Into the scratch

Techno is sick, dying, dead. Sort of.

What died was the idea of a music that could separate itself from its human collaborators, the artists and the dancers. To that we say amen and good riddance. What smart, bored people around the world have done is feed personality — and lots of it — back into the mechanical whirr and thump. It’s a development likened to the pop underground in the mid- to late 1980s, when Sonic Youth, Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine added texture, sex and confusion to yawningly bland guitar-rock.

The best of this new electronic music is coming from Cologne, Germany, where ex-metalheads, failed indie rockers, raffish disco bums and ambient noodlers have begun mashing up influence with inspiration to create some of the weirdest party music on the planet.

One of the city’s strangest labels is Areal, operated since 2000 by musicians Matthias Klein (aka Konfekt), Sebastian Riedl (aka Basteroid) and Michael Schwanen, who produces under the name Metope. Each release comes with gorgeous full-color cover art and equally vivid — and mysterious — imagery on the vinyl or CD itself. There are monstrous creatures that resemble snails crossed with bulls, giant hallucinatory birds and someone in a space suit behind the wheel of a tractor.

The music is even more bizarre. On Metope’s new LP, Kobol, each track contains a thundering bass line and a brutal drum kick. Nothing new for techno, right? But then the real kicks: Elements of the baroque appear in the sweeping melodies of such songs as “I’m So Ready” and “Panicflute.” Two other tracks, “Nashville” and the minimal rocker “Superimbat,” build up slowly, spinning around like dust devils, before exploding into a mess of blurry synthetic vocals and acid-trance grooves.

But not everything on Areal veers off into such agreeable abstraction. The artist who calls herself Ada (real name: Michaela Dippel) last year released the full-length Blondie, a record that brings pop, electro and house together in one sexy, digestible package.

Dippel has a sweet little girl’s voice, which doesn’t hurt, and her production — which she says is inspired by pop-rock and jazz, not techno — is tough and elegant. Ada’s LP includes a cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” and “Each and Everyone (Blindhouse)” by Everything But the Girl. The track that gets the attention of club DJs is “Livedriver,” a power dance-ballad that features crunchy synth-bass vibrations, polyrhythms clicking and pounding and Dippel wailing, “I can’t stop thinking that he’ll give me that kiss of life [and] ... resuscitation.”

Ada and Metope, who played together in the late 1990s group Lava Lounge, are performing in Detroit for the first time on Oct. 20, at Oslo (1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-963-0300). The show is produced by Paxahau and headlined by Superpitcher, the Cologne-based artist who slew the crowd at the same club with a four-hour DJ set in July. Doors at 10 p.m. 21 and up.

Motor City V

For the past 12 years, one local record label has represented that one letter of the alphabet with appropriate Detroit underground panache. V-Max released its first 12-inch in early 1994 — label head Heath Brunner’s “Frightless Bass”/”Cockatoo” — when it was based in Lansing.

The label moved to the Detroit area in 1997 and has released music by artists like Abstrak, Lowsh, Silicon and Tizoc, and has won comparisons to the dark electro generated at Clone Records in the Netherlands. Brunner has put out records on Kevin Saunderson’s KMS imprint, and his tracks have been licensed for use on comps put out by Detroit’s Submerge. The “Cockatoo” track was co-produced by Trent Abbe, who in 1994 also contributed a version of Brunner’s “Photosynthesis” for V-Max’s second release.

Abbe will appear as a guest DJ Thursday, Oct. 13, at a monthly party organized by People Mover, a crew made up of art-hinged electronicats based in the Woodbridge neighborhood. Other DJs include George Rahme, p20 and Colin Zyskowski, whose “Rotterdam” track was recently remixed to scorching effect by Alexi Delano for Dietrich Schoenmann’s Tora Tora Tora label.

The free event begins at 9 p.m. and includes an art exhibition and a fashion show by At Traffic Jam, 511 W. Canfield, Detroit; 313-831-9470.



Oct. 15: After Glow, featuring K-Hand, Tim Baker, DJ 3000, Hakim Murphy and others. Johansen Charles Gallery, 1345 Division St., Detroit; [no working phone number] 10 p.m. $10.

Oct. 19: Sou’d Out Presents, featuring Buzz Goree, John Johr, Aran Daniels, Mr. Iles. Delux Lounge, 350 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-962-4200. 21+. 9 p.m. $2.

The Subterraneans is a column devoted to dance and club culture. Send comments to [email protected]
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