Detroit

Q (UK) - - Girl Ray -

Acid house might have orig­i­nated in Chicago, but Detroit took it into the fu­ture. Der­rick May’s 1987 sin­gle Strings Of Life was the cat­a­lyst, its looped pi­ano riff and pierc­ing synth stabs sounded like they’d been beamed down from an­other planet. At once eu­phoric and cos­mic, the mood was even more alien than Phuture’s Acid Tracks, but Strings Of Life quickly be­came an an­them on the UK rave scene. The Detroit sound was dubbed “techno” for its fu­tur­is­tic in­tent, though May de­scribed his style as “Ge­orge Clin­ton and Kraftwerk stuck in an el­e­va­tor.” As in Chicago, the scene was cen­tred on a tight-knit com­mu­nity of young black mu­si­cians, in­spired by new tech­nol­ogy and the fevered mix of funk, disco and Euro­pean synth-pop served up by a lo­cal late-night ra­dio DJ known as the Elec­tri­fy­ing Mojo. Among Mojo’s reg­u­lar lis­ten­ers were the Belleville Three – May, Juan Atkins, who had been record­ing elec­tro-funk as Cy­botron since the early-’ 80s, and young pro­ducer Kevin Saun­der­son. Named for the Detroit sub­urb where they grew up, the trio went on to record much of the era’s most for­ward­think­ing mu­sic under cryp­tic aliases such as Rhythim Is Rhythim (May), Model 500 (Atkins) and Reese (Saun­der­son). Yet like many early elec­tronic artists in the US, they strug­gled to find wider recog­ni­tion at home even as the spread of acid house ma­nia made them pop stars in Europe. In 1988 the de­but sin­gle by Saun­der­son’s soul­ful In­ner City project, Big Fun, broke into the UK Top 10; in Amer­ica it didn’t even make the charts.

Der­rick May: techno pioneer.

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