Frugal Grips #5: Detroit in Diaspora
Four Detroit Legends Take Their Tunes Across the Pond
Welcome to Frugal Grips, the monthly paid subscriber-only column where I share some of my favorite easily-had second-hand records. To access the body of this post please become a paid subscriber
UK dance music impresario, Neil Rushton’s famously fateful 1988 trip to Detroit resulted in the signing of tracks from Anthony Shakir, Juan Atkins, UR predecessor Members of the House, Blake Baxter and more. The result was the landmark compilation Techno! (The New Dance Sound Of Detroit) on Virgin subsidiary, 10 Records. The 12-track LP introduced Detroit Techno to European audiences for the first time as a strain of American dance music distinct from Chicago’s Acid House which had been embraced by the continent since the mid 80’s. At that time, “Techno” as the encompassing genre for Detroit’s new strain of music hadn’t been fully embraced by its creators, let alone the outside world. Techno!’s release solidified the genre-tag and turned the world on to the nascent sounds of Detroit.
Much hay has been made of Neil’s trip and the subsequent Techno craze that swept the UK and Europe. In the last few months alone I’ve read detailed accounts in Dan Sicko’s Techno Rebels and Join the Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music by Matt Anniss. There’s also Neil’s recounting in an RBMA interview and contemporaneous articles like the Guardian’s, reposted in 2014. These accounts stress the historicity of Detroit Techno’s introduction to the outside world but skip an easily overlooked innovation in Neil’s compilation: the licensing of previously unreleased music from Detroit artists. Neil’s Kool Kat imprint had already licensed Derrick May’s “Nude Photo” and Reese & Santonio’s all-time jam, “Structure”, for re-release in the UK but until Techno!, Detroit artists had never coughed up unheard tunes to labels outside the city.
It was an innovation that Euro labels wouldn’t fully embrace for many years. Tresor would be one of the first with their 1991 inaugural release from UR, X-101, followed by a slew of 12”s from Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes and Jeff Mills the next year. But by the mid-90’s things were in full swing with labels from London to Tokyo releasing original music from Detroit artists for the first time.
Below are words on four plates from first and second wave Detroit artists released exclusively on UK labels. They range from low-key to classics but all are worth the grip. To scale the paywall, please become a paid subscriber.