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Photos courtesy of Angie Linder from Detroit Techno Militia RusssiansraveI’ve only met a handful of Russians in my lifetime, but the ones I did loved techno. During the late 90s when the Detroit rave scene was on a come-down, some interesting promoters and DJs started to take rise, but none were more interesting than the Russians. Having moved from their homes in search of freedom, Detroit was a landing spot that offered opportunity to start families and businesses, and a few crafty Russians wanted a piece of that rave pie. They definitely got some, and for a period of time Detroit rave nightlife seemed to be controlled by an undeniable Russian influence, which became a subject of rumor and lore.

For like a year or so, somewhere around the turn of the millennium, it seemed that pretty much all of the underground parties in Detroit were gravitating around one particular venue and it’s fabled Russian owner. This particular venue was said to also be home to a whole host of other clandestine activities, which I cannot confirm. The owners were quiet, but very mysterious, in a renegade sort of way. They gave the impression that they were not to be fucked with. They weren’t, but anytime I talked to them they seemed pretty nice and were quite humorous. It was obvious their hands were on the cash though and they were completely running shit.

At the peak of the Russian influence over raves, there was a party on the East side of Detroit called “The Russians are Coming”. It was in the upper level of a building they called “The Russian Gallery” and was thrown by a Russian collective, Biokidd. It was in a horrible neighborhood close to “Mack and Bellevue” and despite the shadyness of the party, it had some pretty decent music going down. Space Girl was the headliner and was really building her name up at that time with her hard acid-trance live P.A. sets. She was a favorite amongst many female party-goers and definitely knew her way around the keyboard. Local Detroiter and import from Lithuania, Legal Alien, was also tearing it up with some solid drum & bass.

russiansrave2

This party seemed to mark the end of the Russian invasion as the rave scene itself was already in a declining state. Now that I think about it, raves were already over and the Russians were the only ones left with the resources, buildings, and nuts to still throw warehouse parties on the regular in Detroit. In the end, even they couldn’t survive the constant threat of police raids, and the Russian-owned rave spots disappeared just like the rest of the grimy venues we used to love.  

Although this Russian wave was short-lived in Detroit, it is undeniable the effect that Russians have had on Detroit rave history and even Techno globally. Nina Kraviz is the latest Russian artist that has established a major presence in the scene. Although not from Detroit, she is heavily inspired by Detroit Techno and Chicago House music and has worked on projects with Detroit artist’s Luke Hess and Marcellus Pittman. Her style is very forward thinking and being one of the top DJs in the world will only influence electronic music further and strengthen the connections between Russians, Techno and Detroit.

download 1 One of the more exciting things that has garnered attention in the last year or so in electronic music is the seeming re-emergence of the Jungle and Drum and Bass sound. While the last decade has become more or less stagnant with rather lackluster bass music and bro-step, it’s refreshing to hear a renewed interest in the break-beat sounds that defined a whole sub-genre of electronica in the 90’s and early 2000’s. But is this a true revival, or is a new generation just getting sick of Dubstep and bringing attention back to a sound that has just been overlooked for the last 10 years?

Drum and Bass and Jungle became huge in the 1990’s and I remember a lot of people getting burnt out on house music, and turning their attention to the more break-beat sounds to get away from the same 4 on 4. Then all of a sudden, it just seemed to disappear; all of the DJs that had been promoting the Jungle sound were now spinning Dubstep and more worried about “the drop” than anything else. The sobering moment for me was seeing Dieselboy, who had ruled the Drum and Bass circuit for many years, spinning some of the most boring dubstep I had ever heard.  I kind of lost touch with the genres’ for some years, focusing my attention on all the great House an Techno that was coming out, and maybe occasionally busting out one of my old Jungle mix tapes every now and again for nostalgic purposes.

Last year, however, several artists came across my radar that were incorporating the sounds of 90’s Jungle and Drum and Bass into their production.  Two artists that had been producing what I had found to be somewhat boring bass music, Zomby and Machinedrum, had released tracks with heavy breakbeat leanings.

It was exciting to hear new Jungle from one of the old school greats, Congo Natty, who put out a new album of Ragga Jungle nastiness last fall.

This all got me to thinking and relooking at these sounds. They never really went away; they were just being overlooked by a world that had put Dubstep on a rock star status. And as this had dominated most “bass” music for the last decade, it was easy to look past the few people who were still keeping Jungle and Drum and Bass alive. In Detroit, there have always been a handful of old school local DJs who have kept Jungle alive in their crates, but for some reason I had overlooked their performances, as they seemed to get lumped in with the Dubstep-everything parties.

Just like House music has gained a new generation of listeners and lovers over the last few years, I believe so will Jungle and Drum and Bass. Not so much a revival, as the genre didn’t truly die; some of its best producers and DJs have just been waiting on the sidelines for the right time to bring back the break beat sounds to the frontline.

imagesThere is no doubt that Techno as a genre of music was developed and spread across the globe by a handful of Artists and labels out of Detroit in its first wave. But when you think of labels that helped to spread its electronic grooves across Europe, one can’t help but to have R&S Records come to mind. R&S, along with its army of sub-labels, put out many amazing releases not only by Techno pioneers from Detroit, but also from Europe, and all across the globe.

R&S was founded in 1984 in Ghent, Belgium. Its name is taken from the Initials of founders Renaat Vandepapeliere and Sabine Maes, who began the label in response to their disdain for the current dance music scene in Belgium at the time. Many of the earlier releases included the developing Belgian New Beat genre in the 1980’s, but also included many early Techno and House artists from the US. Many second wave techno artists got releases on R&S including Suburban Knight, Joey Beltram, and Eddie Fowlkes. R&S also released some of the earliest works of idm/techno legend The Aphex Twin. The R&S back catalog is so lengthy and packed full of electronic music gems, I suggest any true fan spend some time perusing their Discogs page to see the true breadth of releases.

After a long period of success, R&S went on a hiatus from 2001-2006 due in part the founder’s boredom with the music industry at the time. However, R&S records re-launched in 2006 and went on to put out more great releases from artists like Model 500, Orlando Voorn, and James Blake. While the releases are more varied and boundary pushing than its earlier, more techno-centric sounds, R&S continues to put out innovative dance music across the globe.