Techno culture is dark, brutal and unforgiving. But we know that already. Whether the music frightens you away with its extreme volume or bores you with its repetitive rhythmic tedium or, worse, ruins your life by luring you into the dance pit every weekend, making you spend every dime you have on music ... well, then, yeah, baby, it's pure evil.
So it is, and so it needs to be. It's an often exhausting chase, experiencing sounds that lurk within the shadows of other sounds, in the distant corners of real and imagined space. It's even harder to produce it. In this insane sub-world, you're only as good as the club smash you made yesterday ... or the ones you you'll make tomorrow. Then, if you're lucky, that hit rotates around the globe for a few months before it's forgotten. The fortunate enduring few — the geniuses and the workhorses, if they're still standing after the endless club dates and after-parties — start all over and do it again one more time.
Detroit techno artists have been doing it "one more time" since the early 1980s. They've been inventing, innovating, elevating, reinventing, inspiring and influencing. They've been getting cover stories about our local scene in U.K. and German publications. Meanwhile, we've been patting ourselves on the back one minute; bitching that there ain't shit going on anymore the next. The cycle is vicious, yeah, but, in its own perverse way, it's healthy. It keeps people hungry and scared, keeps them pushing the art.
But then comes the paradox: In order to keep pushing, techno still requires the light that comes only from pure ambition and true accomplishment. And following what seemed like an eternity of inaction around D-town, a flicker has suddenly reappeared. Artists are again producing, remixing, recording and releasing quality new music in Detroit. Or they're at least creating Detroit-style jams from afar (including New York, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K.). But that music's still the D all the same.
Mike Huckaby's dub-rocket of a remix of Berliner Pole's "Dusseldorf" grabbed attention in all the right places in 2007. And now Huck says he's poised for a big year of collaborations with Pacou, Rod Modell and his other fellow dubadelic travelers at Copenhagen's Echocord label.
Speaking of Modell, he's back in Port Huron after five weeks of touring Europe with Echospace partner Steve Hitchell. The dubby duo has a new one-sided untitled 12-inch out on Manchester, England's super-hot Modern Love label, as well as a remix of Model 500's "Starlight" (which includes an even more stunning deepchord 12-minute re-interpretation of the Juan Atkins classic) available via the group's own imprint.
And next month, Japan's Plop records will release a Modell solo CD called Incense & Black Light. The release features characteristic Modell touches, including dub-delays and pounding sub-basslines sprinkled with field recordings captured on cold, rainy nights on the shores of Lake Huron. Worthy note: The 10 tracks were assembled using analog equipment, thereby avoiding the computers and composition software favored these days by most electronic producers.
Also out now from Ann Arbor's Ghostly International/Spectral Sound camp are two by Tadd Mullinix — one in his experimental hip-hop guise as Dabrye and the other a full-length vinyl-only release as James T. Cotton (Mullinix's acid and jackbeat alias). The Dabrye EP is comprised of six songs from 2006's Two/Three sessions and includes a remix by Kode9, a pioneering dubstep producer and label owner (Hyperdub) from South London.
The Spectral Sound label has two new EPs available in its Death is Nothing to Fear series, including one version available as a download only. Both EPs feature new songs by Seth Troxler, who for some reason never changed the same name he used when he went through the community schools in Lake Orion. Troxler now works and plays hard in Berlin (but will appear in Detroit at a club date in late March; more details to come later). Other artists on the EPs include 2AM/PM (another Mullinix project), Chicago-native Kate Simko, Jonas Kopp from Argentina and Germany's Daso.
And then in March, Ghostly releases the Black Edition of Matthew Dear's critically acclaimed Asa Breed LP. It includes remixes of "Deserter" and "Don & Sherri" by Fourtet and Hot Chip, both from the U.K., plus a repackaging of the LP's original material and some songs previously only available as B-sides. Also out next month is Osborne's "Ruling" EP, to be followed by a full-length later in the spring.
Other new product that shows Detroit is alive and well (but still sick in all the right ways) includes a Carl Craig compilation appropriately titled Carl Craig Sessions, a two-disc roundup featuring remixes (Rhythm & Sound, Theo Parrish, Junior Boys) and alternate takes from such classic Craig projects as 69, Innerzone Orchestra, Tres Demented and Paperclip People.
Also currently available is a five-tracker on Underground Resistance by John "Bileebob" Williams, who's been producing, DJing and raving in a silver spacesuit since around '89.
Bileebob has jammed live and in the studio with the Detroit Grand Pubahs (in addition to working with DGP's Paris the Black Fu billed as the Heckle & Jeckle DJ team), performed with electro pioneers Ectomorph and co-produced tracks for Windsor's Plus 8's first great ambient artist, Theorem. He says it all on the title track, "Sunshine," when he reminds us that "people gonna find out it's OK." Exactly what we need to hear, John.
International style alert
An upcoming live gig not to be missed is the first ever Detroit appearance by Mikael Stavostrand, a Swede who now lives in Berlin. Stavostrand's been following the beats of his own invisible drummer since 1999, when he began producing austere but ripping minimal tracks under his own name and under the alias Vita as well as with the Swedish laptop "supergroup," the Bulgur Brothers. Detroit promoters Proper/Modulation bring Stavostrand to Oslo, 1456 Woodward, Detroit on March 1. Circle the date! He gets DJ support from Detroit's John Johr and Aran Daniels. Doors at 10 p.m.; dance floor stays hot until 4 a.m. $10.The Subterraneans is a column devoted to Detroit dance culture. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org