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Six Records That Helped Define Modern Dance Music

From Frankie Knuckles to Bicep, here are six records that have helped define our beloved dance music scene to make it what it is today

As recently as 2020, premier dance music retailer Beatport confirmed a library of 9m+ tracks, demonstrating how far dance music has come over the years. Arguably now you could say we’re overwhelmed with the amount of dance music readily available to us.

However, there are few which stand the test of time. The true test of a record is whether it is played years later & the number of artists who go on to sample the record itself is a seal of approval in itself.

Here are a handful of dance music records from over the years that really have defined our beloved scene.

Frankie Knuckles – Your Love (1986)

As far as dance music producers and DJs go, Frankie Knuckles is the undisputed Godfather of House Music, so it would be sacrilege to not pick one of his records. It was more a question of which one with so many timeless hits under his belt.

It was a tough one to call, but ‘Your Love’ was a Summer of Love hit; the record went on to influence and be sampled by countless artists across numerous genres and eras. From Candi Staton with ‘You Got the Love’ – which was then covered by countless artists as a result of her hit – through to Soulwax with Accidents and Compliments.

A record that truly embodies the acid house spirit and will live on way beyond our years, there is no doubt this record has helped shape not only dance music but has seeped into popular music too.

A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray (1988)

Where ‘Your Love’ was the anthem of the first Summer of Love, the Second Summer of Love was very much led by the British acid house record Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald. The release came out in 1988 on a tiny Merseyside label originally called Rham!, it garnered buzz like few dance records had managed before – with the initial press of 500 12-inch singles selling out in less than 24-hours. It then went on to spend 18 weeks in the UK charts, with a chart high of number 12 in 1989.

The beauty of Voodoo Ray was made possible by creator Gerald Simpson’s own upbringing – living in the inner city area of Moss Side in Manchester and his parents listening to ska and bluebeat. This, combined with his own experiences of going to sound-system house parties in and around the Moss Side area. While later on, Gerald became influenced by the Chicago and Detroit dance music records. This, then translated into Voodoo Ray’s melting pot of Gerald’s influences – to concoct this infectious and timeless dance record that has stood the test of time. 

Those influences were the perfect bridge for a relatively new and burgeoning dance music scene, which arguably will have been an entrance point for the first generation of dance music fans. Many would have been inspired to go on to become artists and DJs in their own right – from Leftfield and Orbital to the Happy Monday and Sasha. 

Laurent Garnier – The Man with the Red Face (2000)

While there were plenty of timeless dance classics between 1988 and 2000, it felt like this record had something a little different and albeit charming about its origins. Laurent Garnier was booked to play a Jazz festival, and, although he plays techno music, he felt he should offer his own take on jazz and cue the birth of a spectacular orchestral dance track infused with some wild acid jazz sounds and techno tinges – AKA The Man With The Red Face. 

Little did Laurent know, it would become such a hit that still gets regularly played out to this day. An absolute classic; known in and out of dance music circles in particular for its synonymous saxophone solo. While also influencing a whole new wave of DJs from the Berlin scene who are now legends in their own right – including Âme, Dixon, Ben Klock, and Booka Shade.

Daft Punk – One More Time (2001)

One of the few undisputed artists & records of the 21st century whose music has influenced a generation. One More Time put Daft Punk and French touch House music on the global map; what made the record all the more incredible was its ability to fuse soul, the early sounds of House music legends like Frankie Knuckles while staying true to their French roots.

The record was released on 30th November 2000, as their first single of the 21st century ushering in a new era as futuristic French robots. It reached number one in France, hit number two in the UK, and number one in the US Billboard’s dance chart. Subsequently, this propelled the duo into another stratosphere at the same time reinvigorating not just the dance music scene but the music scene as a whole. The likes of Busy P, Cassius, Etienne de Crécy Kanye West, LCD Soundsystem, Pharrell Williams, and Phoenix all state Daft Punk as one of their primary inspirations.

Disclosure – Latch (2012)

Disclosure is another duo whose records ooze influences of Frankie Knuckles and house legend Joe Smooth. Latch is the perfect example of how to be originally refreshing in today’s saturated musical climate, yet pay homage to legendary artists without just being a copy and paste artist. The record is a contemporary take on classic house music with a twist – bringing some garage tinges to the plate, which makes it a truly British house music record that spilt over into mainstream popular music.

Latch was also the launchpad for solo artist Sam Smith’s now mammoth pop music career. The record peaked at number 11 in the UK charts, with it becoming a hit two years later in the US – peaking at number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It has since gone on to inspire a new wave of music producers whose entry point was EDM music to be educated and inspired by Chicago House and attract a whole new level of attention to the dance music industry. 

Bicep – Glue (2017)

Arguably the dance anthem of the last few years, Bicep’s Glue almost didn’t happen as when they were first testing it out in live sets the crowd was pretty unimpressed with it which almost prompted the Irish duo to remove it from their sets altogether. Thank god they didn’t and demonstrating to other artists out there that sometimes it’s just a case of refining the music before you hit upon the magic formula.

It has become a classic with its renowned shuffling breakbeats, subtle and warm bass, ambient chords and soaring vocals, a nod to yesteryears breakbeat ravey cuts – it truly has captured a new generation of dance music fans. This sound has gone on to open the doors for rising stars Ross From Friends, Hammer, Mall Grab, Tommy Farrow, and many more who are now turning their hand to this new pitched down trancey ravey style.

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