Ah, to be in Detroit for Memorial Day weekend and in love with techno. Or house. Or any of the "electronic" music varieties. It's time to don dancing shoes or to roll out a comfy blanket to dream in sonic ambient waves.
This three-day (and -night) party celebrates Detroit for what it is: a pulse that never ends, a dream that refuses to die, a place that touches hearts and souls from here to Singapore with the gift of music.
Now in its eighth year (in one incarnation or another), the Movement 07 weekend is upon us.
Quick history: It began as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF), imploded under internal political pressures, was reborn as Movement, nearly died for lack of funding, then restarted as Fuse-In, which kept it on life-support for a year before the big ship began to turn in the direction of profit (or at least break even) under the stewardship of Paxahau Promotions in 2006.
Fest failures in some years were spectacular, probably necessary. Carl Craig, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Submerge — the latter is best known for its flagship group, Underground Resistance — all had a hand in planning and running the festival. A low point came in 2004, when May literally begged for money from the Main Stage. Later, he said he used cash he earned gigging in Europe to repay over $70,000 in fees owed artists and workers, some of whom claim they still haven't been paid.
But the goddamn Detroit techno dream was too big and beautiful to go away. Paxahau was the right fit at the right time because the group runs the show like a business, makes year-round connections to artists, and asks the public to do its share; that is, pay an admission fee to see some of the best talent in the world. The previous festivals collapsed in part because subsidies from an impoverished city and sponsorships from industries in decline (see Ford Motors) withered away. Last year it forged new relationships with still-hot labels like Cologne's Kompakt and Windsor-Berlin's Minus, bringing in artists who had not played Detroit before.
Movement 07 promises highlights galore, and likely will draw in the diehards and, hopefully, the curious newcomers who simply must see musicians like Vladislav Delay or Gui Boratto groove strangely beautiful. The headliners are all iconic figures: a too-rare appearance by Moodymann on Saturday, Juan Atkins and Model 500 on Sunday; and Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills on Monday.
Classic Detroit faves abound: Saunderson, Stacey Pullen, Anthony "Shake" Shakir, Kenny Larkin, Aux 88, SCAN 7, Octave One and 3 Chairs, featuring Rick Wilhite, Malik Pittman and Theo Parrish are all on the schedule. Steve Bug, Pier Bucci, Michael Mayer, Baby Ford and Zip, Losoul, Damien Lazarus and a number of other Europeans and South Americans are also here.
Ann Arbor's Ghostly/Spectral will showcase a DJ set by Audion and Ryan Elliott, Berlin's Rhythm & Sound will perform a six-hour DJ/live set, with vocalists Willi Williams and Lloyd Barnes ... then after-parties might take some of you right into the next day for more and more.
Yes, it'll be fun. It'll exhaust, out there in the sun and in the dark corners at the end of the night. Find some love — somewhere, anywhere — and take it home with you.
Take a look at the following guide to the must-sees.
Who: Ryan Crosson
Sounds like: The blueprint for hard-charging minimal techno circa 2007. Crosson has been hot for the last 18 months, releasing burning dancefloor jams on Cologne's Trapez, Telegraph in France and Windsor-Berlin's Minus (as Berg Nixon). Word is, Crosson's moving to Berlin this summer along with fellow Tesh Clubbers (a private basement after-party in Royal Oak that hosted a number of pretty young things in drab clothing from Europe and elsewhere the past couple of years) Seth Troxler and Lee Curtiss.
When: Live set Sunday, May 27, 1 p.m. Detroit Stage.
Troxler will perform a DJ set at noon, and Curtiss goes live at 2 p.m.
From: Switzerland via Berlin via Chili
Sounds like: An endless summer of love, stoked by melodic, poly-rhythmic, Latin-influenced minimal house from one of the originators of the style. Lucien Nicolet thrilled a sweaty crowd at the Underground Stage at the 2005 festival and has rocked Detroit at Paxahau parties before (memorably during Labor Day weekend in 2005). His remix of M83's "Teen Angst" stands as one of the saddest, most beautiful pieces of dancefloor drama of the past five years.
Danceable? With tears in our eyes!
When: DJ set Monday, May 28, 5:30 p.m. Beatport Stage.
Who: Gui Boratto
From: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sounds like: A gorgeous hybrid of minimal techno and sunny dance pop, Boratto's production style got the attention of critics and DJs after he released "Arquipelago" in 2005 on K2, a subsidiary of the Kompakt label. The next year, Boratto's "Like You" became a two-sided summer smash when DJs charted the original version and the SuperMayer (the production team made up of Superpitcher and Michael Mayer) remix. But the crucial moment came earlier this year upon the release of his first full-length, Chromophobia.
The LP works on multiple levels. It's a self-contained dance party: finely crafted songs with emotional content and surprising shifts in pace and texture. Check: "Mr Decay," "Xilo," "Acrostico," "Beautiful Life" and the title track. All killer.
Danceable? Pois nao! Does the Brazilian soccer team know how to play the beautiful game?
When: Live set Sunday, May 27, 7 p.m. Pyramid (Waterfront) Stage.
Who: Vladislav Delay
From: Native of Finland, now in Berlin.
Sounds like: A dying refrigerator motor from one of the moons of Saturn. Sasu Ripatti, who also records under the names Luomo (sexy space-disco with female vocals), Uusitalo (dance floor techno with fractured beats) and other projects, is one of the most innovative and prolific electronic music producers of the last 10 years. His body of work as Vladislav Delay stretches back to 1997, when he released The Kind of Blue EP on his own Huume label. Through recordings on Berlin's Chain Reaction, Frankfurt's Mille Plateaux, fellow trailblazer Thomas Brinkmann's Max Ernst imprint and Huume, Delay has created a body of work that fits together like a strange, alien puzzle. The music spreads like a virus, set free to go wherever it wants, held together by crushing basslines and echoing drum patterns. The new LP, Whistleblower, contains seven long tracks that can easily be superimposed on the any of the music Delay created on dozens of full-length, single or MP3-only releases. Highlights: "Stop Talking," "I Saw a Polysexual" and "Recovery Idea." Ripatti's next move? He says it could be back to Finland to live in the forest with his young daughter. "I can even do shows in the woods," he says.
Danceable? Yes, the experience is like floating on air after a deep tissue full body massage.
When: Live set Monday, May 28, 2 p.m. Main Stage.
Who: Delano Smith
Sounds like: Funky beatdown house music with roots in the track selecting and DJ style of the late Ken Collier. Smith's a pioneering showman who helped bring the west side (Bookie's) and the east side (Todd's) together back in the 1970s. Expect everything from classics to progressive sounds to quirkier tech-house accents. Delano has teamed up of late with Norm Talley — who's also appearing in the festival — and Bruce Bailey, two other Detroit house cats with roots in the 1980s.
Danceable? Next question.
When: DJ set Saturday, May 26, 3 p.m. Main Stage.
Who: Gary Martin
Sounds like: Glammy, high-flying techno influenced by 1970s icons Bowie, Eno and Gary Numan. Brought down to earth by Motor City electronic soul revolutionaries Jeff Mills and Mike Banks. Started Teknotika imprint in the 1990s, getting the attention of Eurotrash like DJ Hell and Miss Kittin.
Danceable? Peepz have busted moves to Martin's beats from Paris to Toyko, and back to grungy industrial spaces in the D.
When: DJ set Saturday, May 26, 3 p.m. Detroit Stage.
Who: Moodymann featuring Pitch Black City
Sounds like: The musical extension of the Black Power salute delivered by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Raw funk power with roots in disco and soul, Kenny Dixon Jr. makes afro-futurist music so slow, deep and pure he stands apart from all other house artists. Looking for a digital download from his catalog that stretches back to 1994? Sorry dudes. KDJ is not in the mood for any talk of MP3s. Hates the shit, in fact, as much as he detests interviews and showing his face in public. Tip: you wanna see Moodymann at street level, camp out at People's Records (615 W. Forest), where he was spotted vinyl shopping recently.
Danceable? Dirty dancing at the roller rink!
When: Live band set Saturday, May 26, 10 p.m. Main Stage. Afterparty alert: Soul Skate 07 feat. Music by Kenny Dixon Jr. Saturday, May 26, 11 p.m.- 4 a.m. at Northland Roller Skating Center, 22311 W. 8 Mile Road, Detroit. More afterparty info and tickets: http://www.mahoganimusic.com/soul_skate.html
Who: Robin Judge
Sounds like: Sewing machines, food processors, UFOs, flower petals opening, irregular heartbeats. Pluism and Private Eyes, Judge's collaborations with fellow Torontonian Tomas Jirku on the German Onitor label are two of minimal techno's tastiest, most underrated releases.
Danceable? Yes, strangely enough.
When: Live set Sunday, May 27, 2 p.m. Beatport Stage.
Who: Booka Shade
Sounds like: Whether you tag it electrohouse, call it bubble-gum techno or just plain ole' 4/4 fun, it's probably all the same to Walter Merziger & Arno Kammermeier. The duo has been producing music and running their studio since the early 1990s. The pair teamed up with the likeminded M.A.N.D.Y. and DJ T to form the Get Physical label, which has released one dancefloor ready 12-incher and mix CD after another during the past five years.
Danceable? You kiddin'? Get physical, punk.
When: Live set Monday, May 28, 8:45 p.m. Main Stage.
Sounds like: Elegant, spatial techno that alternates between frenetic beats and no beats at all. Robert Henke is a master minimalist who has been producing since the mid-1990s. His early work (with Gerhard Behles) on Berlin's Chain Reaction inspired countless sound artists around the world to think of music as transportation. Indeed, his debut LP Hongkong includes field recordings captured in China and suggests a travelogue gliding on air.
His more recent releases — like "Plumbicon," which was remixed by younger artists Deadbeat and sleeparchive — are ideal for club play but versatile enough for headphone chill.
Danceable? From here to China to outer space and back again.
When: Live set Sunday, May 27, 9 p.m. Main Stage
Who: A Guy Called Gerald
From: Manchester, England native now in Berlin
Sounds like: The history of electronic dance music from the late 1980s to the present. Gerald Simpson came of age in the '80s, when the "madchester" scene united clubbers and rockers under an acid house and shaggy-haired psych-pop groove. He went further, dabbling in drum 'n' bass and searching for the source of house and techno in Chicago, Detroit and New York, where he moved for a time in the late 1990s. Simpson has since worked with Bill Laswell and Herbie Hancock and teamed up with Berlin's Benno Blome of the Sender label for a one-off project.
Danceable? Like it was 1989.
When: Live set Monday, May 28, 6:45 p.m. Main Stage.
Sounds like: Chill psychedelic house music that takes its cue from megastar Luciano (Lucien Nicolet, a native of Chili who lives in Switzerland) who signed the duo made up of Laurent Bovey and Gregory Poncet to his Cadenza label. Digitaline released its first LP, Anticlockwise, to critical acclaim earlier this year.
Danceable? How can you not to a group whose first song on their debut full-length is called "Aphrodisiaque?"
When: Live set Sunday, May 27, 9 p.m. Main Stage
Sounds like: His music once sounded like steam coming out of an old radiator, but Stefan Betke has been adding dub effects, hip-hop flavas and — most recently on his new LP, Steingarten — funky Krautrock inspiration to create a restless minimal techno style that sounds like no one else. Pole's low-end vibrations are legendary: Betke literally made hair stand on end at his first area appearance in the late 1990s at Richie Hawtin's short-lived Windsor club 13 Below, and has performed at CAID, the old Detroit Art Space and at 2005's Fuse-In Festival.
Danceable? The beats are fractured and weird, but Pole still rocks. Chin scratchers will be pleased.
When: Live set Saturday, May 26, 1:30 p.m. Beatport Stage.
Who: Rhythm & Sound featuring Willi Williams and Lloyd Barnes
Sounds like: A sexy synthesis of roots reggae, wicked dub and grimy techno that'll put you in the mood for love in a hurry. Rhythm & Sound is one of the projects of Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald, two of electronic dance music's most reclusive figures. They don't do interviews, are rarely photographed and stopped regular clubbing long before many of the kiddies who will attend their first festival were born. Von Oswald played drums for post-punk synth-pop band Palais Schaumburg in the early 1980s, was a part of 3MB with Juan Atkins and Thomas Fehlmann a decade later and even did session work on 1990's Wild and Lonely, an underrated post-punk/disco masterpiece by Scotland's Associates. With Ernestus, von Oswald formed Basic Channel, a label that reduced Berlin, Detroit and Chicago styles to a pulse, punctuated by monstrous basslines and layer upon layer of studio effects. More sonic projects followed, including Chain Reaction, Main Street and Rhythm & Sound.
Danceable? Grab a lover or potential bedmate(s) and get ready to bump during this 6-hour set. Expect vocalists Williams and Barnes — who founded the seminal Wackie's studio and label in the Bronx in the 1970s — to keep the temperature rising throughout.
When: DJ and live set Saturday, May 26, 4 p.m. Pyramid (Waterfront) Stage.
Who: Guido Schneider
Sounds like: Bouncy minimal techno that never quits thumping, probably a result of Schneider's early fascination with Detroit's Underground Resistance and Jeff Mills. He's been producing and DJing since the 1990s, with most recent releases coming on Steve Bug's Poker Flat imprint. On his new LP, Focus on: Guido Schneider, he mixes his own original productions with remixes by Sammy Dee, Daniel Stefanik and others.
Danceable? Yes, chief. Guido's beats are furious and infectious.
When: Live set Saturday, May 26, 6:30 p.m. Beatport Stage.
Who: Claude VonStroke
From: San Francisco
Sounds like: Plucky techno with a slap-happy groove, Barclay Crenshaw has released such titles as "Deep Throat," a dancefloor sleeper that made it into DJ bags around the world in 2005; then came "Who's Afraid of Detroit?" — a track that Rich Hawtin called the best of 2006 — followed by the full-length Beware of the Bird, and remixes for the Rapture and Jeff Samuel. He's been hot, though still well under the radar, for two solid years.
Danceable? Yes, put on a wig, a clown suit and bunny hop. Dude is fun personified. Yo, Detroit: He's planning to funk all y'all up later this year when he starts up a new sub-label called Mothership.
When: DJ set Saturday, May 26, 8 p.m. Beatport Stage. After-party alert: Ghostly International presents Detroit is Nothing to Fear featuring Audion (live), TNT (Todd Osborn & James T Cotton), Ryan Elliott and Claude VonStroke. Saturday, May 26, 10 p.m – 4 a.m. Masonic Temple, 500 Temple St., Detroit. More info: http://www.ghostly.com/
Movement 07 is scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 26-28 at Hart Plaza, Jefferson and Woodward in downtown Detroit. For ticket information go to DEMF.com.Walter Wasacz is a Hamtramck-based freelance writer, editor and music critic. Send comments to [email protected].