“Revoluntionary art is not determined by its avantgarde content; nor its formal or technical trickery, its interpretation of reality or its verisimilitude, but rather, by how much it revolutionises our thinking and imaginations. Overturning our preconceptions, bias and prejudice and inspiring us to change ourselves and the world” .
And that was the Detroit of the mid-1990’s for us; classes at Wayne State University during the day. The low-rent apartments on the riverfront. Italian giallo films on VHS. The sticky-sweet smell of opium hovering over the screen. Early mornings drives through the rainy decaying streets of the city. The feel of the car hovering just above the road as we traveled after-hours with the windows down. Block after block of abandon industrial warehouses. The rain touching my face while I smoked a cigarette. And always with a soundtrack. We gravitated towards a certain post-industrial, pre-apocalyptic sound during those years; Cabaret Voltaire, New Order, Neu, Berlin Bowie & Eno, oh maybe Primal Scream. And always the latest 12′ releases on Transmat or Metroplex playing inside the clubs. The clubs? The Leland City Club, The Shelter under old St. Andrew’s Hall, Todd’s, The Alley…the old Packard Plant liberated and repurposed by the Techno Underground for raves and music events. It was a rich time for innovative music and the after-hours life that came with it.
More Songs About Food and Revoluntionary Art is a record full of those secrets. From the Jeff Sawtell quote used on the front sleeve to the album’s title, a play on Talking Head’s More Songs about Building and Food, Carl Craig‘s true motivations seem to be lurking just below the surface and down a shadowy alleyway. Craig was a part of the Second Wave of Detroit Techno that got started in the late 80s and early 90s. After the original Belleville Three (Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson & Derrick May), the second wave moved the music beyond the standard limitations of what the people thought techno or dance music could be. Pulling influences from Great Britain, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany to create highly lyrical themes that touched deeper than the dance-floor. Refocusing the music more on the enviroment of a declining city rather then producing a dance-floor bangers. Techno developed a complex, wide-screen approach to electronic music. The beats fueled by the after-hours life that was developing beyond the eyes of the public. Flipping the melodic optimism of European electronica on it’s head. The cultural aesthetic of Afrofuturism was central. That is “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future and liberation”. Grinding deeper into the musical foundation of techno to create nocturnal soundscapes that twist, warp and challenge in the most unexpected ways.
More Songs is certainly twisted and warped. Challenging the listener with a uniquely Detroit vision. The sound is a synthesis between the futurism of a far-off street life and the realism of a sharp faded hope. The track, As Time Goes By (Sitting Under a Tree) is a notable example. Featuring a suprising vocal performance by Sarah Gregory (Repetition) over a deteriorating beat with lush waves of liquid bass. The vocal is undoubtedly beautiful but the atmosphere is deliciously dangerous. Recalling the claustaphobic tension of Robert Altman’s film, The Long Goodbye. We are seduced into complacency by the external elegance without truly understanding the forces that are hidden. That theme of hidden truth is layered throughout the album. On the surface a track like, At Les seems simple enough. But the sum is greater than the sparse arrangement would suggest. Interconnecting a raw beat over a weaving synth structure full of nocturnal heat and potential. Forcasting a probable future and grim dystopian reality.
The scope of this album can be difficult or even intimadaiting at first. Pulling elements of old-school funk and soul into a lush world of electronic soundscapes. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by Carl Craig’s ability to bring techno music beyond what anyone had envisioned. A classic.
Comments? Email Sciavatt@yahoo.com