Gary Martin: Escape From South Warren

A so-called unsung hero of Detroit techno, Gary Martin is hardly a new kid on the block: within three years of his Teknotika label's founding in 1993, he'd issued twenty EPs and begun to establish himself internationally as a DJ and live performer. Escape From South Warren doesn't, however, appear on Martin's own Teknotika but instead Motech, operated by Franki Pjetar Luca Juncaj (aka DJ 3000) and itself known and admired for its high-quality output. Martin brings his well-honed production skills to twelve exclusives on the seventy-minute collection and makes it look easy in the process.

It's an unfussy and straight-up production that carries with it no other agenda than one centering on club-ready tracks rooted in techno and house and roughed up with a heavy infusion of acid-house, electro, and especially raw funk. Each of the dozen pieces includes something or other to distinguish itself from the rest: “My Medicine” pans distorted synth flares across the stereo field to ear-catching effect; “Siren Sinth” derives its arresting character from a low-slung bass line, off-kilter synth stabs, and a tight, stripped-down drum pattern; and declamatory, horn-like synth blasts give the snappy pulse in “This Is It” additional oomph. Elsewhere, Martin augments the rolling groove in “We Get Down” with a manifesto-like voiceover proudly extolling dance music as a way of life, a religion even, and the wail of tenor sax soloing puts distance between “I Don't Know Why” and the other pieces.

The tracks presented aren't minimal exercises by any stretch of the imagination, but they're not overloaded with superfluous detail either. Though “This Is It,” for example, features little more than a simple piano phrase, synths, and a grooving pulse, they're all the track needs to get its message across. With decades of production work behind him, Martin's an experienced hand who's smart enough to let the music guide him where it will and confidently accept that his muse won't steer him wrong.

September 2015