Of all the producers to come out of Detroit over the last twenty-five or so years, Kelly Hand remains one of the most important and one of the most interesting. Since launching her own label Acacia way back at the start of the nineties she has explored a Techno sound that owes as much to House as to the machine-soul of her home city. Most people on this side of the pond probably became aware of her via the release of the Global Warning EP on Warp Records, the eponymous lead track a snarling, jacking burst of electric energy that set dance floors alight way back in 1994. A couple of years later the growling, wonky Flashback stood out as a special record against the mass of acid tinged Techno that was dominating the scene.
If I’m honest, though, neither of those had the same impact on me as this one. I’m not sure on what record it originally appeared, but I first found it on an album called Detroit – Beyond the Third Wave , a compilation heavy with the likes of Claude Young, Anthony Shakir and Kosmic Messenger which came out around 1995 or 96. Although an uneven listening experience, there were some phenomenal tracks spread across it – follow the link and lose yourself in Impolite To Refuse or Sandblaster for a few minutes – but K-Hand’s entry stood out as something very special.
Perhaps at first listen there is nothing overly remarkable about it. The template is one used a thousand times over, after all. But it is in the growing energy that Come On Now Baby works it magic. There are many tracks out there that are described as ‘builders’ but there are very few that actually do so. This one does. From the off, it carries us along on rippling, golden chords with that single note, drawn out, hanging far about like a guiding star. it rises quickly, falling back ever so slightly before upping itself again. The hypnotic vocal hook imploring us to dance. And the percussion, oh my: that crackling percussion latched tightly to one king hell heavy bass drum. As always, the kick might provide the oomph, but it’s the perc that provides the wriggle.
It stuck in my mind over the years for the almost effortless way it seemed to take over that space where the genres come together. I’m not talking about some dull ‘Tech-house’ limpathon here, where the most boring parts of the styles are sown together into a fey yet leaden Frankenstein’s monster that couldn’t groove even if it wanted too. No, what I’m talking about here is a master producer colliding the two disciplines together: the funk and sensuality and insouciance of House with the drive and bite and grandeur of Detroit Techno at its best. It is a beast of the dark, dripping underground dance floor, where rhythm holds court and the strobes and ice elicit abandon. all you can do is exactly what it asks, and hope its enough.