Top 100 Electronic Albums of the 1990s

Top 100 Electronica Albums of the '90s

1. Underworld - Dubnobasswithmyheadman – 1994
2. Orbital - Orbital 2 (‘Brown Album’) – 1993
3. Derrick May – Innovator - 1996
4. Future Sound of London - Lifeforms – 1994
5. Leftfield - Rhythm and Stealth – 1999
6. A Guy Called Gerald – 28 Gun Bad Boy – 1992
7. Fila Brazillia - Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight - 1997
8. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 – 1993
9. Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children – 1998
10. Ismistik - Remain – 1994
11. Daft Punk - Homework – 1997
12. The Black Dog - Temple of Transparent Balls - 1993
13. Leftfield - Leftism – 1995
14. Model 500 – Classics – 1993
15. Speedy J - G Spot – 1995
16. The KLF - Chill Out – 1990
17. Underground Resistance – Revolution for Change – 1992
18. The Chemical Brothers - Exit Planet Dust – 1995
19. Move D - Kunststoff - 1995
20. Underworld - Second Toughest in the Infants – 1996
21. LFO - Advance – 1996
22. Global Communication - 76:14 – 1994
23. Carl Craig – More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art – 1997
24. Rockers Hi-Fi - Rockers to Rockers – 1995
25. Eat Static - Implant – 1994
26. Ken Ishii - Innerelements – 1994
27. Amorphous Androgynous - Tales of Ephidrina – 1993
28. The Advent - New Beginnings – 1997
29. Young American Primitive - Young American Primitive – 1993
30. Children of the Bong - Sirius Sounds - 1995
31. A Guy Called Gerald - Black Secret Technology – 1995
32. Radioactive Lamb - The Memoirs of Reverend Cowhead and Sheriff Lamb Boy – 1996
33. Ronnie & Clyde - In Glorious Black and Blue – 1997
34. La Synthesis - Matrix Surfer – 1997
35. Spooky - Gargantuan – 1993
36. Various Artists – Flux Trax – 1995
37. Coco Steel & Lovebomb - New World – 1997
38. Photek - Modus Operandi – 1997
39. Jeff Mills – Live at the Liquid Room – Tokyo – 1996
40. The Chemical Brothers - Live at the Social – 1996
41. Orbital - Snivilisation – 1994
42. Fila Brazillia - Old Codes New Chaos – 1994
43. Nu-Era - Beyond Gravity – 1994
44. Underground Resistance - Interstellar Fugitives -1998
45. Plastikman - Musik – 1994
46. Russ Gabriel - Voltage Control - 1995
47. Orbital - In Sides – 1997
48. Moodymann – Silentintroduction - 1997
49. Fila Brazillia - Power Clown – 1998
50. Higher Intelligence Agency - Freefloater - 1995
51. The Orb - Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld - 1991
52. Orlando Voorn - Nightvision - 1996
53. Kirk Degiorgio - Check One – 1998
54. DJ Dan - Loose Caboose – 1996
55. The Chemical Brothers - Dig Your Own Hole – 1997
56. Kruder & Dorfmeister - K&D Sessions – 1999
57. Larry Heard – Sceneries Not Songs, Volume 1 – 1994
58. Spring Heel Jack - 68 Million Shades – 1997
59. The Black Dog - Bytes – 1993
60. Various Artists - Excursions in Ambience – 1993
61. Robert Hood – Nighttime World, Volume 1 – 1995
62. LFO – Frequencies – 1991
63. X-102 – Discovers the Rings of Saturn – 1992
64. Love Inc. - Life’s a Gas – 1996
65. Torch Song - Toward the Unknown Region – 1995
66. Swayzak - Snowboarding in Argentina – 1998
67. Plug - Drum ‘n’ Bass for Papa – 1997
68. Maurizio - Maurizio – 1997
69. As One - In With Their Arps, and Moogs, and Jazz, and Things – 1997
70. Spacetime Continuum - Emit Ecaps – 1996
71. Future Sound of London - Accelerator – 1992
72. Plaid - Not for Threes – 1997
73. B12 - Electro-Soma – 1993
74. 4Hero - Two Pages – 1998
75. Reload - A Collection of Short Stories – 1993
76. Jedi Knights - New School Science – 1996
77. Autechre - Tri Repetae - 1996
78. Depth Charge - Nine Deadly Venoms – 1994
79. Dave Clarke - Archive One – 1996
80. Mouse On Mars - Iaora Tahiti – 1995
81. Baby Mammoth - One…Two…Freak – 1997
82. Single Cell Orchestra - Single Cell Orchestra – 1996
83. Model 500 - Deep Space – 1995
84. Woob - 1194 – 1994
85. Lionrock - An Instinct for Detection – 1997
86. Ed Rush & Optical - Wormhole – 1998
87. Groove Armada - Northern Star – 1998
88. Biosphere - Microgravity – 1991
89. Ian O’Brien - Gigantic Days – 1999
90. Underworld - Dark & Long – 1994
91. Sasha - Northern Exposure 2 – 1998
92. Nightmares On Wax - Carboot Soul - 1999
93. Moby – Everything Is Wrong - 1995
94. Drexciya – The Quest – 1997
95. Faze Action - Moving Cities - 1999
96. The Irresistible Force - It’s Tomorrow Already – 1998
97. Various Artists - The Deepest Shade of Techno – 1994
98. Coldcut & DJ Food - Stoned…Chilled…Groove – 1996
99. Various Artists - Atlantic Jaxx Recordings – 1997
100. Various Artists – Hardkiss: Delusions of Grandeur - 1995

Key Electronica-Influenced Albums of the ’90s:
1. Massive Attack – Blue Lines
2. Bjork – Debut
3. Radiohead – Kid A
4. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing…
5. Massive Attack – Protection
6. Madonna – Ray of Light
7. Portishead – Dummy
8. Primal Scream – Screamadelica
9. Stereo MC’s – Connected
10. Morcheeba – Who Can You Trust?
11. U2 – Achtung Baby
12. U2 – Zooropa
13. Seal – Seal
14. Deee-Lite – World Clique
15. Everything But the Girl – Amplified Heart
16. Big Audio Dynamite II – The Globe
17. David Gray – White Ladder
18. Jamiroquai – Return of the Space Cowboy
19. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
20. The Happy Mondays – Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches

Why the Top 100 Electronica Albums of the 1990s?

The last decade of the 20th century was the creative highpoint of a music revolution: the convergence of computers, electronics and human ingenuity. At the dawn of the Internet, the fusion of machine rhythms and electric melodies freed musicians to coalesce around a predominantly energetic instrumental form. The new tools also liberated sound itself, soundwaves carving shapes and effects never before imagined.

On a stealth level, electronica was essentially X-ray music for a pre-9/11 teenage wasteland — ghost deep music that went to the core. It evaporated lyrical me-isms and mass materialism. It projected listeners into holographic Promised Lands interconnected by spines of time. Around the skeletal interplay human beings transmitted their deepest hopes and dreams. It was at once intellectual and carnal, escapist and clairvoyant.

Above is a list of some of the best albums from that splendid decade with tributes to each one. My basic criteria was that each pick reasonably emphasize electronica’s instrumental dynamics, display a full range of invention, express a deep artistic voice, and weather the test of time. A more detailed explanation of my selection process follows. Chime in with your thoughts and criticisms. The next 100 best albums of the ’90s, as well as lists on the 2000s and 1980s (and earlier) are also in the works.

The thought-process behind the selection of the first 100:

Many important and influential albums are missing from the list above by design. For example, followers of the Berlin dub-techno school will complain of the omission of Basic Channel and Pole. Due to the relatively rarefied nature of these artists (and the disappointing editing of tracks on Basic Channel’s BCD compilation), I have instead focused on the most accessible and representative of these ‘schools’ in this first 100 list. In the above case, I have added Maurizio as the genre stand-in and examine Basic Channel’s output in that entry. In the case of some artists like Kevin Saunderson, Green Velvet, David Morley and Matthew Herbert, their best work is scattered across 12″ singles, post-’90s compilations and albums, and will be considered in later write-ups.

Others might also scream bloody murder at my exclusion of Roni Size and Reprazent’s debut classic New Forms or Massive Attack’s Blue Lines from the top 100. Ditto when it comes to Bjork. My decision in these cases was to focus in the first 100 list on albums that generally eschewed the pop arena and hewed closer to the instrumental electronica paradigm. These albums and many other key releases are considered below the top 100 and elsewhere on this site. However, a few might ask why I’ve also axed Goldie’s Timeless from this list. Unfortunately, despite its importance, it simply has not held up as well over time. When it comes to The Prodigy’s Fat of the Land? Fun but nothing extraordinary.

Compilations and DJ mixes are also sparingly included in the top 100 to help fill in key gaps of the story. DJs also played an essential role in electronic dance culture, quilting together the best underground releases and taking newcomers on unforgettable journeys into sound. Many of electronica’s best compositions also came out as vinyl singles and one-offs. In addition to the DJ mixes, a few compilations were selected to help capture those groundbreaking moments.

In part, this list is meant as an antidote to the many distortions of mainstream music culture that have colored assumptions about popular music for the last 30 years. Yes, Radiohead has been brilliant. Yes, many artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Biggie Smalls, the Beastie Boys and Jay Dilla penned fantastic hip hop gems. But the creative peak of these genres first crested in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s respectively. The ’90s was arguably techno’s decade, despite the critical aversion and deafness of the press at large. That said, these artists, as leading lights in important genres, are not forgotten in my ongoing analysis of electronica.

As the freshest and most creative music form of the last decade of the 20th century, one could argue that several of the ‘electronica’ albums above were also many of the best albums of the last 20 years, period. I hope those who got the message in the ’90s would agree. I hope naysayers will at least take some stock. And I wish newcomers the same joy of discovery these albums have given me and so many others over the years.

NOTE: Many of the albums above are now rare and difficult to find. Yet they can be tracked down through sites like GEMM.com or Discogs.com. Some are quite expensive but worth the hunt. Many of them are also increasingly available on iTunes and Beatport.com.


One Comment on “Top 100 Electronic Albums of the 1990s”

  1. KP says:

    Decent list but No Prodigy? Come on…


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