abundance of musical knowledge, Holden Federico is ultimately a DJ and producer striving to reimagine techno by pushing its essential elements to new extremes. Characterised by driving low-end energy, vivid themes and dub detailing, Holden’s productions possess a foundation of grit and soul whilst as a DJ the Philadelphia-native blends diverse textures, smart pacing and a reverence for the past in his vision for a modern dance floor.

The best way to showcase his undeniable talent is to highlight his highly anticipated forthcoming release on Setaoc Mass’ esteemed SK_X imprint. Entitled Deliverance EP, the New Yorker effectively blends a mix of hard, brutal percussive drive and powerful kick drums with his beautifully written melodies which stem from his background in classical music. Throughout the EP Holden’s musical background is ever dominant with vibrant synth lines providing a sense of body and feeling in the music while straight techno grooves keep the dance floor satisfied. Releasing October 22nd this is a must listen for any techno enthusiast. Tapping into his extensive musical prowess, Holden selects his favourite 90s techno tracks.

Dean Cole – Instruction

“I know, I know…kicking off the 90s techno list with one that’s technically from 2001. This track is very special to me though as it really inspired me to dig for older techno records in the first place. I remember the first the time I heard it I was taken by the sheer strength and simplicity of every element – that driving, mean synth riff, the stark drum programming, and the ominous high-pitched held tone in the background that drops in and out unexpectedly. The sound was so distinctly of a certain era, yet also completely timeless. I was hooked.”

Frame Six – The Hunt

“Dark and loopy – this track by Frame Six shows the power of what you can do with strong drum programming and a catchy synth riff. The touch on the hi-hat layering is so well executed, but otherwise there’s nothing too fancy happening. Just a killer loop with a distinctive vibe that you can ride out for six perfect minutes.”

Black Scorpion (Steve Rachmad) – Teknitron

Steve Rachmad is one of my biggest inspirations. His ability to inject each track with subtle thematic melodic elements is something I really look up to and strive for in my own productions. This track, while more melodic than most techno today, is a masterclass in creating feeling through synth chords and a distinctive theme. The way the blissed out string breakdown eventually syncs up with the more haunting chords gives this track an emotion and feeling I find myself wanting to return to again and again.”

Total Planet Refreshment – Ratfry

“Heiko Laux is an incredibly talented producer, his work through the 90s shows a ton of range and I particularly like the records released under his Total Planet Refreshment alias. You can hear the influence of “Enforcement” by Cyrus on this one (released two years prior), but he builds on the core elements of the idea and makes it something his own entirely. There’s a lot to explore here, the rigid 16th note rhythm is such a great foundation for this tunnelling, emotional vibe.”

Brixton – Sound Damping A2

Love the bassline on this track, definitely still holds up today. The synth sound brings so much drive and energy that it pretty much stands on its own. The high, reverbed popping sounds give it some subtle texture, but everything is secondary to the killer bass riff. Dead simple and extremely effective.

DJ Hell – This is For You

To me, techno is simultaneously about futurism and soul. It’s about pushing for something new and undiscovered. It’s about exploring a feeling. But it can also provide a commentary on culture and modern life, which is exactly what “This is For You” by DJ Hell (aided by vocals from Melissa Logan) does so well. “Saturday mornings watching This Old House upstairs in your office…Long distance phone calls from New York City… the guy upstairs, he is hooked onto Wall Street…more, more, more.” It’s frantic, associative, and vivid in the picture it creates of an image-obsessed, materialistic, status-driven society looking towards the new millennium. The images feel hauntingly familiar, and the critique works just as well today as it did nearly twenty-five years ago. We’re in the same place. In 2021, I believe that dance music can show the way out. It has the power to stand for soul and exploration in the face of cultural forces slowly eroding community, human interaction, and human feeling. I’ll always be striving for the  way out with my music. DJ Hell and Melissa Logan show that dance music can also hold the mirror up, and show us what we’ve become.

Steve Lazard – Whirlpol

Dark and moody, this song is all about hitting a perfectly restrained vibe and not letting go. Nice, steady march to the hi-hats while the bassline brings the drive, but for me it’s all about the melody. It’s slippery and tough to pin down, but extremely distinctive and thematic. Love getting lost deeper and deeper on this record.

James Ruskin – Logical Force (Claude Young Remix)

Mixing with this track made me see it in an entirely new lightI slept on it on the first few listens, but now I get excited every time I load it up. There’s something about the way every element comes together to say we’re about to go somewhere new that I find addicting. It pulls you in, puts the synth line and the creeping noise atmospherics to work on you, and spits you out more aware of every element in the mix, more in touch with each frequency range you’re hearing.

Planetary Assault Systems – Funk Electric

I wouldn’t be able to make it through a list of favourite 90s tracks without mentioning Luke Slater. He’s an all-time hero for nearly everyone making techno today. It’s so inspiring to see someone who’s been doing this for over thirty years still pushing himself to evolve, still so deeply in touch with the modern dancefloor, and still getting better and better with each year. “Funk Electric” has to be my pick from him in the 90s – it’s a monster of a track, still works great in a set today. Perfect balance of peak time energy with distinctive synth work and trippy atmospherics. I can’t get enough of this song.

Basic Channel – Radiance II

Like nothing else. One of the songs that made me want to make techno in the first  place. Haunting, yet introspective and optimistic. Music that stops time. Music for the future.

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