Music » Local Music

Three to get ready

Perhaps you’re already bored to death with the story behind techno. Three kids from Belleville, yadda, yadda ...

At any rate, the Motor City was once the epicenter of a sound known throughout the world as "Detroit Techno." Today, our town is still one of only a few major hubs for electronic music. Since the sound’s inception, however, the cultural landscape has changed significantly. After years of Detroit’s brand of electronic music and its creators leaving the metro area, this year’s Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) promises to bring the Detroit sound back to its rightful home. Temporarily, anyway.

Part of why the DEMF will be so interesting is because it will, in effect, be a homecoming for many Detroit artists who have been tempted to make a living in Europe and elsewhere. And for those electronic artists who were not part of the elite first wave of Detroit musicians, the DEMF will prove an ideal event to help broaden what is meant by the "Detroit sound." A few of those who will contribute to this unspoken dialogue are:

MT Photo/Doug Coombe

A champion of innovative electronic music.

Carlos Souffront

Carlos Souffront is a librarian, in a sense. His encyclopedic knowledge of electronic music rivals that of anyone in the field. As a radio DJ and co-host of WCBN 88.3 FM Ann Arbor’s Thursday night "Crush Collision" program, Souffront has played an integral role in the preservation and archiving of electronic music in Detroit. Constantly exposing radio listeners to new sounds, he’s a record-nut turned DJ. For Souffront, DJing seemed inevitable as his record collection steadily grew throughout the ‘90s, taking on a life of its own. He has also utilized his knowledge as a record buyer for the Dubplate Pressure record store, which is scheduled to reopen in Ypsilanti in the near future.

Throughout the years, Souffront has held several DJ residencies, regularly playing at the Sardine Bar, the Shelter, Motor, IO and Better Days, just to name a few. Though he has played records at almost every venue in metro Detroit, he’s most proud of his residency at the now-defunct "Exat" night at the old Zoot’s Coffee in the Cass Corridor. "Exat" featured several great Detroit electronic artists in an unusually intimate environment. Since then, Souffront has maintained his role as a champion of innovative electronic music.

Carlos Souffront will help promote the DEMF when he opens for Josh Wink this Friday at Motor. At the DEMF, he’ll be playing noon-2 p.m. and 3-4 p.m. on Sunday.

MT Photo/Doug Coombe


Poised to show visitors what they've been missing.

Fanon Flowers

Fanon Flowers is a techno DJ-producer whose style represents an international hybrid of sounds. Flowers, who will be closing out Sunday’s festivities, playing 10 p.m.-midnight, stumbled across techno music during its infancy while living in his hometown of Kalamazoo. Equidistant from Detroit and the mecca of house music that is Chicago, Flowers spent the early ‘90s listening to records from Detroit electronic artists alongside weekend radio broadcasts of Chicago house DJs that would bounce off Lake Michigan on clear nights. Luckily for Flowers, his cohorts in Kalamazoo, artists such as Jay Denham, Chance McDermott and D-Knox, had caught on to the same frequencies. As one of the founding members of Black Nation records, Flowers released his first record in 1992. It was in 1996, however, that he moved to Ann Arbor to attend college and to launch his own label, Mechanisms Industries.

Four years later, Flowers’ first label has met with a considerable degree of success among techno enthusiasts. His records are popular among techno DJs across the United States and in Europe. On the other hand, many local promoters, club owners and techno fans have overlooked his work. Of course, Flowers is not the only local artist who fits this description. His scenario is, however, symptomatic of a dwindling respect and lack of enthusiasm for techno music that currently plagues Detroit.

Yet, the beat, as they say, goes on – and so does Flowers. Having recently launched Cetron records, a new label supplemental to Mechanisms, Flowers is poised to show visitors to the DEMF what they’ve been missing. While he has been busy playing venues such as Tresor, Germany’s bastion of hard techno, and pressing records both domestically and abroad, Flowers has maintained his allegiance to Detroit.

Working with artists from Detroit, Kalamazoo and Berlin, Flowers has been quite prolific as of late. In the past year, he has released a string of EPs with several German labels, including Holztplatten, Konsequent and Speil-Zeug Schallplatten (literally translating as "Play This Record!"). Domestically, the first Cetron release, which dropped in April, is a collaborative effort between a German artist, Helium, and Flowers, working under the alias "Rubicon."

Fanon Flowers embarks on a world tour this summer-fall with Jay Denham and D-Knox. Be on the lookout for the "Green Planet Tour" early this fall in Detroit.

MT Photo/Doug Coombe


Sure to melt the glow-sticks.


Theorem (aka Dale Lawrence) is a true minimalist. Breaking down techno and house beats to their bare essentials, he tastefully balances out Richie Hawtin’s Minus record label. By exploring the gray areas between beats, Lawrence takes the listener on a tour of the lighter side of techno minimalism. Choosing solid-state electronics over turntables, he mixes his tracks in a live programming session, with his music acting as a cerebral massage that works its way downward in a subtle ploy to move your feet. After successful debuts of his current work in Toronto and NYC, Lawrence hopes to find a warm audience at home when he plays on the DEMF stage on Monday at 3 p.m.

Since his 1996 Debut album, Nano (Plus 8), Lawrence has stayed true to the concept-above-all ethos that is characteristic of Minus records mogul Richie Hawtin. Aside from releasing four EPs and a CD of his own material with Minus, Theorem has twice collaborated with the London electronic duo Swayzak, as well as releasing a record with Stewart Walker. Lawrence’s collaborative efforts, under the moniker THX, have been quite conceptual indeed. Having never even met or spoken to each other, Swayzak and Lawrence bounced recordings back and forth across the Atlantic, thus answering the question posed by Hawtin’s track "Are Friends Elektrik?" The result is an organic blend of sparse, down-tempo funk, sure to melt the glow-sticks of those who are green to electronic music. Robert Gorell writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]

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