There can’t be many producers who have managed to make a career out of achievements two decades old, especially in a genre as geared towards futurism as Techno. Some of those tunes from the Dark Ages sound as weirdly archaic as Plainsong would to your average Lady Gaga fan, although a better comparison might be seen in the way all smiling, all dancing 1950’s rock n roll eventually evolved into the Stones at Altamont. We shouldn’t be surprised, though. It’s now a longer gap between now and the release of ‘Acid Tracks’ by Phuture than it is between ‘Acid Tracks’ and the first Beatles single…
It’s tempting to think of Derrick May as a ghost of sorts. A memory that lingers in our shared musical psyche, informing so much in the current scene without ever becoming the overt influence he once was. The world and it’s dog would kill for some fresh Rythim Is Rythim material but, unless Mr May relents and releases something of the album he was once rumoured to have finished, it ain’t gonna happen.
Peter Cook, in his later ‘retired’ years, once claimed that he didn’t feel the need to continue to perform for the benefit of everyone else. He didn’t need to show how funny he was, because he knew how funny he was. There might well be something of that in Derrick May. Not that it matters. He’s probably happy enough getting paid a billion quid a night to play ‘French Kiss’ over and over again to Japanese clubbers and who could blame him?
Anyway, the tune…and what a tune. Ikon was released as a double A side with the equally mesmerising ‘Kao-tic Harmony’ in the early 90’s towards the end of May’s era as a fairly prolific producer. Co-produced (I think) By fellow Detroit luminary Carl Craig Ikon is that most difficult beast – a thumping, driven track married to something haunting and unforgettable. Percussion, toms and kicks swell and break over and over as that synth floats high above, beckoning but staying forever just out of reach.
The best Techno is something so much more than a sequence of MIDI notes and sounds. Of course it is. The best Techno is always evolving, refusing to stand still. ‘Ikon’ may be twenty years old but it still sounds like tomorrow.