DJ 3000: Besa
Never perhaps has the word ebullient applied more to a techno collection than to Besa, Franki Juncaj's fourth artist album release under the DJ 3000 name. Issued on his own Motech label (founded in 2001), the fourteen-track collection reflects in its musical content the influences of his parents' Albanian background and his own upbringing in Hamtramck, Detroit. Juncaj's introduction to the history of Detroit techno arrived by way of the well-known electronic music outlet 2030 and his subsequent acquaintance with Underground Resistance and Submerge. In fact, Juncaj's choice of moniker came about when UR's Mike Banks decided Juncaj needed a DJ name and so, with UR and Submerge having just relocated to 3000 West Grand Boulevard, DJ 3000 was born.
That Besa is an Albanian word that translates as “faith” and means “to keep the promise” and “word of honour” is wholly in keeping with the album concept. For Besa was produced after Juncaj moved back to Detroit after a four-year stay in the Netherlands, where he'd gone to recover from an intense period of musical activity and reflect on whether he wanted to continue making music. If, then, calling Besa a manifesto is hyperbolic, the album's at the very least an important personal statement of identity for Juncaj. The album's also a portrait of a producer setting aside the desire to manufacture club hits to instead create music that's indelibly his and no one else's. With that in mind, Juncaj naturalizes electronic dance rhythms with acoustic elements (guitar, piano, percussion) to generate a pan-cultural fusion that sometimes sees techno-funk married to Albanian and Middle Eastern rhythms, a fusion never more audaciously showcased than during “Chimbarazu” and “Close Your Eyes.”
The music's aforementioned ebullience and Albanian influence are on full display from the album's first moment, with “Indigo” receiving ample thrust from an insistent techno pulse and a mini-arsenal of acoustic percussion instruments. Interestingly, the track, despite subtle Albanian touches, exudes the high-energy spirit of a Western hoedown, with acoustic guitars, strings, and hand drums locking together to generate eight exuberant minutes of rave-like abandon. Subsequent cuts present variations on the style, with “Yahia” and “Patron” threading vocal accents and synthesizers into their gyroscopic swing.
Production quality is at a high level throughout, with a typical Besa track about seven minutes long and a polished, multi-dimensional swirl of body-moving bounce and textures of both acoustic and electronic design. Though Juncaj might have crafted the project with the idea of leaving populist club material behind for a more personalized style, the tracks on Besa would clearly go down easily in a club setting, especially when a slinky cut like “Burough & Beer” receives such an irresistibly infectious boost from a steamy house groove. In inspired moves, Juncaj changes things up nicely by working a New Jack Swing vibe into “Tab'” and digging fervently into his Detroit techno roots during the sparkling set-pieces “Morning Bird” and “Shota.” If there's a weakness, it has to do with length, given that the album's ninety-five-minute total is a half-hour more than necessary. Not only does the running time invite fatigue in the listener, it also exposes some small degree of stylistic repetition in the DJ 3000 sound that would be less noticeable in a collection of shorter duration.