The Martian
Red Planet/US/CD
While bespectacled intellectuals clamor to find the latest minimalist, noise-ridden, underproduced German techno experiment in advanced boredom, those who truly love techno have kept an eye on the remarkable Red Planet series of EPs from Detroit’s Submerge family of labels. Since 1992, the Martian — the main producer behind the series — has given electronic dance music some truly memorable moments; 10 of which (plus an intro and an unreleased track) comprise this CD. Red Planet’s musical approach has always been diverse: hard techno rubs up against groovier styles and lush, complex tracks coexist with spacious minimalism.

On this CD, the beautiful, outer space, acid-funk, garage of “Sex In Zero Gravity” is followed by the vicious sonic onslaught of “Stardancer,” a record that defines the terms “trance,” “deep” and “full-on” all at once, with a relentless acid bassline and a wall of phlanged keyboards lifting you off the dancefloor and onto a Martian landscape (probably the desired effect). The Martian’s penchant for melody and funky grooves indicates that the European dance media made a mistake when they pinned all their hopes on Jeff Mills as techno’s voice of the future. Although Mill’s rough-textured minimalism is an important competent of modern techno, it’s not the only approach to futurism.

The Martian’s music embodies the spirit of the the original Detroit blueprint on which sonic innovation sits next to the surreal funk of Parliafunkidelicament, acidic sounds, and the occassional burst of mechanized anger, while impossible keyboard textures and an omnipresent, introspective soulfulness wheel around in the mix. This is what techno should be: a mutable genre, open to the possibilites of brutal, existential minimalism as well as the warm, melodic, life-affirming moods drawn from the considerable legacy of black music.

Although most people would struggle to classify this as techno given the misconceptions about the genre, The Martian carries the heritage from the barren, muscular funk of The Dance” by Rhythm is Rhythm through the atmospheric output of Retroactive, and classics like BFC’s “Please Stand By,” Carl Craig’s “No More Words” and UR’s “The Theory,” to the present day’s parallel worlds of Jeff Mills’s industrial sound palette, UR’s jazz leanings and the current appetite for electro. This is techno. . .and very good techno at that. Chris Orr