Welcome to my list of Top 20 Techno 90s Rave Tunes. In the early 90s rave music was everywhere. I remember it well. I was in college at the time and living in Orlando. Back then the downtown party scene was much cooler. Firestone was around, The Edge was around. Clubs stayed open all night and nobody even went out until well after midnight. If we got bored we drove to Gainesville and went to Simons. Zen Festival was in full effect and raves were ubiquitous. Ecstasy was plentiful and we liked how that dude from Rabbit in the Moon wore that crazy mirror-jacket!
It’s hard not to listen to the music you grew up with and not have a little bit of nostalgia (I grew up in the 80s, thus I have a soft spot for 80s music, even while I understand that most of it isn’t very good). Sure, a lot of rave music, just like a lot of house music, is total crap. But some of it is really good, too, and in that spirit I bring you my personal top 20 rave/techno tunes of the early 90s – mostly from 1990-1993. Naturally, rave purists will yell at me about it (How could you not include Run Tings? Where’s the Smart-ees?! Where’s DJ Icey?! Only a poseur would include Lords of Acid!).
Whatever dudes! Go make your own list!
Top 20 Techno 90s / Rave Tunes
20. Baby D – Let Me Be Your Fantasy (1992)
This one throws everything in but the kitchen sink. Female vocals (Dorothy Fearon), piano riffs, sirens, and at the end there’s a good amount of 303 squelches. From the Production House label, who also gave us Acen. This is a huge breakbeat/rave item and has been re-released countless of times.
19. Return of the Living Acid – Get Funky! (1991)
Return of the Living Acid is actually Tony Payne, who also did Goal Kick, which is on a 12″ white label from back in the day called “History Repeats” “Get Funky!” is my personal guilty pleasure. It’s not a complex song, but it combines all the required elements (long deep base notes, 303 acid stabs, hiphop sample) in just the right way to get the intended effect. I mean, it’s Africa Bambaata’s Planet Rock (Yo Yo, Get Funky! Yaaahhhhh!) turned into a rave anthem. Sounds good to me!
18. SL2 – On A Ragga Tip (1992)
This is the best example I can think of what they call “Ragga Techno”. It’s basically breakbeat with a reggae/dancehall influence. This song tends to make me jump up and down alot – it’s very bouncy. And I love the sampling of Jah Screechy’s “Walk & Skank” even though I have no idea what he’s saying.
17. Zero Zero – Zeroxed (1991)
A good techno tune from the early 90s is this song off the Kickin’ label that samples Jimi Hendrix (the guitar riff from “Fire”). It also has a sample of Aphrodite’s Child (“Now comes the capture of the beast”) and sirens to kick it off. It’s only for the headstrong, whatever the hell that means.
16. Altern8 – Armageddon (1992) / Frequency (1991)
Mark Archer and Chris Peat (formerly Nexus 21) dressed up in dust masks and chemical protection suits and called themselves Altern8. I don’t think you can talk about old school rave and not mention them – they are probably the most interesting of the bunch because they aren’t your typical “faceless” techno artist. Certainly not as well known as an act like The Prodigy, but at least you recognize their look. They came out with weird shit and sayings like “Top One Nice One Get Sorted”. Yeah! What in hell does that mean? I don’t know, but it’s fun to say. Their music is total rave all the way, influenced by the Detroit techno sound, and occasionally their songs will sample old school house music, throw in 303 stabs, nice 808 kickdrums, heavy bass, etc.. “Full On Mask Hysteria” is their only full length LP and it’s worth getting if you can find it. It works as techno and as a historical artifact. My two favorite tunes off the record are Frequency and Armageddon. The first track naturally has a recurring sample of some guy saying “Frequency” and it’s echoed and faded. Armageddon is a massive stormer with Public Enemy samples (Chuck D says “Armageddon!” from when they did a live show in London). Good stuff.
15. Kid Unknown – Nightmare (1992)
“I am a nightmare walkin” Despite the fact that it gets a little repetitive, Kid Unknown’s rave classic is the spookiest damn dance record I’ve ever heard. Repeated loops of the Ice-T vocal from the song Colors (“I am A Nightmare”) and another from the early Ice-A-Mix (“Bust a beat for this tune!”) alternated with a sample of a little girl crying. It gives me the willies. Excellent breakbeat backing it all up, it comes to you from Paul Fitzpatrick from Manchester (he DJ’d at Hacienda back in the day).
14. LaTour – Blue (1991)
This is the version used in the club scene of Basic Instinct. After all these years it still comes through as a dark and moody house tune. Good baseline and synthesizers; I think it makes a great driving song. LaTour would later give us “People are still having sex”. Speaking of sex, Sharon Stone was hot in that movie.
13. T99 – Anasthasia (1991)
From Belgian dudes Patrick De Meyer and Olivier Abbeloos, Anasthasia is a classic rave anthem that starts off with a sample from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, modified into short techno “stabs”. Also in the beginning some kid says “Music, Maestro, Please?” and another vocal sample, according to a few people, exclaims “All Good Children Go To Heaven” but it sounds like to me the guy says “Whatcha-wan-in-charge-let’s-go-to-Miami”. This song was guaranteed to get me and my friends onto the dance floor. Again, somebody decided it was a good idea to create a version with a rap in it. Disregard that and go for the original.
12. L.A. Style – James Brown Is Dead (1991)
Dudes from the Netherlands dropped this hard house tune that starts out with some guy saying “James Brown is dead” before hitting us over the head with a huge house beat. This is the song that in my eyes is the perfect example of what they call a “club stomper”, because everybody on the dance floor starts stomping their feet to it. The irony here is that L.A. Style were trying to tell us that R&B/Soul/Funk was dead and techno/rave was here to stay. Well, James Brown may be truly dead now (RIP, James) but his music lives on. As for rave – well, yeah, you see where I’m going with this. The song also has a rap version, but you can skip that and go straight for the instrumental.
11. M.A.N.I.C. – I’m Comin’ Hardcore (Remix) (1992)
This is a classic rave stormer from the U.K. that took over the clubs. It’s starts off like a piano rave but then when the guy says “The Rhythm is hot” the whole thing blows up. Totally crazy song that was building on other dance tunes of the period. (From Discogs: Main vocal sample taken from Hard Core Hip House by Tyree. Rave stab sample from Fairy Dust by Set Up System.) By the way, M.A.N.I.C. stands for Music.Audio.Noise.Inducement.Control.
10. DubTribe – Mother Earth (Oringinal / Remix / Sunshine Mix) (1993)
yeah, some say we don’t deserve this earth we walk upon
some say we don’t deserve to breathe the air we pull into our lungs, yeah
carbon monoxide, acid rain, hate, greed, and selfishness destroy our precious skies of our mother earth
you people better rise up together and join hands with one heart and one mind
good people better rise up soon
cuz this planet is mine
this planet is ours and we have got to live together
i want my planet back
DubTribe (aka DubTribe Sound System) usually do tribal house stuff, but this is their masterpiece – a spaced out trance tune with a heartfelt message. I’m no environmentalist but this song is enough to make you join Greenpeace. It’s great hypnotic stuff. The remixes are really good also, with the Sunshine Mix throwing in nice piano riffs, a groovy bassline, and a reggae-sounding “My land/mother earth/my land…”.
9. Flipped Out – Everybody is Somebody (Just Beliv Mix) (1993)
Another classic that brings back a lot of memories. Piano riffs, hypnotic stabs, danceable breakbeat, atmospheric trance, and a damn helicopter sample in the middle! (Most people know this song as the “helicopter song”). Like the DubTribe track, this one still holds up after all these years.
8. Lords of Acid – I Sit On Acid (1988)
Darling, come here… f*ck me up the.. Ok, I’m cheating here a little bit. This song was technically released in 1988 on a 12″ under Kaos Dance Records. But honestly, I never heard the tune until 1991 when they released it on the full length CD entitled “Lust”. This was pretty much my first real exposure to alternative dance music – before this time I was listening to Miami bass music (2 Live Crew, Magic Mike, A.D.E, etc), Miami freestyle (Stevie B, Trinere, Debbie Deb, etc), and whatever pop the radio was giving us (probably Madonna or something). When I first heard Lust I was completely intrigued. This is why 1991 was a great year in music for me – not only was there a rock revolution with the likes of Nirvana, and an industrial revolution with Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, but I was being exposed to all of this great electronic music like Moby, Eon, and LOA in clubs and on college radio.
Anyway, I’m getting off track – I Sit On Acid not only assaults you right away with it’s political incorrectness (singer Nikkie Van Lierop (Jade 4 U) not being shy about her sexual fetishes – giving screams of orgasms throughout the song, with exclamations of “I want to sit on your face”) but it’s a perfect example of early acid house and what they used to call the New Beat. The song (and the album) was unique in that it crossed boundaries when it came to fans – rock lovers were just as likely to like it as club-goers. The New Beat style didn’t last, but this song does. LOA later went the industrial route, and the results were not as satisfying.
7. The Prodigy – Everybody in the Place (Fairground Remix) / Charly / Fire / Out of Space (1991-1992)
I’ll take your brain to another dimension
Pay close attention
What can be said about The Prodigy other than the fact that they are probably one of the most popular techno/rave groups ever. Before they came out with Firestarter (‘twisted firestarter’) and even before Poison (‘i got the poison/i got the remedy’), they were releasing incredible records. “Everybody in the Place” is one of their earliest and a classic in its own right. I’m talking about the so-called Fairground Remix, because it sounds like you’re at an actual fair. The only things missing are the roller coasters and the cotton candy. It says “Fairground Remix” but I’ll be damned if they even released any other mixes of this song (I have yet to find any).
No matter – it’s a wonderful early dance tune and the use of the fairground music is really clever. Charly is a cool breakbeat item with some really weird stuff in it. First there’s this sample of this cartoon cat named Charley from some kids safety advertisement back in the early 70s (England). (Heh – It sounds like Charley is sick) and the kid says “Charly says always tell your mummy before you go somewhere”. I like how the cat’s strang meow is used as a springboard into this crazy drawn-out 303 squelch. Fire continues the breakbeat phenomenon with a sample “I Am the God of Hellfire, and I bring you…”
Then they dropped “Out of Space” which is really crazy. Of all things, it samples “Chase the Devil” from Max Romeo and the Upsetters (I’m gonna send him to outer space/ To find another race) and even Kool Keith (I’ll take your brain to another dimension/ Pay close attention). What these songs all have in common is that they are extremely catchy and are good examples of what you can do with breakbeat music.
6. Acen – Trip II The Moon / Close Your Eyes (Optokonfusion) (1992)
Acen Razvi’s stuff is crazy. It’s rave music at it’s most bizarre, for sure. He loves using speed up vocal samples, so the end result sounds like rave anthems as sung by the Chipmunks! Strangely enough, it works. I can imagine that if you are rolling at a rave you’re probably already speeded up, so the vocals will sound normal to you. He released a few tunes of the Production Label, my favorites being Trip II The Moon and Close Your Eyes. Both songs come in different remixed flavors and all different versions have their advantages. Trip II The Moon actually came out in 3 parts, with Part 2 starting off with a classic piano riff accompanied by a chipmunk vocal “Take Me Higher”. Then the hardcore breakbeat comes in alongside a deep bass note sure to blow a few woofers. There’s even samples from a few James Bond films in it. Close Your Eyes has interesting lyrics (Just Close Your Eyes/Forget Your Name…Go Insane) which are sampled from Jim Morrison and the Optokonfusion mix of the song is some kind of huge rave breakbeat masterpiece.
5. Moby – Go (1991)
This is an atmospheric house tune from Moby that still stands the test of time. It was released on a 12″ in 1991 under the “Moby” name but an older version of the song was released the year before under the moniker Mobility, which was one of Moby pseudonyms when he was doing old school acid house for Instinct Records. The difference is that the official Moby release of Go featured an ongoing sample of the theme from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks TV series. The song itself isn’t that complex, but it’s spacey and hypnotic, with the Twin Peaks sample layed alongside chants of “Go”, somebody saying “Yeaahhhh”, and even some piano. Total classic.
4. Eon – Spice (1990)
There’s this weird church in Orlando called H20. It’s completely bizarre, and it’s located in the building that used to be a country bar called 8 seconds. But before *that* it was The Edge, a club we all knew and loved. I saw many bands there, including Ministry and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and Lords of Acid and Reverend Horton Heat. The best part was when midnight rolled around on Saturday and they changed the music to techno. Well, Eon’s Spice was one of the tunes they almost always played. It has samples from Dune (Lynch’s version – yes, techno artists love Lynch!): The Spice Must flow. And it’s got a futuristic electro feel with assorted bleeps and perhaps a Miami-bass feel. I had never heard a sound like that before, and I thank Ian B. Loveday (RIP) for that.
3. Human Resource – Dominator (1990/1991)
I’m bigger and bolder and rougher and tougher
In other words, sucka, there is no other
I’m the one and only dominator
Wanna kiss myself!
One-rave-wonders Guido Pernet, Johan Van Beek, Jasper Drexhage, Robert Mahu & Larenzo Nash dropped this massive acid track in 1990, and it’s pretty good, but what really made it popular was when Joey Beltram remixed it and turned it into a club smash. This is more of the harder rave sound (but nowhere near gabber/hardcore) and we all loved it back in the day. And show me a techno fan who doesn’t own the Strictly for the Hardcore CD – when I found out the first track was Dominator I was beside myself! There’s also a CD single with 13(!) mixes on it.
2. Orbital – Halcyon + On + On (1992)
The genius of Orbital (Paul and Phil Hartnoll) cannot be overstated. Halcyon is a beautiful song, that’s all there is to it. I like how they take the Kirsty Hawkshaw sample from Opus III ‘s “It’s a Fine Day” and twist it around. Sure, sure – “Chime” and “Satan” have their place in history but I think this song (and the whole “brown” album – Orbital 2) is where they hit their stride. Total bliss.
1. Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea (1991)
Some people might not even call this song techno. I admit that it might fit under the more umbrella-term “Electronica” but let’s not split hairs. This song came out in 1992 and in 2007 it still sounds brand new. These guys were way ahead of the times and Papua New Guinea shows it. Breakbeat with an ambient flavor – far and away the best electronic tune of the early 90s. In closing I can only quote from this girl: “I remember coming up om an E when this song was playing and doing a back flip. I think my life changed from that moment onwards and I could only accept love and unity from that day onwards. I am so lucky to have been 22 at that time and able bodied.” Amen.
Runners Up/ Honorable Mentions
XPansions – Move Your Body (Elevation) (1990)
Xpansions featured Richie Malone, who was also in the group Marradona. I’m not sure of “Move Your Body” qualifies as “rave” or “acid house” or “Euro House” or maybe even hip-hop but what the hell. Love the vocals: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, dance while the record spins…!” “Move Your Body, higher, higher, hi-hi-higher!” Perfect example of that midpoint between the 80s and 90s when people started to experiment with music again.
Marradona – Out of My Head (1993) / Awesome 3 – Don’t Go (Kicks Like A Mule Mix) (1992)
Two decent piano rave anthems. The piano stuff would get played out quickly, but at the time these were fun little dance numbers. Marradona (Richie Malone was also in that group) sounds unmistakably Italian in this one. Kicks Like A Mule’s mix throws in all sort of breaks between Julie McDermott’s singing.
Bad Mice – Bombscare (1991)
This was huge at the time. Massive breakbeat song punctuated with the sound of a bomb exploding. As Discog says: “Formed in 1991, 2 Bad Mice are widely credited as among the first U.K. hardcore acts to begin heavily incorporating breakbeats into their style. Produced by Rob Playford from Moving Shadow, the group’s influential approach to sampled beats — cutting them up into shards of rhythm and rearranging them in novel combinations is generally considered the blueprint from which jungle’s characteristic manipulation of breaks was assembled.” No surprise that Playford later ended up in Goldie’s group Metalheadz.
Apotheosis – O Fortuna (1991)
This one you were more likely to hear at a goth club (Barbarellas?) than a warehouse rave, but what the hell. Somebody once said it was like raving with sharp knives instead of glow sticks. That sounds about right – Carl Orff’s classic “Carmina Burana” is worked to advange in this bizarre little tune that was either loved or hated. I personally loved it. As soon as they released it the folks who own the rights to Orff’s stuff (his family) weren’t too happy. That’s why the record is hard to find these days. (You might get lucky if you pick up the Radikal techno compilation CD, like I did).
You might also enjoy:
- 80 Aum – Mindcontroller (1991)
- Messiah – There Is No Law / I Feel Love
- Kicks Like a mule – Number One
- Channel X – Rave the Rhythm / A Million Colours
- Phantom – The Abyss
- The Movement – Jump
- “Y’all some jumpin motherf*ckas” – rather standard club tune but I like the use of the f-word in it.
- Praga Khan – Injected with a Poison
Did you enjoy this list? If so leave a comment below and let us know what your favorite Techno 90’s Rave Song is!