While we waited for more thrilling Movement festival updates and wrung our hands in anticipation of the DJ/production talent that Derrick May promises for the Motor City Music Conference in April, we did a tour of the growing number of late-winter parties helping to bring this 303-year-old city out of its slumber. We witnessed the stadium-like spectacle of Michael Mayer, brought to Detroit by Paxahau, at Bleu; we were nailed to the floor by the slammin’ hammerin’ techno stabs of Punisher (aka Michelle Herman) at the Electric Avenue party at McCarthy’s Pub; we plugged into the groovin’ acid trance space machine fired up by Cologne’s Triple R at Oslo; and we rocked at The Works to celebrate the launch of the impressive new Detroit Electronic Quarterly magazine. We also caught up with Omar S — a mysterious Detroit house producer/DJ whose white labels are considered better than gold to Euro collectors — when he played a rare set at the Hamtramck hotspot formerly known as Lush. We exhaled and sensed the grayness of winter lifting …
At the final party at the Finite Gallery in late February, we learned that producer and Psychostasia label-owner Reggie Dokes went to Cass Tech in the 1980s. How did we find out? We asked. That fact is important because it fixes him at a time when Detroit’s black intellectual middle classes were searching for a new post-Motown identity through music. Their ears were open to New Order, Yaz, Kraftwerk and Prince. That international approach to music and life never changed for Dokes. The family man-producer pushed hard to get his young daughter into Detroit’s Foreign Language Immersion Cultural School (FLICS), and he just released The Hush EP. The record is by Amsterdam-based Israeli jazz musicians, JuJu and Jordash, who once put out a track with Terrance Parker. On top of that, nu-house upstart Pirahnahead is pushing the thirtysomething Dokes to higher levels. The Dokes-Pirahnahead partnership, which calls itself Napi Hedz, just remixed John Beltran’s “Dream On” and produced the Blessed and Bliss EP. This last record also features work by Sachin Chitnis from India and a mix by Minx, the hardest-working woman in the house business. Keep the bottom up, Reggie.
Brass in pocket
Malik Alston’s group Painted Pictures is now playing a weekly called “The Pocket” each Wednesday at Fifth Avenue downtown. We were there on opening night as the band, fronted by Alston on keyboards, and featuring two female vocalists, a trumpet, three percussionists and Pirahnahead on bass, entertained a diverse mix of heads with a potent mix of chorus and groove. As artists like Mike “Agent X” Clark and Diviniti looked on, the group coaxed a number of dancers on the floor before Chicago’s Roy Davis Jr. took over on the decks. By the way: Pirahnahead also appears on March 16 as one-half of Animal Trax (the other half is Minx) at the same venue. This entire crew knows the value of hard work; reward them by walking in the door.
Also at Fifth Avenue, The Subterraneans ran into former Transmat label manager Kevin Reynolds, another hardworking stiff devoted to the “D” underground. Reynolds told us he now has his own label, Todhchaî, which means “things to come” in Gaelic. The label’s first release should be dropping this spring.
Also on the club trail, we saw Jeremy Ellis, who talked about his new album, Lotus Blooms, on Ubiquity. The record updates and continues Ellis’ fascination with R&B-driven house and nu-soul. We already had the record so Ellis handed us a sampler copy and said, “Give it to the best-looking girl you see.” We always knew Ellis was all about the love.
Don’t call it submissive
When a label calls itself Docile Recordings, the last thing you might believe is that it features beat-crazy techno that bounces you around the dance floor and takes you on a journey to the center of your mind. Believe it. Docile’s most recent lacquer, number 11 in a series, features four dense, brooding but celestial tracks. Two of the four feature increasingly complex thumps forged with a disciplined techno hammer. The tracks are at once deep, crispy and crunchy. Since 1998, producers David Wulle, Andy Garcia and Garrett Miller have been creating this fourth-wave sound for an underground scene that fed off the experience of raves at the Packard Plant and free festivals at the riverfront. On March 10, they bring their full live setup to the Works (1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit), with Shift and Tony Zadonia. We’ve a feeling that this party will groove weirdly but beautifully into the deep, deep Detroit night. Crunch on, brothers.
Baby, bring the bass
Ghostly International is serving up a flavorful bass-heavy treat to welcome spring back to Detroit. Tadd Mullinix, one of the most talented dudes anywhere producing and DJing (that’s right), will perform live March 21 as Dabyre with Ann Arbor MC Kadence. The show, at 555 Gallery (4884 Grand River, Detroit; 313-894-4202), also features Vienna-based trio Radian. Let the pressure drop ...
Friday, March 11: Ryan Elliott, Ryan Crosson, Seth Troxler and Clark Warner at 2929 Lounge (2929 Biddle St., Wyandotte; 734-282-2929).
Friday, March 11: Orlando Voorn at Oslo (1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-963-0300).
Friday, March 11: Bill Hartsig at the State Bar (2111 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451).
Sunday, March 13: Smash TV, Kero, Jeremy Nida, and Derek Michael at Foran’s (612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043).
Friday, March 18: Mike Shannon at Oslo (1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-963-0300).
Saturday, March 19: 3 Chairsat Oslo (1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-963-0300).
Saturday, March 19: Derrick Carter at Bleu (1540 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-222-1900; souldegamusic.com).
Sunday, March 20: Carl Cox and Kevin Saunderson at Bleu (1540 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-222-1900).
Thursday, March 10: DJ Taz, Reggie Harrell, Carlos Simpson, House Shoes,and DJ Dez at Half Past 3 (2548 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313 -965-4789).
Thursday, March 17: DJ Minx, Pirahnahead, Reggie Dokes, House Shoes, and DJ Dez at Half Past 3 (2548 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-965-4789).The Subterraneans is a biweekly column devoted to Detroit dance culture. Send comments to [email protected]