The 20 Most Important Artists on Astralwerks

Recently, Astralwerks celebrated 20 years of providing quality music to the masses. Now a part of the Universal Music Group, they were previously asso

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Complex Original

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Recently, Astralwerks celebrated 20 years of providing quality music to the masses. Now a part of the Universal Music Group, they were previously associated with Virgin, which let American import music shoppers know that if a solid UK act was signed to the imprint during the 1990s, we'd eventually receive a sick domestic release in the near future. During the great electronica craze that hit America in the 1990s, many of the electronic music scene's finest made their way through this imprint, from the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim to µ-Ziq and Wagon Christ. They have brought in pioneers within electronic music, and have stayed consistent, entering the EDM phase of dance music with huge stars like Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta. To celebrate their two decades of captivating releases, DAD wanted to take a look at the 20 most important artists to grace this imprint, taking into account not only their work on the imprint, but their place within the dance music scene as a whole.

The Irresistible Force

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Notable Release: Global Chillage (1994)

The Irresistible Force was an aka for Mixmaster Morris, a DJ/producer who'd been actively producing electronic music since the late 1980s. He was known for the more ambient and downtempo side of the electronic scene, with the second Irresistivle Force album, Global Chillage seeing a US release via Astralwerks in 1994. He later moved into the Ninja Tune fold, with his remix of Coldcut's "Autumn Leaves" being voted as the best chillout track by Fatboy Slim. Morris has held residencies everywhere from London to Detroit, and has won numerous Ibiza awards. The sound of ambient might not be as popular today as it once was, but during its heyday, Morris was king.


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Notable Release: 1999 (1999)

Formerly known as French hip-hop producers La Funk Mob, Cassius switched gears to house in 1996, gaining enough steam for Astralwerks to sign them and put out their breakthrough album 1999 in 1999. It might have been wild for another French duo to be making catchy house so soon after Daft Punk, but you had to expect it. And it worked, as their first five singles with Astralwerks peaked above the #30 position on the U.S. dance charts.

Todd Terry

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Notable Release: Resolutions (1999)

Todd Terry is seen as one of the best remixers in the game, bringing his crossover house appeal to everyone from Everything but the Girl to De La Soul. What was he doing when he wasn't helping push the deep house vibe to the mainstream? He was embarking on "avant garde drum & bass" excursions, namely with his lone Astralwerks album release, Resolutions. Was it seen as a huge hit? Not at all. It did spawn "Blackout," and showed that Astralwerks was willing to allow established acts the room to breathe and experiment.


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Notable Release: Balance of the Force (1998)

At the time, Boymerang was seen as the perfect example of the growing promise that the drum & bass scene had. Seemingly spawned from the meeting of the Metalheadz sound and the No U-Turn aggression, Graham Sutton's dnb side-project only netted one Boymerang album, but it was so captivating that it is still held in high regard by junglists worldwide. Intricate drum work, warm atmospheric vibes, and a beautiful command of the sound make this one of the greatest drum & bass albums, ever.


Pet Shop Boys

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Notable Release: Yes, Pet Shop Boys Etc. (2009)

The Pet Shop Boys have been around since the early 1980s, and are seen by The Guinness Book of Records as the most successful duo in UK music history, having sold over 50 million records worldwide. They are trailblazers in the synthpop and new wave sounds, and in the late 2000s, linked up with Astralwerks to release Yes, Pet Shop Boys Etc., which proved that they could make timeless electronic pop songs that sounds as good today as it did in the '80s as it will in the 2020s.

Wagon Christ

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Notable Release: Tally Ho! (1998)

Wagon Christ was one of the many aliases of Luke Vibert, a Cornwall producer who was most closely associated with Aphex Twin and his Rephlex imprint. His most successful projects were as Wagon Christ, and his lone Wagon Christ LP for Astralwerks, Tally Ho!, highlighted his quirky take on hip-hop, although many considered it to be hip-hop. He didn't shy away from quality loops, and had a knack for crafting hypnotic beats that weren't fit for MCs, but would keep you rocking for hours on end. When you add his work within the drum & bass sound as Plug, Vibert was a multifaceted producer that definitely should be studied and appreciated.

Future Sound of London

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Notable Release: Dead Cities (1996)

Future Sound of London has been in the electronic music scene since the early 1990s, with "Papa New Guinea" being seen as a true classic in dance music. While they'd been releasing music with Astralwerks since 1994, it was the Dead Cities album in 1996 that brought their sound to a wider audience. Maybe it was the fact that FSOL was willing to be as experimental as could be sonically and still provide some visual representation to the masses that hooked us. "We Have Explosive" was a fuzzy banger that felt both ahead of its time and a fusion of the rock's abrasiveness and electronic music's odd melody. These two are still active, but that time period in the mid-1990s was so vital.


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Notable Release: Moon Safari (1998)

Amour Imagination Rêve, aka AIR, drew from the synthesizer-heavy vibes and soundscapes of everyone from Kraftwerk to Pink Floyd, helping push the budding downtempo/chillout vibes to a more mainstream audience, and were tacked onto the electronica phase of the 1990s music scene, although their music was more suited for Sunday afternoons clutching a glass of wine while strolling around in a polyester suit. They just had a certain "cool" about them; how many groups can say that their sophomore album was a score for a film by Sofia Coppola? Acts like Air had Americans wishing they could travel to France and just experience.

Adam F

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Notable Release: Colours (1997)

After the dnb explosion that Goldie and Roni Size had on the mainstream, labels proceeded to snap up their own drum & bass architects, and Virgin/EMI (who had Astralwerks under their umbrella at the time) snapped up Adam F. While we know Adam know as being a producer who's coat bears many colors, from hip-hop to electro house, at the time he was stuck in the jazzy side of drum & bass, with anthems like "Circles" soundtracking the lives of many a jungle raver. Colours also featured tunes like "F-Jam" and the seminal "Metropolis," which first saw light on Goldie's Metalheadz imprint.


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Notable Release: "Hold On" (2013)

The Nervo Twins have been at it for the last eight years, and are a true powerhouse in the EDM scene, writing Grammy-winning hits for David Guetta ("When Love Takes Over") and with the way "Hold On" impacted the fans, they're sure to help bring today's EDM sound to the mainstream with their strong pop sensibility.

Mike Paradinas

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Notable Release: Lunatic Harness (1997)

During the IDM phase, µ-Ziq was only trumped by Aphex Twin as being one of the most forward-thinking producers in this electronic "brain music" sound. Mike Paradinas, who you now know as the head of the influential Planet Mu imprint, had been releasing music with Astralwerks since the mid-1990s (including the awe-inspiring µ-Ziq Vs The Auteurs remix EP), but it was the 1997 album Lunatic Harness that truly garnered Paradinas the acclaim from those outside of the IDM scene, highlighting his then love for a number of different sounds, although one could say that a heavy emphasis on the emerging drum & bass scene as one of the primary influences on this project. He stuck with Astralwerks until 2003, with all of his major US releases coming out on the seminal imprint.

David Guetta

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Notable Release: "When Love Takes Over" (2009)

For some of us old foagies, Astralwerks as seen as an imprint that helped electronic artists shine despite their music not being so pop-friendly. It's always intriguing to see that Astralwerks has been at the forefront of the EDM scene, putting out the majority of David Guetta's major label releases in the U.S., including One Love, which featured the Nervo-penned Grammy Award-winning "When Love Takes Over." Shows the resolve of the imprint, and while it doesn't reflect its more experimental/free-thinking sound of decades ago, it proves they know how to spot a winner and help push them to the highest heights.


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Notable Release: Minimum-Maximum (2005)

While Astralwerks released Kraftwerk's 2003 studio album Tour de France Soundtracks (Kraftwerk's 10th studio album, and first release since 1986), it was their first live album, Minimum-Maximum, that was the real coup. Kraftwerk had been so influential on many forms of music, particularly what became electronic dance music and hip-hop, that it's surprising that this was their first album since the group started performing live 35 years before. While Minimum-Maximum did not win the Grammy that year, it was released on DVD as well, so we won.

Eric Prydz

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Notable Release: Pryda (2012)

EDM fans know the name Eric Prydz well. The Swedish producer has been exciting dance music fans worldwide with his exciting house and techno sounds, with tracks like "Call On Me" hitting #1 on the dance charts in the UK, Sweden, Germany, and many other countries. He's been releasing music on his own, but chose to sign with EMI/Astralwerks to release his debut full-length project. Before its release, he put out Pryda, a compilation collecting his music from the last eight years, from "Pjanoo" to "Allein," which hit #12 on the US dance charts. Picking Pryda up highlights the proper ear that Astralwerks has for quality producers, whatever the sound.

Brian Eno

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Notable Release: More Music for Films (2005)

Brian Eno is a pioneer in experimental forms of rock and electronic music, with his resume including seven albums produced for U2, three with David Bowie, and other important acts like Devo and the Talking Heads under his belt. His personal music would find him exploring the idea of "chance music," where collaborations dealt more in theory as opposed to practice, allowing for endless possibilities. Astralwerks blessed the world with the 2005 reissue of Eno's 1983 album Music for Films Volume 2 (which also contained tracks from 1993's I: Instrumental and 1978's Music For Films), helping bring newcomers to his distinct brand of ambient music.


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Notable Release: Modus Operandi (1997)

Photek's signing to Virgin was a blessing for American drum & bass fans, as that meant that his first three projects (including the 1998 compilation Form vs. Function) would come out on Astralwerks. He'd already built a solid catalog with releases on Metalheadz and his own Photek imprint, but it felt like his production was made for album-length projects, with Modus Operandi allowing Photek to spread his wings and express his jazzy, samurai style in longer form.


Basement Jaxx

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Notable Release: Remedy (1998)

Basement Jaxx are another duo that Astralwerks helped introduce to the world, releasing their first three (and arguably most important) albums in the U.S.. The British duo hit #1 on the US Dance charts with "Red Alert" (which is right where they next two singles from the album landed), and they ultimately scored a Grammy win with their third album, Kish Kash. Fun fact: that was the first album to receive the "Best Dance/Electronica Album" award from the Grammys in 2005.

Swedish House Mafia

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Notable Release: "Don't You Worry Child" (2012)

When you talk about supergroups in modern dance music, you have to mention the Swedish House Mafia, aka Sebastian Ingrosso, Steve Angello, and Axwell. They formed in 2008, and quickly became "the face of mainstream progressive house music," working with everyone from Coldplay and Pharrell to Knife Party and Tinie Tempah. Their in-your-face brand of house music took the raves by storm and made believers out of many, but just as soon as they rose, they let it go, calling their brief time together to an end at the 2013 Ultra Music Festival. Although they're no longer a trio, their impact is definitely felt, with anthems like "Don't You Worry Child" still putting tears in the eyes of emotional EDM fans the world over.


Fatboy Slim

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Notable Release: You've Come a Long Way, Baby (1998)

Norman Cook, who helped introduce the world to the big beat sound with his Fatboy Slim productions in 1996, became one of the prime examples of the impact of "electronica" on the American music scene. His beats were danceable, but also contained samples and loops that could hook those who might not be ravers of regular fans of the scene with their catchiness. He had a knack for quirky videos, netting himself 10 MTV Video Music Awards during his time, and alongside the likes of The Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers, he was a huge part of the 1990s British dance music invasion in America.

Chemical Brothers

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Notable Release: Dig Your Own Hole (1997)

You can mention The Prodigy, and Fatboy Slim as being the leaders of the 1990s electronica scene, but the Chemical Brothers were right there, helping bring the sounds of big beat to the masses. Huge samples that had people digging through their record collections (or, rather, their parent's record collections) trying to figure out what was being used, they created exciting dance tracks that were influenced by the acid scene just as much as by the hip-hop scene. They've netted four Grammy wins during their reign, with the duo working with everyone from Oasis' Noel Gallagher to Q-Tip, bridging gaps and opening doors for those outside of the dance music scene into the sounds of electronic music.


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