Deepen your appreciation of electronic music with these five underseen documentaries.
Music is as much about stories as it is about sounds. Getting to grips with the characters, settings and signature events that have shaped the genres you love is a surefire way to deepen your appreciation and gain new insights into production styles and creative processes. So, whilst we patiently await the moment we can experience music live again, here’s a list of lesser-known electronic music documentaries to get stuck into.
Everybody in The Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984 - 1992
As anyone who’s ever watched archive footage of warehouse raves will know, there’s something about grainy videos of people discovering dance music for the first time that’s difficult to take your eyes off. Beyond the sweet 90s clothes and the hypnotic, pulsating dance moves, you get the sense that what you’re witnessing is more than just drug-fuelled hedonism, it’s a cultural revolution.
In ‘Everybody in The Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992’ artist and historian Jamie Deller sets out to trace the roots of Britain’s acid house movement, exploring the cultural significance of raves and their connection to social and political changes going on at Britain in the time. He uses rare and unseen footage to tell his story, framing his exploration as a presentation to a class of A-level students. The result is a documentary that’s as exhilarating as it is accessible, which will change the way you see dance music forever.
Watch Everybody in The Place: An Incomplete History of Britain on YouTube.
Electronic music is meant for the club, right? Not if you ask Hernan Cataneo, who, in 2018, set out to present the genre from a different perspective.
Over four nights, the Argentinian DJ and producer took to the stage at Teatro Colon alongside a 50-piece orchestra with the aim of creating an electronic experience entirely dedicated to listening. Through these performances, Cataneo revealed the depth and artistry of electronic music as well as its connections to the traditional symphonic world.
‘Connected’ is a documentary exploring the production behind these concerts up close, and the driving forces that made them happen. It’s now available to watch on Netflix.
Sisters with transistors
Despite stark and persisting gender imbalances in the audio technology industry, women have played an integral role in shaping how we produce and listen to music today.
Sisters with Transistors tells the untold stories of these female pioneers, uncovering how their experiments with machines redefined musical thought and opened up the field of sound. Narrated by Laurie Anderson, the documentary covers the composers such as Clara Rockmore, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Delia Derbyshire, Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel, documenting their wild creativity in a way never before seen.
‘Sisters with transistors’ is currently being screened by various film festivals and online platforms. Head to the film’s website to subscribe for screening and release updates.
Black to techno
‘Black to Techno’ is another documentary shining a light on the musical contributions of marginalised communities, this time with a focus on techno’s black trailblazers.
Paying homage to legends such as Juan Atkins, J Dilla, Underground Resistance, Electrifying Mojo, Drexciya and more, the film charts the emergence of techno amongst Detroit’s black communities before its subsequent migration to Berlin, where it became the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. Making links between the Motor City’s automobile factory lines, the roots of black music in drum patterns and the mechanical sound that subsequently spread across the world, this film is essential watching for anyone unaware of techno’s geographical and socio-political roots.
Watch ‘Black to Techno’ on YouTube.
One for the jungle heads! This BBC documentary is a funny and brilliant glimpse into the jungle and drum and bass scene in the mid-1990s. It follows LTJ Bukem at the beginning of his career as a DJ and producer, touring around the US without a work visa. Need we say more?
Watch Modern Times on YouTube.
Are you electronic music obsessed? Then our BA in Electronic Music Production might be for you.