23.12.16

Force Field: Detroit Techno 1985-1995


This is the conceptual twin to my London's Dreaming mammoth 'Nuum mix of February. Whilst I probably heard Hardcore first, my first musical love in the days of Acid House was Detroit. That's what inspired me to travel around West Africa in 1993 throwing raves. It wasn't seeing Derrick DJ at Bath in 1989 (an alienating experience at the time) or loving the Rhythim Is Rhythim "Emanon" track on the seminal 1990 Network Bio Rhythms compilation which stoked my obsession so much as the influence of my brother-in-law Mike. Later I appreciated David Toop's, and then Kodwo Eshun's writing which included references to Detroit.

Early on in the course of blogging in 2003 I wrote a number of things on Techno which drew me into cahoots with the legendary Kirk Degiorgio, a well-known fellow traveller of those musicians. I think Kirk and I shared a frustration with the discourse around Detroit which in spite of his unquestionable taste and robust support for it, he was perhaps in part responsible for forging. To hear the music as indebted to black music is in some way to negate what makes it so truly exceptional. As a music it doesn't so much as enact the donning of a "white face" (in Fanon's sense) as try to think beyond race. Another way of approaching the topic theoretically it is to try and deconstruct those earlier forms of black music; to look at the likes of Herbie Hancock and George Clinton as transgressive themselves as opposed to automatically belonging to any kind of continuum of Jazz or Funk.

In collecting my thoughts to put this mix together, just shy of 4 hours of my personal favourites of the genre, I read and watched a lot of things on the internet that certainly weren't there in 2003. A few resources stand out: There's the great "Hi-Tech Soul" documentary, also the slightly tedious but ultimately rewarding Red Bull Music Academy interview with Derrick May (hearing Derrick on Ron Hardy and The Institute is powerfully illuminating), Mark Fisher's splendid interview with Mike Banks at The Wire, and finally this excellent Mike Paradinas mix in support of a Heterotic release. What did strike me forcibly was, besides Mike's mix, the almost total absence of a good "classic" Detroit mix online. Think of the multitude of classic Hardcore and Jungle sets! There are many YouTube and Mixcloud shows which feature Detroit legends promising to give an old skool set - but, presumably to the promoter's chagrin, none of the performances contain more than a few great old tracks, and usually much more recent stuff. I can't blame those guys at all, they have moved on and quite rightly so. Derrick, for instance, will always play a few very old tracks, but is also madly passionate about new stuff. If you haven't seen him DJ live, DO NOT MISS THE OPPORTUNITY.

This mix was done live on the 1210s in three sessions, recorded on a Prism Lyra and spliced together in Audition. Mixing Detroit Techno on the decks always has some funny little gotchas: two of these records spun from the centre to the record's edge; Underground Resistance Records especially are always extremely fast, it takes a lot of forward thinking if you do not want to slow any records down (as I have completely avoided); and many of the records have fragile run-in grooves (funky pressings) which makes it extremely hard to hit the first beat if you spin back a record to it.

The mix of 63 tracks is essentially, but broadly, chronological. It would have been predictably geeky to start with A Number of Names "Sharevari" or Cybotron's "Clear" but I decided that this was to be a Techno mix. To that end the first track is Juan Atkin's "Techno Music", the track which caused Ten Record's "Techno - The New Dance Sound Of Detroit" to be called just that, and not "The House Sound of Detroit". That said the first tracks still have a gorgeous, glistening Electro quality. "Techno Music" itself is as near to a Kraftwerk track in spirit than I think any other record ever made. Startling stuff...

The mix takes in the First Wave, the Second and, er, the Third. There a few markers at which point I don't think it makes sense to still be talking about Detroit Techno in the same way. They don't happen all at the same time - some sooner than others - but all combine to sink nails into its coffin. So for instance when Jeff Mills left Detroit for Berlin - nail. When Transmat started licensing 3rd party stuff more, the "Energy Flash" and "Der Klang Der Familie" releases in particular, nail. Richie Hawtin's Plastikman alias, nail. I like Ghostly International, Ectomorph and Matthew Dear very much indeed - I just happen to think that they are something different, albeit great.

Dedicated to those titans of Detroit, Belleville, Windsor and Kalamazoo.



Juan - Techno Music
Model 500 - Night Drive (Thru-Babylon)
First Bass - Seperate Minds
M 500 - Testing 1-2
Eddie "Flashin'" Fowlkes - Time to Express
Rhythim Is Rhythim - It Is What It Is
Model 500 - Off to Battle
Kevin Saunderson - Bounce Your Body To The Box
Reese and Santonio - The Sound
Kevin Saunderson - The Groove That Won't Stop
R-Tyme - R-Theme
Mayday - Wiggin
Suburban Knight - The Groove
Reese - Just Want Another Chance
Ocatve One - I believe
Symbols and Instruments - Mood
Model 500 - Wanderer
Blake Baxter - Sexuality
Eddie "Flashin'" Fowlkes - Goodbye Kiss
Reese - Funky Funk Funk
Suburban Knight - The Art of Stalking
Rhythim Is Rhythim - Emanon
Rhythim Is Rhythim - Kaos
Rhythm Is Rhythm - The Beginning
Psyche - From Beyond
Vice - Constant Ritual
Fade To Black - The Calling
69 - Ladies and Gentlemen
Bango - Wave The Rave Goodbye
Drexciya - Sea Snake
Underground Resistance - Predator
Underground Resistance - The Final Frontier
Carl Craig - Wrap Me In Its Arms
B.F.C - Please Stand By
Drexciya - Wavejumper
69 - Microlovr
Sueno Latino - Sueno Latino (Illusion First Mix)
Octave One - Nicolette
Psyance - EQ
Open House - Aquatic
Prototype - Biotic
Dark Comedy - War Of The Worlds
Kenny Larkin - Metropolis
Shop - Nitwit
B.F.C - Galaxy
Underground Resistance - Amazon
Paperclip People - Oscillator
MK - Feel The Fire
Derrick May -Icon
Urban Culture - Wonders of Wishing
Kosmic Messenger - Soundscape
UR - 046
The Martian - Search Your Feelings
Eddie "Flashin'" Fowlkes - Sex In Zero Gravity
Red Planet - Star Dancer
Robert Hood - Untitled 2
Psychic Warfare - Tails From The Crib
Jay Denham - People's Revolution
Millsart - Gateway Of Zen
Robert Hood - Museum
Dan Curtin - 3rd From The Sun
Morgan Geist - Stillway
Space - Envision