Over the last few months when I’ve been looking through old tapes to find stuff worthy of putting up on the internet, I’ve run into recordings of me mucking about on my decks a long time ago. The practice tapes are almost all uniformly bad in one way or another. Most often the dreadfulness comes in two flavours: an inability to grasp the simplest of concepts involved in playing two records at the same time and at the same speed, and a compete inability to grasp why two records sound bad together.
But what’s important, though, is how many tunes I’ve rediscovered from them. Some of these tracks were in my head, close to the surface, and only needed a quick reminder to bring them back up. Others were more frustrating, remaining buried away, always just out of reach, and partly hidden by a thick and all but impenetrable seam of really crap loopy techno.
It finally took a mate to help my recollection. It’s always useful to have a friend whose knowledge of music – especially electronic music – borders on the frighteningly savant like, and anyone who has ever met Richard fae Numbers can probably testify that if there is something about music he doesn’t know, you probably just made it up yourself. Took me months of trying to figure it out. Took Richard about 20 seconds including the time it took to tell me. The moral is that if we really should turn Richard into an app. It would be so much more useful than Shazaam or Spotify.
The tune was this one, Morph by Kenny Larkin. Larkin probably needs little in the way of introduction; a Detroit luminary very much associated not only with the second wave, but with the early years of Richie Hawtin’s career having released a number of his early records on Plus 8. Morph feels like a mix of the earthy drive of his earlier Plus 8 gear and the heavenly, melodic synthwork of his later material. I’m loath to say too much about it because, essentially, what’s brilliant about it is that it’s simply one of the prime examples of full on funk filled Detroit techno I’ve ever heard and there isn’t much else to say. I don’t know what mental block I had when I heard it again. It actually turned out I had archived it from my ancient vinyl copy and had it right there on the computer. I played it to death back then, and I’m playing to death again now. It’s been like remembering something important that had slipped my mind.
The only place it ever appeared (as far as I know) was on the 20-year-old True People compilation of Detroit techno. And given that it didn’t even seem to be on YouTube until very recently I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t too well-known. That’s a shame. The compilation was pretty good, but not every track on it was outstanding. This one was though, and I still think this was one of Larkin’s best moments; a slamming testament to groove that shrugs of the years and sounds as good as it ever did.