As I sit with the bass under my feet and a thick groove locked heavily throughout this intimate nightclub I come to understand what makes this area so special, and these people so unique. We exude and absorb spontaneous energy in such a beautiful way, and we delight in the challenge of adapting to our surroundings. That is why Detroit and live electronic sets mesh so well. We feed off of each others energy so deeply, that the extremely personal and intimate expression of a live set makes us come together like flocking birds. It orders our molecules in a way that vibrates with the harmony of the earth, and puts us in true communion with humanity. Through electricity we find man at his most creative. Electrical circuits that create frequencies bind our emotions in sonic vibration, our ability to feel comes alive, and somehow our soul is transferred through the speakers like a psychedelic magic trick. Truly a conduit for the energy that creates every piece of our being, the performer of a live set gives us something more than just music… They give us a part of themselves, and in turn receive a part of everyone else. We all dance to one man’s beat.
Live acts are everywhere and Detroit is certainly not special because of that. It is, however, special because of how we respond and interact with these experiences. Something in our blood makes these flashes of time escalate and change with every beating heart that is added to the equation… A live set does something that connects the artists and the crowd in an almost spiritual way. The doctrine of the soul is revealed through musical interpretation, and the acceptance of that message received is a purifying experience for everyone willing to give themselves to the moment and be a part.
I will say that Detroit has had many pioneers and influential artists in live electronic music, but the person responsible for making me write this was Kevin Reynolds. His set from last night (March 4th, 2014) at the Comfort Food Detroit party at The Grasshopper Underground, just outside of Detroit, was what moved me to contemplate the reason it felt so special. The night was something for the truly discerning to appreciate. It had a flow, a progression that hinted at the high level of artistry that was on display. Teej started the night with his patented trip-hop flavor, easing the crowd into a night of eclectic sounds. Derek Hannon set the pace for the night with deep rhythms and a technical edge that is to be appreciated on many levels. It then moved into Stone Owl playing their patented thick basslines with soulful melodies intertwined in a truly beautiful way. They set the party off, and Kevin was ushered in with a roar of energy. Kevin proceeded to take that energy and build upon it with an architect’s precision, and a gospel singer’s passion. He programmed beats that made the crowd cheer with excitement, as he integrated soulful vocal drops and chords that melted hearts. The bass lines were something all in their own, seamlessly merging with the other sounds, yet standing out on their own in a truly powerful way, this was my favorite part of the experience. He balanced the sounds so beautifully, and built the set with a real respect for his audience, you could feel his energy and you couldn’t help but move with it.
Kevin is owner and founder of Todchai Records, and previously worked as an engineer and artist for Derrick May’s Transmat Records. I managed to capture a good chunk of his set in the video below, and he was kind enough to give me the blessing to post it for you all to enjoy. So please enjoy Kevin’s soul, bared through the circuits and wires of modern technology, and sent through your body with a lasting vibration that undoubtedly represents the deep, rich, soulful spirit of Detroit.
I would be remiss without a small retrospective in live electronic music from Detroit. There’s just too many great artists in this city not to name a few, and this is honestly what makes me continually fall in love with Detroit on a nightly basis. So many great artists, in one place, all pushing the boundaries of expression. We must celebrate and honor the great lineage that these art forms stem from. Starting perhaps with the pioneers of electronic music itself, Kraftwerk. They were formed in 1970 and although not from Detroit, this article wouldn’t be worth anything without their mention. They had a great influence over the entire world when it comes to this music, and that highly includes Detroit. This was when the beat machine and synthesized instruments began to move into the collective consciousness, and nothing has been the same since… Thank you Kraftwerk.
Detroit quickly took note with acts such as Cybotron (Rick Davis and Juan Atkins) and Model 500 infusing industrial sounds into live electronic performances. Other notable visionaries include Robert Hood, Aux 88, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Underground Resistance, Octave One, Moodyman, Drexciya, Sean Deason, Ultradyne, Los Hermanos and James Pennington. Even a little later came artists from the area such as Richie Hawtin, BMG. And even now we have a new set of artists breaking the mold such as : Erika, Stone Owl, and yes… Kevin Reynolds. From the first live PA set all the way forward to the present day, this art it lives on with new generations of artists using the latest technology to move people to their core. This is Detroit, this is the live set personified. This is how Detroit lives its every day.
The art and culture here is something that I don’t even think most of us really ever process fully. It’s shadowed so subtly in the bleak urban environments and covered with a break-neck pace of life, that without stepping back every once in a while it does become hard to “see the forest for the trees” (it’s right, I checked). But, I assure you, Detroit is something special, there’s something in our DNA, and something in the air, that makes us alive in a way that most other places on Earth will never be. Not to say that other places aren’t beautiful for their own reasons, but Detroit is about art, appreciating art, and celebrating the soul of humanity in the realest way possible. We commune, and we invoke, we do not hold back, and we do not apologize. Here’s to Detroit, and here’s to the live set. We are LIVE. We are a-LIVE.