Daft Punk - The Grid
You can't get much more robot'y than the combination of the movie Tron and the electro outfit Daft Punk. I'm a fan of the original Tron movie, I really liked the new one (despite mixed reviews), and the soundtrack by Daft Punk is an awesome fit. This track is as technical as I could get on the soundtrack, interlaced with spoken snippets from Jeff Bridges.
Fear Factory - Linchpin
Everything about pre/during and post nu-metal stalwarts Fear Factory screams robots. The imagery, the sound, the album and track titles; essentially their whole reason for doing what they do. Initially considered industrial metal pioneers, for many fans they lost their way and became annoyingly repetitive and unimaginative during the heyday of nu-metal. But they've kept churning out good old robotic themed and sounding, catchy and chunky metal. Linchpins, I assume, are vital in the robot-construction business, so that's why I chose this track, from their fourth album, right in the time of nu-metal, 2004's Digimortal.
dEUS - Is A Robot
I love my favourite Belgium export: dEUS are a bastion of catchy indie, pop, rock from the low countries. They have a knack for churning out quality, quirky, moody yet memorable tunes. Each new album keeps surprising me with how they keep the bar so consistently high, without seeming to run out of ideas or material. This track is called Is A Robot. It's about how we are all becoming robots with unthinking enthusiasm. The ubiquitous use of phones and technology are turning us into automatons - turning ourselves into just another interface.
Is a Robot on Spotify
Orbital - Dr Who
Gotta love the divine electronica and gravitas of Orbital. They knocked out some serious classics in their time. This rendition of the mighty Dr Who theme tune is a massive homage with no fromage. No cheese nor lazy sampling, just a faithful rendition with a modern synthesiser sound palette, wicked production and a funky beat. It pays the deepest of respect to the most famous denizen of deep space. The link? Dr Who single-handedly kicks some serious robot butt. Regularly saving the human race from the dominion of either the Cybermen or the Daleks. Unfortunately, for us, the Dr just never saw Facebook, Amazon or Google coming.
My immediate thought was the Alan Parsons Project album I Robot from 1977... I remember enjoying it at the time but a quick aural refresh didn't really do it for me 40 years later. Like my school report cards used to say, 'Could do better'. I'd come across a crowd called Welle: Erdball a while ago who were doing some interesting things with old C64 soundcards... very beepy, flashy, electronicky, roboty stuff, and they even had an album called Dance Music for Robots... bound to be something on there, and there was, in the form of Die Roboter which Google told me meant The Robots. That will do, now find something that matches on youtube and we're good. Except we aren't. Turns out Die Roboter is a cover, but not just any cover. It is a cover of a song from the godfathers of German Electronica themselves, Kraftwerk... and the original is much better! Here then, is Kraftwerk with The Robots from the 39 year old album, The Man Machine. What a difference a year makes!
I was still keen on getting something from the C64/8bit world which, like many genres, has gotten more sophisticated as it matures. Actually, sophistication is very subjective when you are dealing with a limited sound range... Let's just say it's more sophisticated than a kazoo. During my Welle: Erdball phase I'd also come across a group called Eisenfunk (Iron Radio in english). These guys specialise in 8bit EBM and this tune is from their album called, unsurprisingly, 8Bit. It is an annoyingly familiar tune and a little bit of research says I've probably heard it while playing Nintendo TETRIS at some point... and TETRIS took it from The Russians(tm) or at least from Russian folklore. So an old folksong about the human condition comes to this!
The best electronica for me always sounds cybernetic, the product of a mind-machine interface.
Amon Tobin is a master of the form. I chose golfer vs boxer for its blend of furious jazz drumming and sci-fi synth.
More recently Arca has been exploring similarly intense sounds. I chose the jarring ecstasy of Xen as my second track.