The Most Influential Electronic Music Pioneers

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Like the settlers who traveled from the east coast to the west coast in search of manifest destiny, these EDM pioneers helped pave the way for electronic musicians of the future. For decades, musicians have been creating electronic music, but only recently have their jams become more mainstream. In each case, the artist or artists directly affected the future of electronic music, offering fans a totally unique perspective on the genre. 

Who are some of the most influential electronic music pioneers? There are plenty to choose from, and a bunch got their start in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Groups like Kraftwerk, New Order, Daft Punk, and Depeche Mode are considered some of the greatest electronic music bands of all time. They helped lead the way for other electronica musicians and DJs to create some of the most mind-blowing electronic dance music of all time.  

Vote up the best EDM pioneers, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.  


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    Germany's Kraftwerk is arguably among the very best when it comes to influential electronic music. With a signature style that also includes some pretty awesome hooks, Kraftwerk remains a leader in the genre, influencing everyone from David Bowie to Afrika Bambaataa.

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    Depeche Mode deserves a place on any list that includes pioneers of electronic music, particularly electro-pop. This British band, fronted by the brilliant David Gahan, has recorded heavily synthesized tunes that range from the upbeat (early Depeche) to the brooding and dark (later years). Depeche remains hugely popular today. Bands like The Crystal Method cite Depeche Mode as a massive influence.

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    The Grammy Award-winning French duo Daft Punk collaborate to create innovative and fascinating electronic music that not only thrills critics, but also fans. Daft Punk is still collaborating with mainstream artists like Kanye West and the duo also composed the movie soundtrack for the 2010 film "Tron: Legacy." If you ever get the opportunity to check out a Daft Punk live show, do it. Move Heaven and Earth to get there - you won't be disappointed!

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    Peer Van Mladen Added by: predrag

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    The British alternative/electronic band New Order burst onto the scene in the 1980s, putting out a series of mainstream hit songs that remain a staple on radio today. New Order became extremely influential - the band's unique blend of electronic dance and new wave music spawned a host of other acts. New Order was also part of the alt dance supergroup Electronic, which featured members (or former members) of the Pet Shop Boys, the Smiths, and - lo and behold - a former member of Kraftwerk.

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    The British electronic group The Prodigy was extremely influential in the genre, particularly in the so-called "big beat" area of music. With heavy back beats and rhythm similar to techno, The Prodigy managed to influence while enjoying a great deal of mainstream popularity. Listen to The Prodigy and you'll hear everything from rave music to industrial to rock and punk and, of course, electronica.

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    The electronic musician Aphex Twin (aka Richard David James), is a tremendously successful contemporary electronic musician. Influences from Kraftwerk to Tangerine Dream can easily be heard in the music, which runs the gamut from ambient techno to trance and, of course, electronica.

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    Omitting Jean-Michel Jarre from any list involving the most influential music pioneers would simply be a crime of epic proportions. This French composer and musician has put out decades of incredible, melodic electronic music. He's also given stunning concert performances, particularly in the 1970s (where he achieved mainstream success).

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    Massive Attack is a true pioneer in the field of "trip hop," offering up a remarkable blend of trippy, hypnotic music blended with dub and even dramatic melodies to fans for decades now. Massive Attack's music has influenced a number of modern electronic artists, including Beth Orton, Portishead and Sneaker Pimps.

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    No list of influential electronic music pioneers would be complete without the great Brian Eno and his brilliant ambient music. Eno's solo work (after Roxy Music) is considered by many to be a positively dazzling example of ambient music. Eno's influences run deep - Aphex Twin comes to mind immediately.

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    Arguably, one of the most modern influential electronic pioneers in music is Moby. This DJ, songwriter and composer does it all. Moby burst on the scene in the early 1990s, with his ambient electronica music and upbeat tunes. Moby also achieved a great deal of mainstream success, with his 1999 album 'Play.' Love him or hate him, there's no denying his importance in electronic music today.

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    The British electronic duo Underworld might be included on genre fans' "best of" list. Musicians Rick Smith and Karl Hyde, together with DJ Darren Emerson, created a unique blend of techno, trance and pop music (heavy on the techno).

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    The German electronic music group Tangerine Dream definitely deserves a spot on any list of the most influential electronic music pioneers. The band, which formed in the late-1960s, embraced the digital technology in the 1980s, which allowed them to combine stunningly unique sounds via synthesizer. Today, Tangerine Dream's influences can be heard in music from Radiohead to DJ Shadow and Art of Noise.

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    The British electronic group The Orb is virtually synonymous with ambient house music. The band's oft meandering tunes are without question totally trippy - and worth a listen, if you want to hear the beginnings of the ambient house genre (and totally chill out after being up all night).

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    Trent Reznor could be considered a pioneer in the world of electronic music. The Nine Inch Nails singer first made a name for himself with the band's industrial rock sound - today, Reznor is branching out. His music now runs the gamut from dark ambient to electronica. Most recently, Reznor's been busy with movie soundtracks. His collaboration on the dark ambient 'The Social Network' soundtrack, with fellow British musician Atticus Ross, earned him an Oscar for Best Original Score. Now, he's working again on a soundtrack for a David Fincher movie: 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.' He's definitely a visionary worth watching for years to come.

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    Bronx DJ Afrika Bambaataa (Kevin Donovan) is arguably among the best in his field. Some consider him the father of electro funk and there's no question that his tunes helped to give birth to hip hop. In the early 80s, Bambaata combined unique sounds from German-influenced electronica with his own innovative style, giving birth to electro funk. Not sold? Check out the song 'Planet Rock.' Any doubt about his influence? No. His influence can be heard in the music of everyone from Leftfield to Rage Against the Machine.

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    The Crystal Method is an influential American electronic duo that has enjoyed a LOT of mainstream success over the years. The duo is known for it's energetic and exuberant tunes. which feature hefty doses of electronica, big beat and club or dance music.

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