Listen to this in a poly Prada shirt and parachute boots, whilst sipping ginger juice and watching NBA on a projector. Back in the early open 90’s, before techno turned into a stale format like jazz or blues, which is completed with fixed stylistic trappings, rules and sub-genres. The ultimate peak-time tools for the upfront DJ was the mystic, very collectable ”Underground Resistance 12’ singles (pictured)”. Mastering the hard/soft dialectic balance in their supreme twisting of classic Roland, sequential and Yamaha gear, perfectly mastered and cut in analogue valve suites by x-Motown veterans. They added a sublime funkiness to the often stale 4 to the floor grooves of their time, and after a militant start inspired by Belgian EBM like Fron 242 earning them the ”technos answer to Public Enemy” tag, they picked up the more spacy lyrical side of godfather Juan Atkins (aka Cybotron/Model500) work, and realised – as the Adonis house classic goes – that there is ”No way back” as a black man, as the past is one of slavery and starvation and a bad foundation to build on or revive. Space is the place. Forcing the future in bold modernist moves, they dived into the ”afronautic continuum” opened by jazz occultist Sun Ra via Sly Stone via Gorge Clinton, Herbie and Miles, merging a industrial militancy and sociopolitical wordless critique to their quest for change through a new sonic architecture. They delivered a triumphant one finger salute to the whole entertainment-industrial complex through a ever-developing sound and independent stealth operation, refusing to tap dance for dollars and entertain like their house nigger ancestors. No sellout, and when big Sony eventually bootlegged their almost poppy departure on the verge of trance-house, ”Knights Of The Jaguar”, they beat them in court. ”Remain underground”, as one of their sampled call to arms said, over a soulful analog groove. Tracks were made by later-solo trendsetters and minimal tech innovators, Jeff Mills and Robert Hood. Check out their more sparce solo workouts, especially as top 3 deck DJ’s or live using vintage midi-trash pushing their 138 bmp shuffle, giving birth to a thousand imitators, after a legendary global touring and disciplining the ravers. While his crew traveled and smashed berlin and NY, main man Mike banks stayed in Detroit, nursing his softer side, best heard on the timeless compilation, using the profit to build a baseball team for Detroit ghetto kids and expanding electro sound as eurotrance, Goa and gabber turned their earlier pure techno innovations into a consumerist caricature. When I met Mad Mike in Copenhagen, he was clearly angst in an all white posh hood missing his gun wearing army fatigues as a kind of armor. I had to skin up my finest and mention several secret synths, before the brother chlled and realised his sound has beamed him into a new space.
Going full circle 10 years later, the grandpa of all tech-nerds, Kraftwerk, chose Mike and UR for a remix EP. The man machine guys loved it so much that they play it live at their concerts, even today paying tribute to the Detroit/German interface. A crass psychologist would claim the shared neurosis of missing fathers, bombed out city centers and a traumatic past united the black ghetto dreamers and the spoiled german conservative kids. Maybe it was the acid? Lesson learned: Dream up a future, remain underground, build your skills, and BANG, you’re in the history of music. They even build a museum showing Mike’s old cheap drum boxes in the grost town of Detroit, who found a new post Motown/Fordist pride, despite the urban misery in techno. UR merged the german futurists babysteps to japanese acid low-tech, a sci-fi imagination and stark ”no sellout” strategy, giving birth to the core of techno, itself giving birth to a myriad of mutations from minimal over jungle and IDM and later on, the evil EDM void fad. Respect!
Article by Morten Vammen.