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Thursday 3 November 2022

Maybe We Can Travel Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

My collaboration with reader Spencer continues apace, he sending a song a week, me writing about it. Previous episodes have offered up these-

Mars Arizona (DFA Remix) by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Motor Bass Get Phunked Up by La Funk Mob

Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass by I-f

Today's track takes us further back, to the source of modern techno. 

No UFOs (D- Mix)

Model 500's NO UFOs reduces instrumentation to the basics and replaces everything that could be described as a 'real' instrument with a machine. Whooshes. Static. A drum machine. Then a stuttering keyboard riff. At one minute forty five everything surges forward, becoming louder and more... just more. The whooshes shoot from left to right. Synth chords and basslines, the sound of spaceships rushing past and an FX voiced, 'They say there is no hope/ They say No UFOs'. As the cowbell rattles away a chopped up voice repeats, 'flying, flying, flying...'. The 808 rattles onwards, cowbell, kick drum and snare, as the different elements pile up and are peeled away, pile up and are peeled away. The last minute turns even more abstract, the sounds pushed to their limits, faders and knobs turned all the way round, the bassline eventually bouncing back in, before it all comes to a stop. There's no discernible structure, no verse/ chorus/ middle eight rules being followed. Atkins is a drum machine and some layers of sound brought in and out, the future in creation. And despite it's alienated, sci fi feel and machine nature, it's music to be played loud and to be felt. 

The Vocal Mix is shorter, more full on with everything condensed more and into less time, Atkins' vocal at the fore. He's sure the government are hiding the truth about UFOs, that they want to keep people down and oppressed, 'so keep your head up high and maybe you'll start realising things you never thought possible'. 

No UFOs (Vocal Mix)

No music appears out of nowhere, even the most original sounding, most rupture inducing music has influences, the creator pulling from somewhere. When Juan Atkins moved to Bellville, Michigan, he was already playing guitar, bass and keyboards and he persuaded his grandmother to buy him a synth. He was tuning into a Detroit based radio show hosted by The Electrifying Mojo, whose playlist included songs by Parliament, James Brown, Prince, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode and Peter Frampton. At college Atkins met Rik Davis, ten years his senior, and though they didn't have a huge amount in common they made several records that can claim to be the genesis of techno- Cybotron's Alley Of Your Mind (1981) and Cosmic Cars (1982). When Davis wanted to make more rock oriented music Atkins carried on alone as Model 500, recording in his mother's basement in East Detroit. One thing leads to another and in 1985 Model 500 release NO UFOs, a record that can reasonably claim to be the first techno record. 

No UFOs was released in April 1985 on Metroplex, Atkins' own label, and was picked up by Jeff Mills. From there the Chicago house DJs began to play it and shortly afterwards it made its way to the UK via an important and influential Virgin Records compilation called Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit. 

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