Derek Carr: The Digital Space Race

Though it may be a radical change of stylistic pace for the Ireland-based Psychonavigation imprint, The Digital Space Race is first and foremost a beautiful collection of immaculate and soulful Motor City techno from Derek Carr. Admittedly, on sonic grounds the Ireland producer doesn't blaze new trails but the heavenly spirit of the music is so infectious and endearing the familiarity of the sounds ends up mattering little. If anything, the presence of established genre signifiers—the chatter of precise drum machine beats and hi-hats and the punctuating echo of handclaps, to name two—actually forms an integral part of the album's charm, especially during those moments when The Digital Space Race sounds as if it could be newly-discovered material by Detroit's finest produced years ago.

A particularly strong example of Carr's approach, “Sis” initially impresses with its propellant bass line but ascends to an even higher level when silken string washes interweave with gleaming synth melodies that seem to gracefully waft down from the heavens. His smooth grooves are alluring all by themselves but there's also ample detail to sink one's teeth into—the clockwork rhythms and intricate layering that proves so hypnotic in “Butterfly,” for instance (there's even a subtle scratchy sound that's uncannily suggestive of a Jew's harp), and the bubbly techno-funk of “678.” Even listeners unacquainted with Detroit techno would no doubt hear the innocence and joy that Carr distills into the six gorgeous minutes of “Juvenile” when the pulsating groove percolates and tinkling melodies dance in the air like spinning disco balls. Though the material's predominantly jubilant, some tracks, such as the brooding “Deported Emotion” and wistful “Grassy Plains,” add subtle contrasts of mood that give the collection more multi-dimensionality, and the natural sonority of the piano resonates all the more strongly when it appears within the otherwise synthetic universes of “Letters” and “Grassy Plains.” Apparently Carr's been making tracks for almost two decades (all the way back to when he was a young teen armed with a Casio sampler) and the man's skills are amply evident on this solid Psychonavigation debut.

October 2008