TEMPLE OF BOOM
It says a lot about the Detroit scene that even though New York headliner Odi had to cancel last Friday night at the Labyrinth’s "Step" party that the basement club below the City Club was packed with jungle scene neophytes supporting the sound that at last seems ready to root in Detroit. Jungle Bunny Records head Michelle Banks — no relation to Mad Mike — detailed her plans to start "Innocence" Wednesday nights at Michigan Avenue’s One X as a sort of open-mic (open-turntable?) night for up-and-coming local deejays, with Michelle "the Punisher" Herrman and raver-favorite Whistle Boi acting as residents. Dubplate Pressure Records owner Todd Osborne represented the ace-deuce (Ann Arbor to the rest of us) with a set of vintage jump-up, hard-step jungle that included his own debut 12", a manic side of retro-jump-up frenzy due out on his own label next month. The clear favorite of the tight little who’s-who of the local party scene crowd, however, was Matt Clarke, who dropped current tech-step favorites such as Urban Takeover’s infinitely likable remix of their already what’s-not-to-like tech step jumper "Badass," as well as other R&B-sampling jungle tracks that drew a few drunken calls for "rewind" — sort of the jungle fan’s version of the Teletubbies’ "Again!" whereby a deejay starts a track over at the crowd’s request. "Step" promoter Eric Hinchman, best known for putting Sunday nights at Velvet on the map two summers ago, listed off upcoming national headliners making their way to Detroit’s best-kept jungle night: Philadelphia’s Dieselboy, spinning this Friday, and Liquid Sky’s transgender jump-up king-now-queen, 1.8.7, aka Jordana LaSesne, January 30. More "Step" info: 313-438-6153.
ROCK, ROCK TO THE PLANET E
Last year Carl Craig proved he was Detroit’s most interesting producer, dropping the smoldering beatdown house anthem 4 My Peepz as a house-heads-only reaction against the commercialism of house as the new disco (see: Stardust). This year, however, Craig is contending for the title of owning Detroit’s most interesting — and only Rolling Stone-lauded — label, Planet E. Having nurtured the career of omni-beat master Recloose, (aka Matt the-deejay-formerly-known-as-Bubblicious Chicoine), Planet E, in a remarkably forward thinking gesture, is releasing Dreams of Elsewhere, a home-listener-friendly (read: CD format) full-length by Chicago future-house explorer Common Factor (Nick Calingaert). While hardcore Craig fans will detect a hint of narcissism here — Calingaert’s sophisticated house-techno hybrid and intelli-funk tone pallette recall early Craig singles — Dreams channels the Detroit legacy (ironically, in Calingaert’s case, by way of Chicago) without getting bogged down by retro-happy nostalgia. Expect to hear this one making its way into Chuck Horn and Liz Copeland’s shows on WDET as Planet E, having conquered the dance floor, makes its way into our home stereos. You have been warned. Common Factor’s Dreams of Elsewhere is due out in March. Meanwhile, Planet E’s Hannah Sawtell announced plans for Community Project, a jazz spin-off label. Community Project’s first release will be Worldtrade Music by former Sun Ra percussionist (and sometime-Craig collaborator in the tech-jazz Innerzone Orchestra) Francisco Mora, who actually debuted tracks from Worldtrade at last year’s Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival. And, as long as we’re on the topic of Innerzone Orchestra, Sawtell announced that the anxiously-awaited full-length from the jazzbo-techno/post-rock/post-everything group featuring, among others, former Ann Arbor/NY pianist Craig Taborn, will be out this summer, with England’s Talkin’Loud (home to jazz-junglists and Craig homeys 4 Hero) handling the record overseas. While reviews of a short West Coast tour were respectful, Innerzone’s arguably the most interesting thing on the Detroit techno-scape, and certainly the boldest in terms of not having any dancefloor allegiance. Craig is in final mixing now; expect the record by summer.
One of the only Detroit acts to bridge rock- and deejay-culture, Soul Clique descended on the hipsters-and-then-some Friday night crowd at Hamtramck’s Lush to do their thang. While live the Clique rocks a little harder (and louder) than the sublime submarine funk (Riverdance samples and all) of their quietly masterpiece-status-worthy Only One Division (on Royal Oak’s Small Stone Records), guitarist Dumine Deporres led the incense-funk proceedings with wah-wah guitar over bassist Joe Hayden’s P-Funk basslines and DJ The Blackman’s cutting and scratching. Despite sound problems (Black’s tables were inaudible for part of the set), Soul Clique proved there’s room for some live funk in the turntable world and, more importantly for Detroit’s seemingly stuck-in-1993 band scene, room for turntables to shake up the band-thing a bit. The addition of live drums certainly made things a bit more rawk, in terms of volume and tone, but with a hands-on, Mad Professor-style soundman bringing back some of their record’s nicely dub flourishes and post-rock atmosphere, Soul Clique could not only be Detroit’s best players, it could be Detroit’s best and most interesting band.