How Jeff Mills’ ‘Waveform Vol. 1’ started a new era of techno – DJ Mag
‘Changes Of Life’ is also a brilliant example of how well-produced ‘Waveform Transmission Vol. 1’ is, the keyboard riff leaping off the vinyl like static shocks, and the drums punching with the fury of a boxed kangaroo. Mills’ production ensures that the music on ‘Waveform Transmission Vol. 1’ is overwhelmingly solid, a work of mass, density, and drive, even on a track as seemingly carefree as ‘Changes Of Life’. It is no surprise that ‘Waveform Transmission Vol. 1’ proved a massive hit with DJs: The record’s eight tracks practically beg to be played out on the dancefloor, their sheer sonic heft ensuring that they would detonate sets from Stockholm to Stockton.
So potent was the record for DJs, in fact, that its whole underlying concept — Mills described ‘Waveform Transmission’ as “an artistic movement to address the convergence of the old and the new. A concept for translating feelings that were too difficult or not possible to relay in words or symbols” — was largely overlooked.
“I’m not sure if this initiative was clearly recognized, as most DJs at that time of its first release were just looking for something to play,” Mills told Fact magazine. “But the concept was always there.” Nonetheless, Mills and Robert Hood would expand on this concept on Hood’s ‘Waveform Transmission Vol. 2,’ released in 1993, and Mills’ brilliant ‘Waveform Transmission Vol. 3,’ released in 1994.
In the end, ‘Waveform Transmission Vol. 1’ wasn’t just the sound of techno in 1992 — it was the sound of techno from 1992 onwards, as artists and DJs like Surgeon, Adam Beyer, Ben Sims, Amelie Lens, Carl Cox, and Charlotte de Witte drew inspiration from Mills’ sound. You could, perhaps, even lay some of the blame for business techno at Mills’ door, as producers and DJs with none of Mills’ highly finessed ear for funk turned his loop-based sound into an excuse for black-T-shirted boredom.
But this should not, and cannot, be the legacy of a record as brilliantly fidgety and forward-looking as ‘Waveform Transmission Vol. 1’. This was the moment when techno turned its back on the past and accelerated into the future, a record with fun, funk, and dark functionality.