It was great to see Astralwerks put out a compilation of Detroit techno. I had been hoping that a prolific American label like this would do so and was delighted when I received the promo in the mail. I was always there for the Detroit gear and when some trance dude wrote us a letter saying that Chicago and Detroit had received all the props they deserved and it was time to move on I felt that I had to address the issue. In 1996 I did not feel that musicians, DJs and innovators from Chicago and Detroit had received their dues. To some extent I still feel the same way. If the recent article in Magnetic Magazine is anything to go by then the Detroit pioneers are still overlooked, missed by a generation that is uninterested in joining the dots between today’s EDM and the beautiful, ground-breaking and alien-sounding music that came out of the Motor City in the ’80s and ’90s.
Regardless, here’s a review from 1996 when Detroit techno was still unappreciated, but somehow you felt that the entire genre was standing on the verge of continent-wide acceptance in America. Claude Young’s “Impolite To Refuse” opened the collection and this is a track that takes me to the same place as John Beltran’s “Anticipation,” a strangely melancholic sense of bliss. They both evoke cities and stretches of green fields at the same time. Urban pastoralism. Alan Oldham — aka DJ T 1000 — did the art work for the release and this brought me back to my early experiences with Detroit music, Oldham’s distinctively drawn labels for Transmat and Retroactive, his Plus 8 and Gambit & Associates graphic novels.
This was a great package and for the new arrival to electronic music in 1996, who may have missed the late ’80s or early ’90s, it was as useful and enjoyable as compilations like Techno: The New Dance Sound of Detroit, the follow up Techno 2: The Next Generation, the Techno 1 compilation on Kevin Saunderson’s KMS label and the Retroactive collection, Equinox/The Beginning/Nite & Da on the Belgian label, Buzz.
Techno Feature Review
Detroit: Beyond The Third Wave
Goodness, another Motor City compilation is released in the wake of the open-minded and enlightened (?) comments made about Detroit techno in the last issue of this venerable rag. In our letters section we were told by one InSECT that we had paid “our infinite and redundant respect to the old schools of Chicago and Detroit.” Psst (or should I say bzzzz?) Chicago and Detroit release new music every week. It may not be overseen by the dead spirits of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart (pretentious, moi?) but, it is progressive, intelligent and danceable. And while you’re considering these points, take a listen to “The Chase” by Giorgio Moroder, Patrick Cowley’s mix of “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer (a diva who actually sings over a intricate and evolved trance groove. My god what was the world coming to back in 1982?) and “E2 E4” by Manuel Gottsching and tell me what’s so forward-looking about trance. (If I’m missing the point feel free to write a barbed letter).
Meanwhile back in the zimmer frame and colostomy bag aided world of Detroit Techno (yeah, right!) Beyond The Third Wave offers us ten tracks, starting with Claude Young’s lush and reflective “Impolite To Refuse,” awash with melancholy strings that recall Derrick May’s early works, and underpinned by a bassline that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Don Carlos record. Sean Deason is next up with “Vortex,’ a soft groover that’s a million miles away from Final Exposure’s track of the same name, but definitely situated in the same neighbourhood as 808 State’s “Pacific State.”
On the flipside there’s a new mix of the Stacey Pullen track “8th Wonder.” Kelli Hand weighs in with the repetitive and atmospheric house of “Come On Now Baby” and unsung superhero Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir rounds off disc one with “Sandblaster,” a track that can’t decide if it wants to belong to Shake or Marshall Jefferson, techno garage with a serrated edge. “Insert Another Disc” by Ectomorph is a quirky exercise in old school flavor and it shamelessly wears its Cybotron and Kraftwerk influences on the sleeve that covers its bionic arm. The rest of this collection is taken up with edgy trackwork and future electro from the likes of Will Web, DJ T 1000, aka Alan Oldham, and Terrence Dixon. This is perfect for the CD rack or the DJ crate. Another chapter in the unravelling of Detroit’s sound circuitry. Chris Orr