VA: We Love Detroit (Compiled by Derrick May & Jimmy Edgar)
Derrick May and Jimmy Edgar are rather unusual bedfellows, even if they're anecdotally connected: as a teenager, Edgar played at Detroit parties alongside Juan Atkins and May, though at the time Edgar wasn't aware of their stature as originators of the Detroit sound. That turns out be a strong plus as far as this joint compilation project is concerned as two very different portraits emerge as a result. May's is a classic set, a classy and self-effacing affair that eschews documenting any singular moment and instead distills an entire movement into an encompassing collection. Edgar, by comparison, fervently embraces the “now” and doesn't shy away from self-promotion in the process. With that in mind, it doesn't surprise that May's set includes names such as John Beltran and Carl Craig, while Edgar's features figures like Kyle Hall and Darling Farah.
May, of course, will always be recognized as one of the preeminent ambassadors of Detroit techno, given that it was Atkins, May, and Kevin Saunderson (sometimes called The Belleville Three in reference to the suburban high school where they met) who helped establish the movement in the ‘80s and beyond. May's fusion of Detroit electro and Chicago house would become a blueprint for others to follow, as well as one he famously distilled into his own productions (e.g., “Strings of Life”) and those on his Transmat label.
Beltran's “Synaptic Transmission” opens May's half splendidly, especially when the cut's silky smooth surfaces are peppered with a punchy drum groove and pumping bass line. A strong undercurrent of jazz is present beneath the techno and house elements Beltran intertwines so imaginatively, and a mournful vocal episode that appears near the track's end helps make the tune even more memorable. That jazz dimension surfaces even more strongly during Kai Alce's “Power Thru Pt 3 (Mush's Sax Dub)” in the tenor sax solo that leads the cut's fleet-footed charge. A Latin-styled swing gives Yotam Avni's “Pentimento” a powerful forward thrust before a handclaps-accented 4/4 pulse brings the tune back to Detroit soil with a phalanx of synthesizers in tow. In one of the disc's most epic pieces, Petar Dundov's “Distant Shores” takes a dynamic, twelve-minute ride through a trippy stratosphere of proggy synth clusters and bruising rhythms, while Craig's “Sandstorms” is a prototypically sleek and polished set-piece of towering synthetic design whose insistent rhythms pulsate like a well-calibrated Detroit machine. Elsewhere, Benny Rodrigues' slamming “It's A Spiritual Thing” adopts a take-no-prisoners approach whose intense physicality belies its title (an ethereal vocal presence notwithstanding), KiNK's “Hand Made (Dub mix)” weds vocal-based flow and driving syncopation to near-euphoric effect, and Andres' disc-closing “New For U” likewise delivers a soothing slice of strings-drenched uplift to take us out.
Edgar's half adds a fair dose of funk to its fresh house and techno brew. No wallflower he, Edgar also includes two of his own productions on his slightly more raw half, with the dizzying first, “Let Yrself Be,” serving up a particularly stunning wonderland of clipped vocal effects, chiming keyboards, and chattering funk rhythms. “Niks Groove,” an infectious creation from Magic Touch (featuring N Dawson), likewise offers a head-spinning riff on hip-shaking, Kraftwerk-inflected body music. In addition to his other slippery concoction, “Semierotic,” Edgar's hyperactive set-list plunders deep house (Lando Kai's “Clockin',” Kris Wadsworth's “Connection”), bubbly techno (Magda's dreamscape “Late Night Woodward”), acid-house (Kyle Hall & Kero's “Zug Island”), and minimal techno-funk (Noel Jackson's “That You Love Me,” Axiom Crux's “When Summer Doesn't Come”). Coyote Clean Up's effervescent “Mount Babe Bricks” toes a straighter line that suggests it would have fit as comfortably into May's set as Edgar's, but it's the exception to the rule. While there are dramatic contrasts in tone and style that separate them, both discs are chock-full of pieces that veritably burst with energy and kineticism.