Jeff Mills Man from To­mor­row

Art Press - - TECHNO -

On Ja­nua­ry 31, 2014, Jeff Mills came back to La Ma­chine du Mou­lin Rouge to per­form the third epi­sode of his re­si­dence, Time Tun­nel. Th­rough the course of the eve­ning the ce­le­bra­ted De­troit DJ took the au­dience on a voyage th­rough time, mixing va­rious mu­si­cal eras and genres from jazz to tech­no. On Fe­brua­ry 2 he pre­mie­red Man from To­mor­row, made with Jac­que­line Caux, at the Au­di­to­rium du Louvre. Our contri­bu­tor Sté­phane Mal­fettes tal­ked to him on this oc­ca­sion.


Fe­brua­ry 1, 2014, 2 am, La Ma­chine du Mou­lin Rouge, Pa­ris. The throb­bing of the first syn­co­pa­ted notes of “The Ro­bots” ramps up the fren­zy on the dance floor. None of the dan­cers were even born when Kraft­werk first re­cor­ded its pro­to-tech­no an­them, but the DJ in his fif­ties pre­si- ding over the turn­tables is in to­tal con­trol of his mu­si­cal time tra­vel ma­chine. All night long, like an ar­chi­tect, Jeff Mills im­pas­si­bly ap­plies him­self to the construc­tion of sound struc­tures built of old school tech­no, fu­tu­ris­tic in­cur­sions and fla­sh­backs to the gol­den age of jazz. His mul­tie­pi­sode Time Tun­nel consists of “crea­ting a struc­ture wi­thin which each pas­sing hour is de­vo­ted to a mu­si­cal era of the past or fu­ture. This is a ve­ry edu­ca­tio­nal way to play a wide va­rie­ty of mu­sic, es­pe­cial­ly in a party context! I’ve al­ways been convin­ced that tech­no is the ideal kind of mu­sic for tel­ling sto­ries. I ac­qui­red a taste for sto­ry­tel­ling du­ring my first years as a ra­dio DJ, in the ear­ly 1980s. I was doing a show six days a week, and that meant I had to be crea­tive to avoid get­ting bo­red on the air.” At the time Mills was li­ving in De­troit, the for­mer Mo­tor Ci­ty that made a de­ci­sive con­tri­bu­tion to the his­to­ry of po­pu­lar mu­sic—the home of Mo­town Re­cords in the 1960s and the bir­th­place of tech­no, in­ven­ted in the mid-1980s by Juan At­kins, Der­rick May and Ke­vin Saun­der­son. In 1989, Jeff Mills and Mike Bank foun­ded the la­bel—and pro­du­cers’ group—Un­der­ground Re­sis­tance, re­pre­sen­ting a se­cond wind for De­troit tech­no. A coun­ter­cur­rent to the do­mi­nant mu­sic in­dus­try, their approach was to fight “for Re­vo­lu­tion for Change—the ad­van­ce­ment of the hu­man race th­rough So­nic Re­vo­lu­tion,” bet­ting on the crea­tive pro­mise of tech­no­lo­gi­cal in­no­va­tions. They went from for­ward-loo­king to down­right fu­tu­ris­tic with the re­cor­ding X-102 Dis­co­vers the Rings of Sa­turn (1992), where the abs­tract, mi­ni­ma­list mu­sic probes the pla­net’s rings, as in­di­ca­ted by the names of the track titles: Phoebe, Ti­tan, Rhea…

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