Friday Night Tune: Subject No. 001 – Black Lives

It’s turning out to be a bit of a DJ Bone week around here. With a podcast last Monday on Resident Advisor coming on the back of his new 12″ on Don’t Be Afraid – under his Differ-Ent guise – and the re-emergence of an old Peel session reminding us all what an utterly, mindblowingly good DJ he is (seriously, it’s insane. Hear it here), it felt like time to give this phenomenal tune a run out. I was actually planning to give a rest to classic Detroit techno but this, this is something else.

DJ Bone’s Subject Detroit label was a bit of a late comer when it emerged in 1998, although it was to be a while more before the label really got going. We talked last week about the phenomenal number of Detroit labels back in the past and one more might not have made a ripple had it not been for the quality of the music. Mainly a vehicle for DJ Bone’s own work, the label still brought a number of genuinely classic records to the worlds attention. Juan Atkin’s ‘Future Past’ and Aaron-Carl’s ‘Tears’ are up there with some of the finest techno records of all time, and Scottish artist Stephen Brown’s pair of releases (the Subject Scotland series) still remain up there amongst his best work.

But is was DJ Bone, releasing the ‘Unleashed EP’ as Subject No. 001 who set the tone. United as the four tunes are by a common energy they still feel like different parts of a puzzle, each bringing some new facet of DJ Bone’s tastes to the listener. The dreamy porpoising synths and rattling drums of Feel or the cloud riding, light speed elegance of Imagery are both as beautiful as they are hard; capturing the essence of Detroit techno both tunes render it down into its purest form and inject it straight into the muscle of DJ Bone’s midnight creations. Adowaya , which brings the record to a close, is a surge of rhythms and percussion lightened by the rusted, water stained and playful melody, and the cheeky bursts of whistles.

Black Lives is a compressed cyclone of emotion. The hardest tune on the record it is also the most serious. Stripped down and fierce it burns with an aggression that the other tunes don’t have. At it’s heart, behind the cold voice intoning ‘Black Lives’ and above the vast kicks or the patter of the perc lies that mammoth mechanical snarl. Dominant and hypnotic, it sounds like industrial machinery coming to life. It softens for a moment near the end, bring a second to catch your breath before it drags you back in again. A howl of rage and funk that has hardly softened in all these years.

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