For this look into St. Louis’s vast and varied stockpile of vinyl, I found myself drawn into a region of dance not usually on my radar, techno. Now, I’m not talking about capital “T” techno – the stuff of your Eurotrip nightmares – that dominates the popular conception, but rather about the very American musical phenomenon that arose from the post-industrial imaginations of Detroit’s denizens. The origins of the Detroit techno sound can be attributed to three innovative producers, Juan Atkins, the godfather, Derrick May, the innovator, and Kevin Saunderson, the elevator.
The trinity is, depending on who you talk to, more or less responsible for shaping the way we sonically envision the future. Their translation of themes of technological perfection, utopian and dystopian futurisms into soundscapes fundamentally altered the way in which a generation approached the advent of truly a technological world by facilitating release and transcendence through tech instead of domination by it. In a manner of speaking, they technologized humanity while at the same time humanizing technology, an essential balance I find missing in much of what passes for “techno” today. This perhaps paradoxical co-temporal subordination of the human in tech and tech in the human brings us to our track for this week, “Big Fun (Magic Juan Atkins mix)” by Inner City, a duo comprised of Kevin Saunderson and singer Paris Grey.
Opening with mechanized voices, a crisp, programmed beat, and piercing strings, the track initially presents itself as something wholly alienated from the organic. As the bouncing synth establishes over the relentless kick drum something strange happens, though, as we encounter Paris Grey for the first time. Soaring, cold, metallic and disinterested, her vocals take the place of the synthetic strings from before and become part of the machine music. From here, the lines between human and machine blur as Grey’s vocals and the high synths trade off, coming in and out of focus over the perfect rhythmic repetition, drawing you further and further into the imagined future being laid out before you. Get into it.
I picked this up over at The Record Exchange, quite possibly my favorite STL record store due to the enormity of their collection. The size of the store can, however, be a bit overwhelming at times, in which case one should check out their website for organized listings of some of their stocks. Also, hit up their blog for a run down of their improvements planned for 2012 – all making it easier and faster for you to get your dirty hands on that coveted wax.