VA: The Lost Tribe of Techno (Satellite 1)
Subject Detroit

A better collection of Detroit-styled techno than The Lost Tribe of Techno (Satellite 1) might be hard to find—hell, a better compilation period might be hard to find. What we've got here are seventy-three minutes of classic techno goodness without a weak one in the bunch. Anyone deludedly thinking Detroit techno means “one size fits all” need only sample the thirteen offerings included here to discover just how rich the stylistic terrain can be. House, techno, funk, and electro join hands in a baker's dozen of beautifully-crafted cuts so powerful and exhilarating they could convert the most unrepentant hater to the cause.

While I'm generally averse to discussing a release's every track, pretty much every one of the cuts merits some degree of comment. Mister X's “Balance” opens the album with the calm before the storm that we all know is sure to come. A beatless overture elevated by ethereal synth pads and a portentous bass pulse, the cut swells majestically before ceding the stage to “Inner Senses,” the first of two contributions from Metro Unit (Belgian duo Trish Van Eynde and Sam Ostyn). This one's the very definition of jubilation as it merges a joyously singing string melody with a bubbly bass pulse and house piano chords, before blasting off halfway through with a burning acid-techno groove cleverly accented by syncopated triplets—all told, a stunning, six-minute ride with not a second wasted. Orlando Voorn then drops a sexy bomb in “Closer,” all jacking grooves and funky forward momentum. Sounding like Miles Davis exhumed, a hoarse voice croaks the repeated refrain, “Closer / Deeper / Free your Body / Free your Soul” while the track digs ever deeper into an earthy funk-house pulse.

With “We Make Beats,” Aux 88 pays seeming homage to the Düsseldorf Fab Four by merging a barreling “Tour de France” rhythm track with the synthetic futurama of “Trans-Europe Express” and “Computer Love,” after which Trench's aerodynamic “Denouement” weds a surging rhythm track with a galaxial swirl of strings and keyboards to create a cut that races at light speed through the upper stratosphere. Following that, quivering keyboards and a charging funk-house pulse power DJ Nasty's “Groove Junkie”; Belgian DJ Klaina does remix duty on Rennie Foster's “GTC,” a storming melding of classic house and contemporary techno; Niko Marks's “All of Me” starts on a suave and seductive tip before a soulful female vocal, crisp drum pattern, and hip-shaking bass line transport the track to a silken deep house zone; and Stephen Brown's head-spinner “Like This” rides a juddering wave of jacking techno, cut-up vocal snippets, claps, and—the cherry on top—a garbled voice sample that mesmerizes, even if the words remain unintelligible.

Subject Detroit main man DJ Bone contributes a pair of late-inning cuts, “True2daRoots,” a deliciously swinging rework of last year's “No Sleep (True to the Roots)” release (check out those fiery hi-hats), and the even better “Music,” which Aaron Carl remixes into an ultra-grooving meditation while Bone answers his own questions, “What happened to the music? What happened to the soul?” with a classic Detroit-styled techno-and-house throwdown. The album's last quarter features two epics, Metro Unit's “Journey to Aphelion” and Trish Van Eynde's massive closer “Mr. Maher.” Following up the earlier “Inner Senses,” Metro Unit aims directly for the upper reaches in its electro-acid burner, but the coup de grace arrives with “Mr. Maher,” eleven minutes of pumping techno soul that comes in twinkling and swizzling waves.

Here's that rare thing: a compilation where every track feels like another peak. All praise to Subject Detroit for unleashing such a standout collection. Turn this music up and surrender is sure to follow. The best news of all? Apparently Satellite 2 is currently in production.

September 2009