To the dismay of an entire populous, decades worth of technical advancements and innovation were crammed into three-letters over the last half-decade: E-D-M. On the flip-side, just imagine how many varying genres could be pulled beneath the Stringed Melody Music (SMM) tag. This transition, propelled by advancements in affordable digital technologies and a new ease in track acquisition, has truly led to an era when everyone with a laptop can be a DJ. Then again, it has never been too challenging to pick up a guitar and start a punk band either. Genre-beefs aside, no matter the sound, the actual talent will (eventually) rise to the surface and truly make an indelible mark on the respective art.
As the predominant sound of clubland has become somewhat trend-chasing, Detroit’s techno-focused Movement Electronic Music Festival has opened up its bill to artists across the BPM and bass-line spectrums. Just in my four years visiting the festival, I have been fortunate enough to experience one of Skrillex’s first highly-publicized Midwest dates, watch TEED perform live, experience the re-purposed throwback grooves of acts like Wolf + Lamp and Soul Clap, end up mesmerized by the wonky abilities of left-field talents like Beardyman and turntable fanatic DJ Psycho, and be the benefactor of a deafening education in Spanish dub, ghetto-tech, and hardline techno. And unlike their prestigious dance-festival competition, Movement doesn’t keep the same 40 names on the speed dial each and every year, preferring instead to keep the greats rotating around a fresh cast of upstarts.
No longer maintaining their on-site partnership with Electric Forest, the breadth of electronic differentiation was not quite as it had been between 2011 and 2013. Nu-disco, future garage, and electro-funk were all popular genres outside of the pure techno-realm, but the three-days were lacking in the drum and bass, organic textures, electro and old-school dubstep, that arrived with Mala, Andy C, Break Science, GRiZ, The Bug, The M Machine, and Two Fresh during those previous years. Now co-producing Ashville’s Moogfest (which lost 1.5 million in 2014), the EF stage has been replaced by Moog and its appreciation for a more mature and emotive dynamic. Aside from a shift toward a more four-on-the-floor focus, the change impacted little during 2014; stages were still packed and the college-aged demographic continue to show up in mass.
Pulling in club owners, managers, and artists from around the globe, DJs don’t only entertain fans but attempt to move up the ranks in their own communities ahead of Europe and Ibiza’s many summertime festivities. As such, artists are flexing their own abilities and testing new tracks. With a production palette that far exceeds other genres, these production roles have moved from the shadows to the limelight; just as the sounds have moved from the ghettos of Chicago and Detroit to potentially impact every moment of our lives.
Revamp That Morning Routine
Skip that cup of coffee (which actually is bad for you) and instead find that pick-me-up with a mix courtesy of Bonobo. When not playing bass for his full live band, Simon Green (bka UK’s Bonobo) is fusing aboriginal rhythms, various world beats, ethereal vocals, and a weighty enough bassline to kick-your ass out of the door. His catalog demonstrates a deep appreciation for the downtempo, but his DJ performances are as energetic as they are inspiring. Performing at eight p.m., just as dusk settled on the Moog stage, his tribal percussive arrangements off Black Sands and The North Borders pulled the audience together around their primitive roots, before shaking the collective to their core with their deep bass lines. Now imagine that type of tranquil energy as you depart on your daily commute.
That Commute Is Better At 130 BPMs
With that energetic buzz settling in, kick on some Monoloc and get ready to take flight during your morning commute. Whether it be via bike, car, or bus, when he breaks into one of his favorite CLR cuts, you will instantaneously feel like you have been shot out of a cannon. With his set taking place mid-day Saturday at the Underground Stage, Monoloc cast the audience into a dizzying trance as his spiraling synths wrapped the audience in a net of industrial bleakness. Unlike more aggressive hard techno producers of 2012 like Truncate and Nicole Maudaber, Monoloc never drives you to the edge, merely bringing the audience to a point of absolute attention. Locked into Monoloc’s four-to-the-floor punch, those potholes, forgotten turn signals, and smelly transients will be all but small hurdles. Please do not blame CoS for any unwanted speeding infractions.
Instrumentals To Keep You Focused
Tale of Us
Back in 2010, researchers at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, United Kingdom reported that pupils retained information more effectively when listening to no music or the repeated number “three”. Since we are all in need of more focus during those first few hours of the workday, keep a copy of Tale of Us’ new Concur within easy reach. Lacking any vocals, attentions are firmly planted on the Berlin duo’s minimal-techno transitions. Their live prowess varies from their deep house contemporaries in that their subtle organic nuisances and subtle builds are entertaining without being distracting. In today’s level wars, it’s easy to get a crowd jumping; just try and keep them swaying for two-straight hours without even breaking a sweat.
Lunch Time Escape
Hailing from Detroit, Jimmy Edgar has never played by the established doctrines of dance music. In fact, the 32-year-old couldn’t even come to a creative middle-ground with Warp — one of the most celebrated experimental labels in the world. Having been in the Detroit rave community since the age of 15, Edgar has forgotten more about electronica than most others his age in the scene care to even know. With a psychedelic funk leading the way, Edgar’s Sunday night main-stage performance pulled the audience down a rabbit hole of the influential Detroit techno sound spliced with electropop and carefree Chicago house. Edgar wants to get you lost in his peaceful rebellion; indulge him.
A Dose of Disco For That 3 p.m. Bump
Most commonly known for popularizing the UK dubstep sound alongside Benga, Skream has taken a sharp turn toward bass-line disco and future garage. Just as Skream’s beats were hitting their most raucous as a member of Magnetic Man, he stepped away from the genre only to return with a new emphasis on the groove. Two years ago, his audience at Movement would have been bobbing to the low-end quake or waiting for the drop, but this year, the crowd brazed the intensity of the mid-afternoon sun (and likely two sleepless nights) to fully embrace his immersion into sexier club vibes. The energy of his bass productions still exist, he just buries them beneath the trending tech-house shuffle. The transition was quick, but effective. As Jamie Jones was wrapping his main stage set Monday, the boisterous, overly-critical DJ Sneak could be seen chatting and requesting selfies with the nearly 28-year-old.
Pre-Meeting/Test Psyche Up
Pushing 50-years-old, techno innovator Kevin Saunderson went as hard as any producer at Movement 2014. Curating the Made in Detroit Stage as part of his Origins exhibition on Monday, Saunderson demonstrated that the raw power of Detroit techno will continue no matter how glossy the prevailing dance music aesthetic may be. For 45 minutes of his 90 minute set, Saunderson was joined by Detroit techno/Chicago house torch-bearer Seth Troxler. Side by side, the duo worked through the past, present, and future of the genre that had brought them together. These dudes are beasts behind the decks, and with their assistance, let all doubts leave your mind. Techno is more than energizing your body, it’s about “elevating your mind.”
Here is a sobering thought: so-called “commuters amnesia” is a growing concern in our country. The best way to alleviate the stress of driving and actually recall the trip? Ditch that drive time radio and your staple selections for some new mixes from Ryan Hemsworth and the aforementioned DJ Psycho. The two might now share much on the surface or their technical abilities, but during Movement, both showcased a comedic appreciation for wonky mash-ups and cross-genre mixing. Their knowledge of their respective genres might be dense, but they would rather just keep you dancing than dig deeper into that crate/playlist. Even when both are at the top of their games, they just ooze an easy-going charisma. No matter which artist you choose, there will be enough “I think I know that one’s” to actually keep you engaged behind the wheel.
Bass For The Burn
Need a little bit of fire in your belly to make it through that last set or finish that final mile? Go grab some Kode9. The name reads like a banned energy supplment, but it’s just the alias of 41-year-old bass-titan and Hyperdub label founder Steve Goodman. Akin to DJ Shadow’s recent All Basses Covered shows, Goodman’s Sunday evening performance at the Moog stage was an onslaught of bass vibes: dubstep, trap, future garage, and just about anything that can shake loose a cavity. And in honor of the recently deceased DJ Rashad, Goodman sported a Teklife tee and tore through a barrage of footwork: a regional Midwest genre that has continually been overlooked even though ghetto-tech and trap has found new homes in clubland. Hitting at about 40 BPMs faster than dubstep, now is the time to retire that worn out brostep mix to really feel the burn.
Happy Hour Somewhere
You will rarely catch Justin Martin without a beer, normally a Bud Light, in his hand. He, along with the rest of the Dirty Bird Collective, just like to have a good time and pass the experience onto their growing flock of fans. A proponent of Claude VonStroke’s club-proven booty bass, Martin also hit Movement 2014 with an array of glitch-hop and broken-beat cut. With a repetitive, exaggerated bounce, even the worst dancer is capable of moving to selections pulled from his own LP Ghettos and Gardens or one of his numerous booty-bass conspirators across Dirty Bird and Food Music.
Unlike your standard happy hour, Martin doesn’t go far beyond that standard three-hour cap. Following a tremendously painful collaboration between George Clinton and Soul Clap during their House Of EFunk party alongside RBMA, Martin and label boss VonStroke took to the outside decks to keep the party energized from roughly 2:00 a.m. until nearly dawn. And that was after playing a set earlier that day on the sun-drenched Beatport stage.
As long as crowds are still moving to those sexy feels, disco will never truly die. Hailing from Brooklyn, the Dan Balis and Eugene Cho-led Escort have been pumping fresh blood into the genre for nearly a decade. But disco has always been about the frontwoman (i.e. Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer) and Escort’s Adeline Michele fits that mold perfectly. During a festival, and scene, dominated by men standing behind tables, Michele’s vocal prowess added a sense of humanity to the Moog stage on Sunday. Often a 17-piece band, the six-piece Movement set-up gave Michele ample room to own the stage. The collective aren’t just ripping melodies from Studio 54, they are re-envisioning the sound for a 21-century audience. It’s an aural aphrodisiac carefully crafted during decades of experimentation, and if fan-favorite “Cocaine Blues” doesn’t help close the deal after a suitable level of reciprocated intimacy, you are definitely doing something wrong.
Up All Night
Launched in the late 1980’s by techno producer Jeff Mills and former Parliament bassist “Mad” Mike Banks, Detroit’s Underground Resistance have created their own rich path through the turbulent history of the rust belt city. Established as part musical outfit, part community outreach initiative, and part political movement, UR wasn’t so much built around a sound as much as the ideal’s raw artistic honesty and risk-taking creation. Influenced heavily by Germany’s Kraftwerk, their initial output was a bastardized offspring of computer-generated music and Banks’ love for the funk. Taking in any artist that was willing to challenge America’s racial and musical status quos, the label would eventually release electro, drum and bass, breakbeats, downtempo hip-hop, and the many experimental flavors that have sprouted within the industrial sprawl of Detroit during the last 30 years.
That entire rich back catalog could be heard throughout their main stage headlining performance Saturday night. Performed live, the stage was lined with two keyboardists, a dedicated saxophonist, a keytarist, and a number of guests. Most of the label has vanished with most of Detroit’s residence. Those remaining, like Banks, have a true passion for the music outside of any financial gain, and that is evident in how they attack the arrangements. In just 90 minutes, a true arc was established between the many divergent aesthetics that have given rise to this bloated 21st Century EMC-behemoth. If one truly wants to explore the foundation of this $6.2bn culture, the timeline of UR is a pre-requisite.