Techno Melody

As we make our movie, one of the many things sQuare Productions has learned about the intricacies of the scene is that for techno purists, vocals are unnecessary, garish and take attention away from the all-important beat. In fact, for many old ravers, vocals are straight disgusting, an instant reminder of top 40 remixes and diva house music.

Of course, like many of the old techno paradigms, this is shifting. Just as rockers are coming around to jacking beats, some of the surviving techno purists are coming around to melodies and vocals. This is best exemplified in the work of one of the mystery artists of techno: Rex the Dog.

Rex came from a demo sent into Kompakt marked with a single paw print. From there he released two singles, “Frequency” and “Prototype.’ Two slabs that went to the top of playlists world-wide (both of which are available from the Kompakt MP3 store).

On the strength of these two singles, Rex (in fact an old techno purist himself) was offered remix after remix. The top dance acts in the world came calling: Depeche Mode, Prodigy, Mylo, Soulwax, etc.

All of these acts used vocals, but there was one remix that eclipsed the others -- a remix of a Swedish brother/sister duo called The Knife.

Here's where vocals are most effective in techno music. When the melody is eager and passionate. First the original song from the The Knife themselves: a plaintive, padded synth-heavy track reminiscent of 80s kinky-brunette pop.

The Knife - "Heartbeats"

Rex is called in and gives it a dancefloor rework: speeds it up, adds rumbling stabs and teasing vocals clips that go off like TNT.

The Knife - "Heartbeats (Rex The Dog Remix)"

But where the melody really shines is on a cover version by José Gonzales, a Swedish songwriter quite popular with the O.C. crowd. Gonzales takes his timbre and cue from Rex, but includes the bridge from the original. Point being: a melody like this, in a techno track, a rave-enabled remix or on a simple acoustic set, works each and every time.

José Gonzales - "Heartbeats"

Some of the Boston Phoenix columns here:

DJ Kon
Certainly, Sir
Boy In Static
Skippy White