General, Music, Records

Extending the Play (of the techno record)

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Are the golden days of the full-length album and the 4+ track E.P. of house, dance, whatever we care to call our beloved funky dance music well and truly over? Or is there still hope?

Based on my recent vinyl purchases from overseas, I will say that all is not lost yet. Terrence Dixon, one of Detroit’s lesser known electronic music artists is keeping Detroit’s, and frankly, abstract-yet-accessible dance music’s standards high. His album on Yore records released late last year proves that the album format is still relevant to non-mainstream techno, while his latest EP on Night Vision proves that the good old fashioned, E.xtended P.lay techno record hasn’t yet gone the way of the horse drawn cart.

Jeff Mills is still at the top of his game, as this release proves clearly (hint: it’s only available from the Axis shop, and no, I’m not affiliated with the label). Robert Hood, his former production partner on these two excellent releases has a great four-tracker out as well. It’s the third installment in the Hoodmusic series that once again proves Hood’s claim to fame as one of the inventor’s of the minimal style.

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The strength of some older EPs sparked the idea for this post, however. Two of the three labels that these came out on have partially taken the digital plunge, but fortunately for the vinyl enthusiast, these great records are still only available in their original format.

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First up is one of my personal favorites by an artist whose album was released by fellow fans on Down Low MusicThe Connection Machine’s “Bitflower” E.P. These tracks define how a good E.P. should sound. All four define the much overused term “emotive”, but they do this in a way that’s funky–even people hearing it for the first time agreed–and “atmospheric”, in that Model 500 sort of way. For anyone who’s reading this and doesn’t yet own the record–buy it. It’s worth getting whether you’re a dj and/or a home listener, as these tracks easily fit into both settings.

Another good example of a good techno E.P. is Shake’s “…Waiting for Russell”. Some of you may know now from the mid-tempo “A Detroit state of mind” , which appeared on Dan Bell’s first commercially released mix cd, but the other tracks on this are just as noteworthy, if a bit different in style. “Frictional Beat No. 4” just kills it with kinetic intensity that would leave all but the most seasoned dancer drenched with sweat if the track were to be played all the way through. “Stereotype” carries the rhythm of the Frictional Beat track, and it adds atmospheric texture that demands to be heard and played. Overall, this EP easily rivals Juan Atkins’s “Sonic Sunset” in quality.

Last but definitely not least, this great E.P., spread over two slabs of wax, is finally getting a long overdue re-press. To say that it is a classic is an understatement, since its influence can be heard in many tracks even today (Vince Watson’s planet E single comes to mind), 15 years after people first heard “Journey of the Dragons”. U.R.’s Mad Mike describes the re-press ordeal and the legacy of the record here.

17 Comments

  1. antonio_pt says:

    arise on ‘waiting for russell’ is probably my favourite shake track. it’s a shame he’s keeping it quiet these days…

    btw, i believe the galaxy 2 galaxy original doublepack is getting a re-release. at least according to rushhour’s site:

    http://www.rushhour.nl/store_detailed.php?item=13915

    nice one 🙂

  2. antonio_pt says:

    oops. must have misread your post. forget about what i said 😉

  3. js says:

    just a correction fya that dan bell released 2 mix cd’s commercially, not 1.

  4. gmos says:

    Nice picks here, love that Connection Machine EP and that Shake one is a classic too. Funnily enough, I was just listening to both only last week!

    I think Hood Music 3 is a great release, the best thing he’s done since Wire To Wire imo. I’d like to hear some more downtempo/jazzy work from him again too sometime. The Nighttime World albums are up there with my favourite electronic music ever.

  5. detroitio says:

    Edited. thanks for the tip js.

  6. Mark Forshaw says:

    I’ve not heard The Connection Machine ‘Bitflower’ EP before but just managed to find a copy on EBay for £5.99. Result! Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. lerosa says:

    love the bitflower ep and UR25, great stuff.

  8. theUbiq says:

    What about this carl craig release?http://www.discogs.com/release/4235

  9. pipecock says:

    all 3 of the 69 records are pretty nice like that. and that “just another day” EP he did a couple years back was nice like that too.

    i’m jealous someone got that connection machine for cheap, i need that one. been banging on the mp3s for a minute.

  10. dean says:

    for me just another day is one of my favourite pieces of vinyl to ever exist. four amazing pieces of music, an interesting cover and a general concept being expressed through a vinyl (including a biblical quote) which for me is the essence of what this shit is about. how a record can take up many spaces in your mind, the visual aspect – unique artwork, the musical aspect – goes without saying and the conceptual aspect – the interlinking of this whole entity tying the music, graphics, ideas, and even the track titles and ep title all together as one piece of expression..
    its why vinyl is so important to me.
    Just today i was going through some records i havent played in a while, i came across some compilations which i have not listened in a bit. http://www.discogs.com/release/800433 being one of them. There are some tracks on this which i really love (the manuel Gottsching one and the nexus one) and I realised one of the reasons why i dont listen to this record very often is it just doesnt hold a positive space in my mind, its a compilation. now if it was some west african funk or early jamaican dub containing music which i simply could never have if it werent for the compilation then fine it still takes a bit away but at least you’ve got the music. but in this case it’s just not a pleasant experience to play this record

    What it has…will truly last…but is that jazz…

  11. dean says:

    yo pipey you get a chance to record that string intro yet??

  12. kamo says:

    what i find a bit irritating is that i am missing a definition of what makes “a good techno EP”. from reading the post i just understand that you like those records, but what makes them (as a release) better from records with less tracks on them? i think dean is pointing in some direction of what a good EP could be…

  13. pipecock says:

    i think the definitions of what a good EP could be are as diverse as the genre is, but the idea is that so many people are content to release just a couple dancefloor jams or whatever instead of giving some variety. it used to be far more commonplace for the 4 track EP with a bunch of different sounds, now if youre lucky you get a couple B side cuts that arent bad. the ERP 12″ on Down Low from a couple years back is a perfect example of a diverse EP that is as good for listening as it is on the dancefloor. putting out good music is what a good EP is about, not just the dancefloor joints.

  14. detroitio says:

    Kamo, variety is indeed the name of the game here. All of the pre-2000 EPs I wrote about feature tracks that would comfortably fit into a good dancey techno set, as well as cuts that are home listening friendly. The appearance of the label artwork also adds to the good techno EP equation. Take the four different labels on each side of the G2G double for example, or the colored vinyl and complimentary artwork of the Bitflower record.

  15. kamo says:

    i see, detroitio. “aquatic invasion” would be another good example. i really enjoy your blog, btw.

  16. gunner says:

    just got connection machine in the mail. Vey nice. Thanks for the tip. Always cool to get something good from the past. Reminds me a lot of detroit escalator company, the LP on ferox, well those chord sounds anyway. Pity that Shake EP is so damn expensive!!!

  17. john says:

    Love the connection machine. Another good blog for golden era techno here: http://discocut.blogspot.com/

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