For 2006 it's dubbed Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival, and it's (deservedly) curated by Ferndale-based Paxahau Promotions Group. But whatever the moniker (DEMF, Fuse-In, etc.), the seventh annual throwdown of sound has become a Memorial Day weekend tradition, and a destination event for electronic music artists, fans and hangers-on from the world over. As the host site, Hart Plaza is almost too perfect. Bracketed by the Ren Cen's tubular futurism on one side and Joe Louis' 24-foot fist on the other, the riverfront square sits at a union of sleek architecture and brute force; in other words, it's the only true place to celebrate a style of music that's as much about what's to come as it is relentless volume and pace. And then there's the plaza's underground stage, a concrete maw that each year becomes some kind of apocalypse with the addition of peaking monitors and a thousand dancing kids. If Detroit is the birthplace of techno, the underground stage is its womb.
Electronic music has a reputation for being impenetrable to outsiders, with its clan-like following, shifting terminologies, and fetishistic adoration for all things tech. But at the very least, beyond its world-as-dancefloor aesthetic and the tractor-beam allure of numerous and enormous outdoor sound systems, Movement offers the casual fan spectacular people-gazing.
And beyond the visuals there's plenty of music and din. This year's event includes such Detroit mainstays as Derrick May, Carl Craig and Mike Huckaby, as well as a special tribute to J Dilla featuring locals House Shoes, Dabrye and Ta'Raach alongside Stones Throw crew members Oh No, M.E.D. and J Rocc.
Among the slate of internationals performing, the Kompakt label and its affiliates stand out. An essential part of the European club scene since the late 1990s, the German imprint has recently become the go-to source for silky beats that bump and sweat as much as they percolate in the bedroom. Seriously, someone ought to check if the birthrate has gone up in Cologne, Kompakt's home base.
Kompakt will roll out several of its artists at Movement '06, including Superpitcher (ne Aksel Schaufler) and Markus Guentner, who will both perform DJ sets. Guentner's 2005 LP 1981 was one of the year's best ambient releases, while Lovely Society, his latest, is hard-charging left-field house in the vein of Detroit's own Moodymann (Kenny Dixon, Jr.). Superpitcher's latest is on Kompakt Extra, the imprint's sub-label for hardcore club tracks. "Enzian" spins in circles for nearly 10 minutes as its low end bounces the track up and down; you could call it bubblegum acid, or just pure fun.
Fellow Kompakt standout Mikkel Metal will also perform live at the event. On 2006's Victimizer, the Danish musician creates head-pounding beats to go with the dubby, ambient style for which he's better known.
When you can't shout anymore you'll be ready for Klimek's Music to Fall Asleep, an album of electronically-treated guitar strums, tinkling piano keys and whispering machine hisses. The beats are faint, but the drama Klimek creates is real. That's a skill that deserves an audience, so come out to Hart Plaza Memorial Day weekend and revel in the best electronic music has to offer.
(Kompakt and other labels in its distribution network can be purchased at kompakt-mp3.net.)
May 27, 28 and 29 at Hart Plaza (at the foot of Woodward, downtown Detroit). Weekend pass: $40, single day: $15. Go to paxahau.com for more information and complete lineup schedules.Send comments to [email protected]