Laurent Garnier & Carl Craig: The Kings of Techno

Carl Craig and Laurent Garnier hold the reins for the sixth installment in Rapster's ‘Kings of' series, with the duo following others' takes on house, hip-hop, funk and jazz with an idiosyncratic exploration of techno and its history. Idiosyncratic generally means interesting and, while their respective track lists are certainly that (Frenchman Garnier focuses on the genre's Detroit roots while Detroit native Craig turns his attention to Europe ), the results don't completely satisfy.

No one questions how important The Stooges (“No Fun”), Aretha Franklin (“Rock Steady”), The Temptations (“Plastic Man”), and Funkadelic (“Bettino's Bounce”) are to Detroit 's musical development, but I'd rather read about their influence in liner notes and allocate the disc space to techno pure and simple. Given the chance, I'd move Carl Craig's sleek “No More Words” to the pole position and add four more tracks (by Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Drexciya, and Plastikman perhaps?) before closing with Dabrye's lethal throwdown “Game Over.” Given the vast amount of material from which to choose, D.I.E.'s “Get Up,” a mediocre track whose momentum is derailed by too many dropouts (and that single-handedly cures me of any need to hear “You know what I'm sayin'?" again in this lifetime), seems a poor choice. Having said that, Jeff Mills' surging “Utopia” and BFC's (Craig again, under a ‘Betty Ford Clinic' alias) relentlessly steaming “Galaxy” still sound great while Arpanet's “NTT DoCoMo” pays homage to Kraftwerk (Radioactivity in this case).

The Euro-centered second half impresses more. Admittedly, some of Craig's choices are questionable too though he at least wastes no time getting things moving. Covering multiple bases (synthpop, electro, industrial), Craig settles on tracks by Yello, Alexander Robotnick, Nitzer Ebb, and others. Issued in 1980, Kano 's clavinet- and Moog-fueled “It's A War” hints at the cross-pollination that developed between funk, disco, and fusion throughout the ‘70s, while, predictably, the Art Of Noise's “Beat Box (Diversion 1)” is more often than not a novelty-like collage though the moments it devotes to wailing funk crunch are hard to resist. The Black Dog's “Virtual” wends a mercurial ten-minute path, skipping brightly at one moment and pulsating ferociously the next, at each moment laying bare its Plaid roots for all to see. Pick of the litter? Capricorn's swinging electro-funk cut “I Need Love (Instrumental)” from 1986 is a definite candidate, while Balil's mechano-throbber “ Nort Route ” is strong also. Though released in 1993, Choice's (Laurent Garnier, Shazz & Ludovic Navarre)13-minute “Acid Eiffel” brings us closer to the present, as the trio nicely offsets the pulsating rush of the song's stoked groove with the melancholy of its melodies. And for the record, let's hope the members of Visage are getting a cut of Nelly Furtado's “Maneater” royalties, so similar is to “Frequency 7.”

November 2006