A compilation on Derrick May’s Transmat label doesn’t need much introduction. There are some fine tracks on this collection and it’s worth tracking down. I’ll leave it at that.
Just when one thought that the Detroit legacy of lush, alien soundscapes punctuated with metallic, but funkified, beats was over, relegated to the annals of retrospect, along come Transmat to remind us that it ain’t over til its over. This compilation is only one of several CD releases that this important label has planned for the coming months. In many ways this is a primer for the next phase of Detroitism around the corner. Things begin with the solemn, ethereal, but jiggy, electro of “Otill” by Aril Brikha, whose awesome “Groove La Chord” (which is featured here) on Fragile is currently gracing the decks of DJs like Francois Kevorkian as well as those of Detroit aficionados.
Whereas dense textures, blistering intensity and raw minimalism are what most people associate with the Motor City sound these days, this comp sacrifices these qualities and returns to the introspection that characterized earlier experiments. But don’t level the words retro or old school at these tracks. “Elementary” (can you say bassline?) by The Vanisher is modern, dancefloor music, replete with ultra-modern production and textures while “Signals” by Microworld, currently, available as a single, is minimal yet paradoxically lush and complex, the kind of record that techno enthusiasts of all persuasions will gush about.
12 tracks in all, altogether an album of highlights containing some dance floor gems, but it’s also a home listening pleasure. All this and you get two tracks by Derrick May himself, “Mysterious Traveler”, a driving track recorded with Steve Hillage of Gong and System 7 fame, and the drifting “Beforethereafter” by Rhythim Is Rhythim. This tune recalls “Icon” or his mix of “Sueno Latino”, brimming with brittle percussion, glassy, rolling keys and those trademark, sporadic, sharp, string sounds that shoot out of the mix only to disappear abruptly. An album of beautiful music that proves that techno in its original American form is funk stripped of cliché, honed into a form that is impervious to corporate manipulation and that has influenced so much. Chris Orr