By 1998, electronic music had been a major force in pop culture for a full decade—long enough for rave’s rough edges to wear smooth and the underground to splinter in countless directions.
That’s especially true of Europe and the UK, where jungle had turned to drum ‘n’ bass, trip-hop was earning Mercury Prize nominations, and there was a style of techno suited to virtually every hour of the day. The United States, meanwhile, was deep in the throes of the “electronica” revolution that had kicked off in 1997—a sort of preview of the EDM boom of 2011—thanks to imports like the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and the Prodigy. It didn’t hurt that American rave culture was itself well established at that point, with local scenes fueling an array of styles ranging from West Coast deep house to Florida breaks. Just two years prior, a largely unknown French duo called Daft Punk had played its first-ever U.S. show at a campout rave called Even Further; that they made their first steps toward world domination in a muddy field in Wisconsin is a testament to America’s star-making power, even in an era when rock and pop still dominated tastes Stateside.
As for home-listening fare, Air, Massive Attack, and Boards of Canada all put out career-defining albums in 1998, each one converting listeners who weren’t already self-identifying electronic-music fans. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence that all those albums can be found on our list of the 50 Best Albums of 1998.) Everywhere you looked, the landscape was shifting. Long-players from Moodymann and Theo Parrish retooled Midwestern American deep house for the album format. Artists like Autechre and Mouse on Mars were bending the grid to their own twisted purposes, while Pole’s crackling, deconstructed dub was laying the groundwork for the clicks ‘n’ cuts explosion just around the corner. And the electro revival was in full swing, bringing back the laser-zapping sound popularized by Kraftwerk and Model 500. It was hardly the last time that a formerly futuristic strain of electronic music would turn cozy and nostalgic.
If you scrape beneath the surface of electronic music’s dominant trends circa ’98, all kinds of other ideas were bubbling up too. Here are 10 such examples worth your time.