80s European Techno Music: The Best of the Decade

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the best European techno music from the 1980s. Featuring tracks from Kraftwerk, New Order, Depeche Mode, and more.


The 1980s saw the rise of electronic music and the development of new subgenres, including eurobeat, techno and trance. Although these genres originated in Europe, they quickly gained popularity around the world. In this article, we will take a look at some of the best european techno music of the decade.

Techno is a style of electronic dance music that emerged in Detroit, Michigan in the United States in the mid-1980s. The term “techno” was first used by journalist Kurt Harrin in 1988, when he wrote about the music and club scene in Detroit. Techno is characterized by a heavy use of synthesizers and drum machines, and is often associated with dystopian themes.

Eurobeat is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in Italy in the late 1980s or early 1990s. It is characterized by a heavy use of synthesizers and drum machines, as well as a fast tempo (usually between 140 and 160 beats per minute). Eurobeat songs often have English lyrics, although they may also be sung in Italian or Japanese.

Trance is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in Germany in the early 1990s. It is characterized by a hypnotic or dream-like quality, and often features softly-spoken female vocalists. trance songs typically have a slow build-up followed by a high energy chorus or “drop”.

The Birth of Techno in Europe

Techno music first originated in Detroit in the early 1980s. However, the genre soon found its way across the Atlantic to Europe, where it exploded in popularity. European techno music is characterized by its heavy use of synthesizers and drum machines, as well as its minimalist approach. If you’re a fan of classic techno music, then you’ll love this list of the best European techno songs from the 1980s.

Detroit Techno in Europe

In the late 80s, a new sound was starting to take shape in Detroit. A group of young producers, influenced by the sparser, more experimental styles coming out of Europe, began making tracks with a similar stripped-down aesthetic. This sound would come to be known as Detroit techno.

These producers found inspiration in the works of European electronic musicians like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, and Vangelis. They also took cues from disco and early hip hop. The result was a new type of music that was both futuristic and grounded in the reality of industrial Detroit.

The first Detroit techno tracks were released on a series of now-legendary records, including Juan Atkins’ “No UFO’s” and Derrick May’s “Strings of Life”. These records were immediately embraced by DJs and clubgoers in Europe, who started playing them alongside other styles of electronic music.

Today, Detroit techno is still going strong, with new generations of producers carrying on the legacy of Atkins, May, and their contemporaries. The sound has also influenced other genres like house and techno-pop. Thanks to its enduring popularity, Detroit techno is now an international phenomenon.

The First Wave of European Techno

In the late 1980s, a new style of electronic dance music called techno emerged from the underground clubs of Detroit, Michigan. Techno was created by a group of African American DJs and producers who were influenced by the electronic music of Europe, particularly that of Germany and England. Detroit techno is characterized by its use of synthesizers and drum machines, which create a robotic or machine-like sound.

The first wave of European techno was led by groups like Kraftwerk and Front 242, who were pioneers in the use of electronic music for dance purposes. Kraftwerk’s 1974 album Autobahn is often cited as an important early influence on techno. Front 242’s 1982 album No Comment is another early example of European techno that would go on to influence the Detroit sound.

Other important early European techno artists include Yellow Magic Orchestra, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, and Tangerine Dream. These artists helped to pave the way for the development of Detroit techno in the late 1980s.

The Second Wave of European Techno

The Second Wave of European Techno emerged from the underground club culture of the early 1980s. This style of music was characterized by a more minimalistic and stripped-down sound than the first wave. It was also more experimental and avant-garde, with a focus on atmospheric textures and hypnotic grooves.

The Frankfurt Scene

In the early 1980s, a group of young people in Frankfurt, Germany, started experimenting with electronic music. They were inspired by the early pioneers of techno like Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra, as well as by the hip-hop and disco that was being played in clubs at the time. These Frankfurt musicians created a new sound that was harder and faster than anything that had come before. They called it “accelerated disco” or “tekno,” and it quickly caught on with club-goers in Europe and America.

The Frankfurt scene was led by a group of producers and DJs who later came to be known as the “Second Wave” of European techno. The most famous of these is probably producer WestBam, whose 1985 track “16 Beat” is often cited as the first true techno record. Other key figures in the scene include DJ Paul Elstak, producer Marc Trauner (a.k.a. Mijk van Dijk), and the group Alphatown (comprised of producer Ralf Hütter and DJ Tanith).

The Frankfurt scene was short-lived but highly influential. The Second Wave of European techno would go on to inspire subsequent generations of electronic musicians all over the world.

The Berlin Scene

The Berlin scene was one of the hotbeds of European techno music in the 80s. The city was home to a number of influential clubs and DJs, who helped to pioneer the sound of techno. The Berlin sound was characterized by its dark, intense and driving beats, which were perfect for dancing all night long. Some of the most famous Berlin techno tracks include “Techno City” by Derrick May, “Clear” by Cybotron and “No More Words” by Front 242.

The Third Wave of European Techno

Techno music emerged in the late 80s in Europe and quickly gained popularity throughout the continent. By the early 90s, the genre had reached the United States and was soon being produced by artists all over the world. Techno music is often criticized for being repetitive and boring, but there are many subgenres that are worth exploring.

The London Scene

In the late 1980s, a new breed of techno was emerging from Europe – a harder, faster, more club-oriented sound that would come to dominate the underground rave scene and launch the careers of some of the most influential DJs and producers in dance music history.

This new wave of European techno – often referred to as “the third wave” – was led by a group of pioneering DJs and producers based in London, including Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, Derek May, John Digweed, and Nick Muir. These artists took the foundation laid by their German counterparts and added their own unique flavor to it, resulting in a sound that was both familiar and fresh.

The London scene was also responsible for some of the most iconic tracks of the era, including Sasha’s “Xpander” and Paul Oakenfold’s “Ready Steady Go.” These tracks – and others like them – helped to define the sound of European techno in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Manchester Scene

The Manchester scene was arguably the first hotbed of European techno outside of Berlin. In the late 80s and early 90s, a handful of clubs in the city were playing a mix of industrial, acid house, and techno that was distinctly different from anything else happening on the continent. The most famous of these clubs was The Haçienda, which was owned by Factory Records (the label that also released music by New Order and Joy Division). Other important clubs in Manchester included The Eclipse, The Temple, and The Gallery.


And so we come to the end of our journey through the best of 80s European techno music. It’s been a wild ride, full of ups and downs, but we’ve made it through to the other side. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this incredible decade of music and that you’ll continue to explore it on your own time. Thanks for reading and happy listening!

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