Nine Great Tracks That Use the Roland TR-909

For hip-hop producers, the Roland TR-808 might be the staple drum machine; so many early hits were created on that piece of equipment, and its legacy

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For hip-hop producers, the Roland TR-808 might be the staple drum machine; so many early hits were created on that piece of equipment, and its legacy has lived through today. For the electronic music scene, house and techno producers looked towards its successor, the Roland TR-909, as the go-to analog drum machine of choice. It packed a punch, with analog sounds that are now synonymous with the thump that resides in the house and techno scenes. The 16-step sequencer allowed savvy producers to chain numerous drum patterns together, and while Roland tried to make the drumming on this machine a bit more "human," it was the synthetic sound that it contained that helped usher in the "electronic soul" of the Detroit techno scene and beyond.

We here at Do Androids Dance would probably be doing something else entirely if it wasn't for the work that these masters created utilizing the TR-909, and want to christen September 9 as #909Day... even if its just on this site. That said, let's take a look at nine tracks that properly highlight the beauty of Roland's magnificent piece of hardware, the Roland TR-909.

Mr. Fingers - "Can You Feel It"

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Year: 1986
Label: Trax

This track by Mr. Fingers (aka Larry Heard) is considered one of the best house tunes of all time, and one of the musical birthrights of the Chicago label Trax Records. The simple six-note bassline, slow-moving 909 drumline, and striking pads combine to give a resounding "yes" to the question of the title. There are two other versions in existence (that weren't necessarily sacntioned by Fingers himself, but still were played) with the famous "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King and the "My House (Jack Had A Groove)" acapella.

Rhythim is Rhythim - "Strings Of Life"

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Year: 1987
Label: Transmat

Derrick May's flagship track and the anthem for all that is techno, the beauty of "Strings of Life" stands not only in its amazing musicality, but in the integration of the 909 and other drum machines synced together to give the soundtrack of the Motor City. If Detroit techno were its own country, this would easily be the national anthem.

Orbital - "Chime"

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Year: 1990
Label: FFRR

As Detroit was growing into a dance music powerhouse, there was a paralleled growth going on in the UK that sent people into the same frenzy. A group of brothers from Sevenoaks, Kent decided to make some music. Using their father's old tape recorder, they decided to make this tune, "Chime," and released it independently. A few months later, a young label called Full Frequency Range Recordings run by a man named Pete Tong decided to publish the track. The rest is history, with people calling this the British equivalent to "Strings of Life."

Speedy J - "Rise"

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Year: 1991
Label: Plus 8

Jochem George Paap is the creative genius known as Speedy J, and his early works under Richie Hawtin's Plus 8 label have been lauded (arguably) as some of his best. Notice the way the 909 accents the rising bassline and accompanies the main stabs. This track is most definitely one for those who remembed hearing this at a rave in yesteryear.

Orbital - "Halycon (On and On)"

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Year: 1992
Label: FFRR

Orbital's "Halcyon (On and On)" is their most popular tune, and in the vein of global pop culture, this track has been heard in countless TV shows, movies, and commercials whether you knew it or not. Kirsty Hawkshaw's ethereal vocals and the Hartnoll brothers adding the pure weight of the 909 in the mix makes this tune a nine-minute masterpiece.

Plastikman - "Spastik"

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Year: 1993
Label: NovaMute

Plastikman, or more known to the world as Richie Hawtin, was one of the names responsible for the second wave of Detroit's underground movement. The part of "Spastik" that essentially sold the tune and keeps people wondering how the F he did it is the delayed and spaced out rimshot that fills the entire drum line. Hearing this on a massive rig in either the early '90s or even at a warehouse party that you went to last week can yield the same eye-opening, blood-racing, fist-pumping results.

Jeff Mills - "The Bells"

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Year: 1997
Label: Purpose Maker

There's not much to be said about Jeff Mills that already hasn't been said for over three decades–mainly along the lines of being a Detroit techno icon. "The Bells" basically serves as the cuepoint of the start to his worldwide domination, and the simplicity of the notes goes right in line with the way Mills processed the kicks and snares of the TR-909.

Bryan Zentz - "D-Clash"

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Year: 2003
Label: Intec

"D-Clash" is one of the most essential tracks crom the catalog (and mind) of Bryan Zentz. Notice the way the driving 909s dominate the floor for a few minutes, giving way to a stabby synth that can be considered (in my opinion) as a thugged out, warehouse-y version of Inner City's "Big Fun."

John Tejada - "Stabilizer"

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Year: 2012
Label: Kompakt

John Tejada has always been a quirky figure in the techno scene, and has built his empire off of being different. Most of his work is very musical, and his 2012 delivery on his The Predicting Machine LP brings the same level of musicality paired with his unique programming of the TR-909. Watch the bassline on this one.

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