Four313: Four313 EP
The Label

A key chapter in Detroit Techno's history is encapsulated by this vinyl set from four of its central figures: Eddie Fowlkes, Santonio Echols, Blake Baxter, and Thomas Barnett. Uniting under the Four313 name, the artists not only contributed individual tracks to the release, they also founded the imprint on which it appears. In establishing The Label and group entity, the four celebrate the part Detroit has played in Electronic Dance Music's evolution, and all four, of course, have the deepest of discographies.

Initially a DJ at Detroit's Music Institute, Fowlkes issued his first release, the single “Goodbye Kiss,” on Juan Atkins' Metroplex Records in 1986 before issuing his debut full-length in 1991 and eventually signing with the renowned German label Tresor. Baxter, who, like Fowlkes, was born in Detroit in the ‘60s, has issued releases stateside on KMS Records and Underground Resistance as well as on the European labels Tresor and Logic Records. Also a member of the first generation of Detroit producers, Santonio Echols began DJing at the age of nineteen with his brother Duane Evans and, in addition to his solo productions, is known for his role in the Reese & Santonio duo. For his part, Barnett made a key contribution to techno's history and advancement by forming the influential label Transmat with Derrick May.

A relentlessly driving workout spiked with claps, snapping snares, cut-throat hi-hats, bubbly bass lines, and ringing cymbals, Echols' dizzying “Techno Don't Stop” is as straight-up as its title, while Fowlkes stokes a party vibe in his “Don't Complain” by slathering the track's insistent, synth-heavy pulse with whooping crowd chatter, a semi-decipherable voiceover, and a hot-wired synthesizer episode rich in both melody and noise. Not to be outdone, Barnett caps the double-vinyl release with “Overlords,” a punchy affair powered by chunky synth chords and snares that shuffle as smoothly as a casino card dealer.

Techno is obviously the EP's primary focal point, but house is also part of the mix. It's definitely present in Baxter's “The Messenger,” which weaves the ebb-and-flow of spoken-word passages into a booming pulse whose swing's delectably sweetened by bongos; it's telling that the text uttered by the male speaker can be interpreted to refer to the enlightenment a religious figure can bring to a people or just as credibly the impact an artistic visionary can have in bringing a particular ‘message' to the masses.

May 2017