Model 500: Starlight
Model 500: Starlight (Mike Kuckaby S Y N T H Mix / Intrusion Dub)
A splendid addition to the Echospace Detroit catalogue, Starlight resurrects Juan Atkins' original Model 500 track, which was laid down at the Basic Channel studio in Berlin in 1993-94 and engineered by no less than Moritz von Oswald, and pairs it with nine Echospace-styled makeovers by the likes of Deepchord, Convextion, and Soultek. Originally issued in 1995 on Atkins' own Metroplex label, the track, now regarded as an exemplar of the Detroit techno style, exerted a profound influence on electronic dance music's development.
Fittingly, the eighty-minute collection opens with Atkins' “M 69 Starlight” original, a radiant slice of minimal future-techno whose synth stabs and strutting pulse sound so fresh, you'd never imagine they were recorded nearly fifteen years ago. The transition from Atkins' sleek treatment to Deepchord's twelve-minute epic at first startles when it happens so abruptly (the CD is purposefully mixed so that each track flows uninterruptedly into the next) but one quickly acclimatizes oneself to the radical shift. The original remains visible but just barely, so drenched is it in billowing atmosphere and so complete is Deepchord's oceanic re-imagining. The track unspools in classic Echospace style with an insistent skeletal pulse the nucleus and clusters of metallic chords and granular swarm buzzing around it. The “Echospace Unreleased Mix” that follows retains the textural depth but jumpstarts the track with an infectious funk pulse that grooves so hard it's irresistible. Steve Hitchell's electro-tinged “Soultek Mix” also burns mightily when synthetic curlicues coil around its willowy keyboard and tinkling piano parts.
One of the collection's strengths is its style contrasts, a strength the track sequencing highlights even more. Convextion's galloping schaffel sprint is followed by Mike Huckaby's pumping version (see below), after which the celestial ambient interlude “Echospace Dub” briefly brings the intensity down before Sean Deason's Detroit-styled electro-funk stepper “PYSKOFUK Mix” and Phase90's steaming colossus “Reshape” get things moving all over again. Frankly, the disc is worth having for the Atkins original, the treatments by Phase90, Deason, and Huckaby, and the storming “Echospace Unreleased Mix” alone but singling out individual cuts misses the point when the collection as a whole so totally hits the mark. The word “essential” is often thrown around cavalierly but in this case it applies.
Pressed on a smoky grey-violet vinyl, the Model 500 12-inch pairs a “Starlight” remix by Detroit's Mike Huckaby (also included on the CD) with an ultra-deep Intrusion Dub makeover. Huckaby's epic nine-minute “S Y N T H” treatment opens in uptempo mode with swinging hi-hats and metallic chords leading the house charge but the bomb really drops one minute in when the thunderous kick drum appears with the equally huge bass falling into formation soon after. That beautiful low-end throb is so massive, it almost buries the atmospheric synth tones that softly murmur in the minutes following. They eventually subside, allowing clangorous chords and a pounding backbeat to take control. The material plunges even deeper on the flip with Intrusion setting forth on an immersive eighteen-minute excursion in signature Deepchord-Echospace mode. The journey's peaceful, gaseous, and beat-free as aqueous chords shimmer within the thick, slowly-mutating fog, with the faint echoes of children's voices rising to the surface as the piece nears its destination.
The second single culled from the forthcoming Intrusion CD album, the Tswana Dub 12-inch (also coloured vinyl, this time a copper-orange) pairs the original version with remixes by Brendon Moeller and Phase90. The A-side's “Tswana Dub” kicks into gear almost instantly with a hefty dub-skank pulse powering the groove. When muffled chords and percussive accents nimbly ricochet off of the thrusting mid-tempo base, you'll feel like you've entered a blissful zone where Berlin dub-techno and the kind of rootsy Jamaican dub associated with King Tubby and Lee Perry fuse into one. On the B side, Moeller's “Beat Pharmacy” treatment adorns Infusion's original with natural touches such as horn accents and organ, and bolsters the track with a light-footed skip. Though it's breezier than the A-side version, a strain of melancholy definitely reveals itself if you listen closely. The concluding Phase90 “Restructure” is closer in spirit to Intrusion's original than Moeller's mix, and if anything deepens the original by smothering it in vaporous atmosphere.