Yeah, it’s a monster.
Carl Craig has often seemed like a strangely disconnected figure in the history of Detroit techno, which is weird when you consider the massive role he has played in its creation, history and sonic diaspora to all corners of the electronic world. Although his place in the pantheon is certainly assured, he has never quite fit in with the Official History and it is interesting that other artists, such as Richie Hawtin, seem to be more quickly regarded as members of the Mid West elite than Craig ever has been, especially when you consider that Hawtin’s music has never, even in the early days, seemed classically Detroit. Which isn’t to take anything away from Richie. His music, the early stuff in particular, was brilliant and infused with an energy and atmosphere that marked him out as something very different from almost everyone else.
I suspect that one of the reasons Craig often seems to stand apart from the rest is that from the beginning his music seemed to encompass more than the rhythms and attitudes of Detroit. It was coloured with a sense of trying to move beyond what had already been done and a refusal to be cast as yet another Detroit talent in the shadow of the big three. Although much of his work, the seminal ‘Landcruising’ album in particular, embodies much of his home town’s musical ethos there is an element that is hard to encapsulate. It can be partly explained by an obvious desire to incorporate a mass of influences garnered not only from music but from other sources of culture. His classic tune, Throw, as Paperclip People always felt closer to a euphoric blast of dusky, poppy rave filtered through the haze of an Ibizan party than anything from the mid west. His Psyche material seems to come from a similar place; swirling Detroit sounds mixed in with a gleeful sense of exploration in a big musical world.
My Machines, though, remains my favourite Carl Craig track. It’s unusually hard for Craig, a pulsing stomper that would seem to be more at home had it been created under Kevin Saunderson’s E-Dancer banner. Its predatory instincts don’t really tell the whole story, though. It is, in fact, a song of two halves and wildly different energy.
The first part is a massive pan dimensional funktopus of a tune, the rolling percussion and cavernous warehouse beats holding up the amorphous, leviathan form of the synths, stabs and rises reaching out like tentacles of pure energy into your brain and body before warping into a dissonant blizzard of bleeps and squeaks. The second part remains not as well-known, for some reason. Perhaps it is because it goes off on a tangent and lacks the first part’s bonkers energy levels. Essentially the tune resets itself into a phenomenal and expansive wash of cosmic breakbeat shot through with a golden, soulful light before slowly bringing back the gravity sucking power of the original movement for the climax. It’s a clever and unorthodox move that confuses as much as it delights.
Yeah, it’s a monster, a logic defying, hard stepping, groove breeder of a monster. And it’ll never stop coming for you. Immense.