For years, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti has been standing in the shadows of the Belleville Three, with few notable exceptions. But with years of open-minded appreciation, the college town is finally spawning its own artists and sounds.
Early connections include the bizarre situation of Detroit techno’s initial intellectual leaders Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May meeting in Belleville, the last place in the world you’d think this music would come from. Early records include local references, Ann Arbor recording studios used to create Cybotron’s classic Enter LP (that contains “Clear” and “Cosmic Cars”) as well as Kevin Saunderson’s Ypsi frat address from EMU listed on the KMS pressing of the worldwide smash “Big Fun.” But Ann Arbor has other electronic roots, including Gordon Mumma and Robert Ashley founding the Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music in Ann Arbor in 1958, and the University of Michigan being given one of Moog’s first modular prototypes. This town also brought you the visceral rock of the Stooges, the MC5 and the Laughing Hyenas, so you have a unique mix of Detroit techno, experimental computer music and avant-rock backgrounds.
Today, Ann Arbor and Ypsi have a few labels and touring artists as well as a number of new artists finding new hybrids and styles of performance. While the available venues are fairly scarce (Blind Pig and the soon-to-reopen Nectarine), something new is beginning to develop here.
Todd Osborn got his start by creating a vinyl dance section at Tower Records, but he quickly tired of its corporate attitude and founded his own store, Dubplate Pressure, specializing in a variety of hard-to-find records from hip-hop classics/rarities and bootlegs to jungle, rare funk 45s and other collectibles. Initially out of his parents living room, the store quickly found a new home underneath Afternoon Delights (across from All Music Guide), which lasted for a few years until he teamed up with School Kids Records where he assembled a killer staff including Carlos Souffront and Tad Mulinix and expanded the store’s vision to include the best of techno, electro and beyond. SKR went out of business rather quickly and that left Todd’s store without a home. After a year of waiting for the proper zoning permits, Todd has finally reopened Dubplate Pressure, this time in Ypsi at 117 W. Michigan Ave., with store hours by appointment only (call 734-547-1858). Don’t let that intimidate you, just call him up and tell him you are on your way over and he’ll be there before you.
Todd also runs Rewind Records, specializing in raga jungle, that is to say, cut up “amen” breaks, dance hall MCs, and mashed-up snares that are more intense than a Squarepusher record. If you ever saw Rotator play, then you know the style. The most recent release, Rewind 2, sold suprisingly well (many people had claimed this genre was over) and he’s even had strong feedback from the likes of Public Enemy. Rewind 3 is due out early September.
Todd has recently joined the “Crush Collision” collective, WCBN’s (and probably college radio’s) longest running mix show (you can listen online every Thursday from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. at wcbn.org). Crush Collision was founded in 1987 by Tom Simonian (I took it over in 1990), who just licensed the Throw cut “Cousins (Alton Miller mix)” for his Pantones compilation on Cosmic Flux. Interestingly enough, in his quest to do a record in every style he enjoys, Todd will have a house record out on Throw later this fall, to be released after the long-awaited Slade Brothers EP.
Audiofold, a new open approach to electronic music shows, debuted July 11 at the Blind Pig. Started by one-time Butterfly keyboardist and occasional Dykehouse collaborator Kendal Babel, this night promises a pan-electronic approach, including shows from laptop geeks as well as full-on traditional band instrumentation. The opening night turned out to be a good night of interesting left-field electronics, with a diverse mix of people. Featured performers included Midwest Product featuring Chad from Morsel and Ben from Aardvark, Tim Flood and Mike Dykehouse. When I saw him perform at the Cex Cells show (put on by Ann Arbor promoters), he did the Beach Boys classic “In My Room” and talked excitedly about what he most likes to do in his room alone (don’t ask). Be sure to check out his recorded debut, “Dynamicobsolescence,” on Mike Paradinas’ (Mu-Ziq) Planet Mu label due out soon, as well as his forthcoming vocal appearance on Mu-Ziq’s next album. The next Audiofold will be Aug. 8 at the Blind Pig.E-mail Pitch’d at firstname.lastname@example.org