DJ Bone: Out of Knowhere
Subject Detroit

Mark Williams: You Can't Hide What You Truly Feel
Subject Detroit

So how does one reinvigorate techno, especially when it's one of the most established and familiar styles going? Placed in the right hands, the answer appears to be simple: immerse yourself in the genre until it's all that you live, sleep, and breathe; develop the requisite skills to create it; and then produce tracks so deep and soulful they make it feel like the form's newly-born. That's what DJ Bone and Mark Williams do on their respective Subject Detroit full-lengths and the results are straight up fabulous. Teeming with cuts that are both sleek and warm, their albums ooze with high-octane Detroit techno of the freshest vintage. Those searching for glitchy techno can move right along as these two are hunting classic game midwifed by the shiniest machinery available.

Mixing stylistically varied tracks with brief interview segments, DJ Bone presents his seventy-minute debut album Out of Knowhere as an encompassing set of fourteen funky tracks that relentlessly shimmy, shake, and swing. Following a restrained overture, “Activist” gets things moving with bumping grooves and slippery voice edits, with Bone bolstering the track's dramatic heft with a foreboding four-note theme and then brightening it with funky organ burble and string plucks. “Knowhere” deploys its own futuristic theme in concert with an insistently locomotive groove and soulful vocal accent. Here and on “WhatuBelieve,” the inclusion of title utterances that echo and pan gives Bone's material dizzying flavour. Though the main course is pure techno, hip-hop rhythms find their way into two late cuts, “Music” and “Gemini.” Elsewhere, his personalized ‘hydro-drums'—aquatic drum sounds generated from samples of water being manipulated and struck by various objects—jumpstart “Under the Bridge” while the club-bound “Water Slaves” drinks from techno's deep well. Though the rapturous “Change” may be the most beautiful example of the album's joyous soul, techno, and house fusion, Out of Knowhere's coup de grace is the eleven-minute throwdown “Beauty in Decay” (the original's forty minutes long!) where DJ Bone works in a sly homage to Kraftwerk with a skewed reference to the “Tour de France” groove.

With its thirteen energized cuts of tribal techno and house free of interview segments, Williams' You Can't Hide How You Truly Feel is more direct than Bone's but no less appealing. The album's vibe—sleek future grooves that pulsate ecstatically—is quintessential Detroit . Ringing showers of hi-hats, surging rhythms, hand claps, vocal interjections, and clattering dub effects roll breathlessly through tracks like “Pound the Beat” and “One Way Out” while gunshot snares grab “Can You Get Down” by the throat and don't let go. Williams' material is soulful too, a quality heard most clearly on the marvelous “That Girl,” where a whispering male vocalist muses longingly (“See that girl…I think I love you”) about an unnamed object of affection while a stoked groove churns underneath, and on the deep house raver “You're Going Down.” Williams isn't afraid to push the genre in other directions either, as when he merges Detroit dance grooves with African chant and percussion elements in “Forgotten Past” and “The Path.” Two superb exemplars of the form, Out of Knowhere and You Can't Hide How You Truly Feel may not necessarily reinvent techno but they definitely breathe jubilant life into it, especially when the love its producers have for the genre is evident at every moment.

June 2007