by Hobey Echlin
Ann Arbor's Brendan Gillen, of electro-purist outfit Ectomorph, has assembled a nicely off-kilter collection of neo-electro tracks on this compilation of his label's 12-inch singles series. The tracks vary from a few bpms just this side of booty, to straight-up new wave. Gillen makes the case for electro both as kitschy, futuristic funk, and as techno at its sexiest and most primal here, with great results. The new wave of I-f's "Space Invaders are Smoking Grass" is an 808 drum machine take on indie pop, replete with lo-fi vocoder vocals and building computer rhythms. Anthony Shakir's "Freeform" is a free-range keyboard workout, an undancey exercise in jazzbo ennui.
Sluts in Strings' "Starchild" is a rowdy jeep beat for a parallel universe, full of numb bass pulses and skittering drums under sci-fi vocal effects. Likewise, Detroit visual artists-knob tweakers Le Car kick in with "Version 19," sounding like a garage version of Devo trying to approximate Gary Numan's theater-sized cool. The almost nerdy funk that ensues is as animated as a video game and full of the same hand-held excitement. Former Detroiter Will Web delivers the feverish "Damnation," which bumps synthy uglies under a haywire highline. "Future Shock" by DJ Godfather bounces along its almost-booty way, while a gurgling synthline brings it back from the edge of bass.
But for all the general statements From Beyond makes about electro (its pre-techno funkiness, its link to new wave, its grittier, retro-electronica DIY sound), it's the compilation's most offbeat cuts that give it its repeated listenabilty.
The late, great Spacelings & Bassheads, favorites on the Detroit rave scene, deliver a cosmically sloppy hip-hop in "Never Trust a Coward" that Kool Keith would kill to rap over. Aux 88 founder Keith Tucker's "Vertigo" hints at the cinematic glow of late '80s Detroit techno in its moodier groove. Mu-zique's Mike Paradinas delivers the gorgeous, zero-gravity "Hi-Q" as beautiful and doomed as the Mir space station. Beyond, indeed. Highly recommended.