There's one word on techno street: Minimal.
But we're not talking about your beatnik-cum-hippie mother's kind of minimal, long associated with such modern classical composers as La Monte Young, Philip Glass and Terry Riley. Yes, there are droning stretches of static, buzz and hum, harmonies that don't cohere and a hypnotic pulse to hold it all together. But now add the influence of punk rock, industrial and metal, and glam it up with crazy house and disco beats. Then season it with references to 19th century art and literary movements like the pre-Raphaelites and the French symbolists.
Squeezing all that into a tight package isn't easy. Selling it is even harder. But Benno Blome has figured out a way to do both. As owner of Berlin's Sender Records, Blome has helped reshape the techno soundscape by allowing producers the space to rock hard and strong, but with elegance and beauty.
Sender product is essential in a working DJ's bag. Tracks by such artists as Metope, Frank Martiniq, Carsten Jost, Baby Ford and Basteroid were in regular rotation at Detroit's long-running Untitled event, where DJs Matthew Dear, Mike Servito, Ryan Elliott and Derek Plaslaiko ripped through selections from the Sender catalogue each weekend.
One of Sender's signature features is the two-person group, a concept that Blome has jumped on as a co-producer. He has recorded under the name WeltZwei (with Matthias Klein) and partnered up with the white-hot Peter Grummich (a German with two EPs on Ann Arbor's Spectral Sound). Blome has also released his own solo 12-inchers.
One of Sender's hottest acts is the oddly-named Misc., which is Christopher Bleckmann and Hannes Wenner, who make gorgeous, badass weirdo-techno. They create tracks for the dance floor and know how to arrange and pace compositions for full-length recordings no easy feat in a scene that's all about laughter, instant gratification and forgetting. The group's first Sender LP, Crunch Time, began to lift Misc. above the pack. It was smart and sexy on top, had midrange sweet spots and basslines that punished. The group's latest LP is even better. Like Morning in Your Eyes contains a suite of songs that sound good played in any order, anywhere. The beautiful "Metroland," which incongruously combines soaring strings with fuzzy bass, jazz piano and disco handclaps, is a stunner. As is the agitated "Unspoiled Monsters" and the hard-charging "Restlichtverstaerker."
Misc. performs live March 10, at Oslo, 1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Blome and Windsor's Kero provide DJ support. 10 p.m. 18 and over. Ticket info at paxahau.com.
Return of the west side demon
One of 2005's best dance tracks was Carl Craig's "Darkness," a dramatic, 10-minute electro-jam that seems to ascend with every bar. Craig's shuffling bonus track on a recent DJ Kicks comp is brutal; and his full-length mix CD for London's Fabric won praise here and abroad. What the one-time Cooley High boy proved last year is that he's still a production and DJ powerhouse. He has a new LP scheduled for release late in 2006. One thing missing in the last year was a local showcase for Craig, who last played Motown on a snowy winter's night 13 months ago.
That will change on March 17, when Carl Craig and Gamall bring Demon Days to Oslo. The night has been a hit in New York and Chicago. Special guest: DJ S2 of Los Hermanos. 21 and over; 313-963-0300.
Friday, March 10: Nocturnal Sounds presents Misstress Barbara and Christian Smith, with guests Sassmouth and Christos, at the Labyrinth, 1703 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-438-6153. 10 p.m.
Friday, March 10: Lush Lounge featuring Pirahnahead and Mike Young at the Village, 1417 Van Dyke Ave., Detroit. 11 p.m.
Saturday, March 18: Juan Atkins and James Pennington with special guests at the Labyrinth, 1703 Cass Ave., Detroit. 10 p.m.
Saturday, March 18: Sex & Sedition IV featuring Vitalic (live) with Dethlab residents Michael Doyle and Bethany Shorb at 10 p.m. at Oslo, 1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-963-0300.The Subterraneans is a column devoted to Detroit dance culture. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org