Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Model 500 - No UFO's

Juan Atkins 02

Model 500, "No UFO's (vocal)" (YSI link)

Model 500, "No UFO's (instrumental)" (YSI link)

I hinted at a new theme this week and it begins now. We're gonna pay tribute to one of the great American cities and one of the spiritual homes for Pound for Pound, Detroit. I'm a little embarrassed that I haven't done this sooner, but the extra time has given me a chance to dig a little deeper into the music that has come out of the city in the past two decades. I want to dedicate all of these posts to one of its native daughters, JH-B, and all of the people who haven't run and still live in that city and try to bring it back to its former glory.

I can't think of a better place to start our exploration than with one of the most important artists in the history of electronic & dance music and a Pound for Pound legend, Juan Atkins. Considered by most to be the driving force behind the development of the Detroit techno sound, Atkins' vision and drive would envelop the entire city and change the face of electronic music forever. We'll hopefully discuss this more in time, dig deeper into the early history of Detroit techno. If anyone out there would like to add on or provide some guidance for me, I'd love to hear from you.

Atkins recorded under many aliases, but the Model 500 one might be the most influential in techno terms. Originally released in 1985, "No UFO's" was the first release on Atkins' own Metroplex and the second 12" Atkins put out under the moniker. I feel like techno is the most intimidating of electronic genres; I mean, it has always been for me. I imagine hard, relentless beats and a sexless world, overrun by microgenres and stoicism. For anyone else who has always felt intimidated, this might be a good starting place, at the roots. The vocal version is a classic, futuristic music that takes you like 40 years in the future when we are all flying around and have personal robots. A lifeless voice talks about paranoid conspiracies, while a sick, rubbery bassline melts your face.

Let me end with a cool quote about Detroit and its history from Atkins that I came across in this brief, but brilliant, interview:

"Berry Gordy built the Motown sound on the same principles as the conveyor belt system at Ford's. Today their plants don't work that way -- they use robots and computers to make the cars. I'm probably more interested in Ford's robots than in Berry Gordy's music."

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