Review: Echoplex – The Detroit Walkout (ARTS)

Echoplex – The Detroit Walkout (ARTS)

One of the side effects of contemporary techno’s attempts to push itself into a cul-de-sac of heavy noise, identikit beats, and ever more oppressive mood is that it has led to an opposite reaction where a certain amount of lightness, of warmth, and swing takes the place of overworked and overwrought sound design. For some reason, it’s often described as ‘deep’ but I’m not sure it is. In the case of The Detroit Walkout Echoplex utilizes what by my count is his 4000th record to propagate the idea that all of these factors still have not only an important place in the music, but a vital one. You would expect that from Echoplex, of course. As a veteran producer he has long created music which owes more than a little something to Detroit’s familiar blend of drive and soul. Even in his harder work there has often been a careful understanding of shade and subtlety, and the way in which they can colour the groove.

Importantly and pleasingly, those markers are present here on The Detroit Walkout, and the mix of velocity with rich, constantly altering form and quiet beauty tempers the work with a fragile sunniness which opens the tunes up and lets the ideas and vibes spill right into the funk. It isn’t that the music on offer is soft or featherweight in comparison to a lot of what is going on else where, nor are the tracks particularly happy-go-lucky or hands in the air numbers. Instead they are deepened, fast, rollers which work themselves upwards with rippling synths and expressive percussion, and instead of filling space with vacuum, they fill it with warmth. And while their genesis is certainly Detroit, they refract the vibe through far hazier European air.

While a tune like Meanwhile exudes a slick, downbeat moodiness, the carnivale qualities of the perc add a life to it which could have been consumed by its head down trippiness, adding a strange but wonderful life to its groove. This tight, slightly slanted funk is carried over into the fractured dreaminess of Unclear, but falls away on Shut Off, a pretty enough slice of fast, floaty, prime time techno but a tune lacking a similarly off-kilter charm which renders it far more formulaic.

The EP fully hits it mark on the last track. No_Mo locks down the groove with its blindingly fast beats, but twists away everything else until it’s left with a gloriously bright, glimmering blast of disorientation; one minute rising towards the sun, the next diving towards the depths. It’s like Aubrey, Jeff Mills, and DJ Bone going at each other in an infinitely compressed space. Techno on the event horizon.