Iain Cameron's Diary
"Click here to access the Fruitful Album" - Click here to visit Music for the Highveld Project


The Highveld Project

Get your own
 diary at DiaryLand.com! contact me older entries

2004-01-07 - 1:52 p.m.

I shopped in Sainsbury’s rather than the usual Tecsco’s last night and I ended up with a double CD of Transatlantic samplers from the early 1970s. Rarest cut is probably Christopher Logue reciting a (rather fine) poem but there are cuts by Stephan Grossman and Ralph McTell which particularly appeal. The Bert and John duet just towers above everything else (including Pentangle) but that just shows my age, I suppose. It’s a snapshot of where folk-rock was going in the early 1970s – some of it is as fresh as can be – other bits sound pretty dated

David had been in to inspect my flat and had fixed the lights in the kitchen – I’d better pay the rent for January.

With my flute out of use, I decided it must be time to press ahead with the Dhorn. I had been trawling through the Cubasis files from last year and decided to add some Dh to a short piece which had been built round a WAV that I had refined/abused. The line ended up driving xylophone and alto sax patches. I was quite taken with the envelope on the sax – different impressions in different registers. It means I don’t have to rely on note by note entry with a mouse but can rely on (for example) thinking harmony as I put a lione down. I still haven’t got anything like a decent sync between the track monitoring and the realtime sound from the horn but I don’t let deter me.

I roughed something down on the first track – currently called Pattern. And rather inspired by that I took another sketch of the same idea and converted it into a WAV which I loaded into Cubasis and started to develop. I woke up this morning and carried on the process – so that the thing – currently called Tag04 is about 4 minutes long currently. In fact I found it hard to drag myself away from it to get to work. There’s part of me that resents getting so attached so such an abstract thing as a my own piece of music. That anger tends to provoke me into trangressive procedures.

One of my favourite words – and in partly reflects my thinking about Detroit from the departure of Motown to the mid 80s. Drawing on its rich heritage it becomes a seedbed for transgressive artists – Mike Kelley and Madonna are the outstanding examples who begin to develop their vision as teenagers in Detroit and Ann Arbor but realise them elsewhere. The pre-history of techno shows like minded radicals clustering around media and technology with transgressive intent – late night radio, DJ mixing, synthesizers, ethnicity free music, the abstraction of the future – and as was the case with Motown they are prepared to start their own labels. This means that the scene can start to flourish and have an impact on a wider stage. Detroit is once again between Chicago and NYC and able to synthesize elements of both.

The line of continuity is definitely George Clinton – from MC5 through to Model 500- and predictably its rhythm and bass where the thread is strongest through. By the early 80s the Detroit crew believe they have picked up an agenda started by the UK electro bands but foolishly abandoned before it has been brought to fruition.

This year Carl Cox seems to be in charge of business: 2nd and 3rd opinions---------------------------------

The Detroit Experiment(Ropeadope)

Though the Motor City is renowned for giving the world techno and Motown, it's a place with a complex musical history. This project (it's a rubbish word, but it'll have to do) rubs some of the city's diverse styles together and creates a few sparks in the process.Co-producer Carl Craig is the fulcrum here. Best known as one of the key figures in Detroit's techno scene, his recent recordings namecheck Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band. Craig's not namedropping to pick up some jazz cred, but simply paying homage to a lineage of Afro-American electronically influenced music that died a death with the advent of fusion and 90mph Minimoog solos.An impressive lineup of jazz talent provides the raw material, including Hancock alumnus Bennie Maupin, pianist Geri Allen and violinist Regina Carter. A nice suprise is the inclusion of trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, a key figure in the mid 70s Detroit scene and member of the Tribe records collective along with Phil Ranelin. A reworking of Belgrave's classic cosmic jazz opus "Space Odyssey" kicks things off, with echo drenched trumpet riding on a slinky bed of galactic funk. Craig adds discreet, spacey electronic touches and treatments, stretching phrases here and there in 21st century Teo Macero style. Much of the other material is reconfigured from studio jams which blend open ended soloing with meaty P-Funk squelch (keyboardist Amp Fiddler was a recent member of the Parliament/Funkadelic axis) and fat, lopsided house or hip-hip grooves. Elsewhere Doug Carn's "Revelation" and Stevie Wonder's "Too High" make connections with the city's rich musical heritage (though any cover of a Stevie Wonder song is probably doomed to failure, and this one's no exception).Despite the album's broad palette, it all hangs together sweetly. Touches of gospel (Allen and Carter's yearning duet feature "There is a God") sit snugly alongside Craig's jazztronica miniatures, while Detroit's musical philosophy is laid down in a juicy slice of hiphop with rhymes from Invincible and Athletic Mic League. "Don't forget the Motor City!", implored Martha and the Vandellas in "Dancing In The Street". Not much chance of that with this lot about; inventive, entertaining stuff. Recommended.

There's a broken beauty about Detroit. Its downtown was a huge symbol of American technology, but it now looks like an industrial graveyard. "We have this beautiful 19th century building that was a train station abandoned by Amtrak in the 1980s," says Detroit electronica hero Carl Craig. "We have the Book-Cadillac Hotel that was the equivalent of New York's Waldorf Astoria, and it's been abandoned ever since I can remember."

Apparently though, Detroit's bleak landscape, juxtaposed by its eclectic music scene, is what attracted Ropeadope Records to follow-up its Philadelphia Experiment there. "Detroit mirrors Philly in a lot of ways," says Ropeadope owner Andrew Hurwitz. "They're both blue-collar towns and have rich musical histories with a lot of great players who are underrated. Part of the concept is to pay tribute to people who never get the credit that they deserve. It was the next logical extension."

Three years ago, when Hurwitz and producer Ace Levinson did the Philadelphia Experiment, they basically just wanted to do a record in their hometown. Hurwitz dreamt of a project with pianist Uri Caine, bassist Christian Mcbride and hip-hop drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, and the trio collaborated with minimal guidance. After the success of the Philadelphia Experiment, Hurwitz and Levinson set out to do a follow-up. Levinson wanted to do one in Miami, but when producer Craig Street approached Hurwitz with the idea of doing it in Detroit, the "light-bulb" flashed.

At first, they wanted to replicate the small-scale project they did in Philly, but it blossomed into something much bigger. "We didn't intend for it to be this huge group," Hurwitz says. "It just grew without us really noticing it. Carl Craig was the first one we got, based on the fact that he's `Mr. Detroit.' Marcus Belgrave was the next guy that we got. And once we got them, we found out that everyone had played with those guys. We realized early on that this was not going to be the Philly experiment.

"People were really receptive," Hurwitz continues. "When we got there in January 2001, these guys couldn't believe that we came to Detroit--downtown, nevertheless--to make this record in the White Room. Marcus opened the phone book and said, `You got to call this person and that person.' People just started coming in."

"They've tried to cover most of the bases," trumpeter Belgrave says. "I don't know if they can encompass all of Detroit in one record, but to have that kind of cross-section of genres is a great thing."

Craig and Belgrave are the two anchors that ground the Detroit Experiment. Both are musical giants in their own right. Belgrave is one of the city's most noted jazz musicians, having mentored the likes of pianist Geri Allen and violinist Regina Carter (both of whom are on the CD). In the 1970s, he launched the influential label Tribe Records, which documented Detroit's avant-garde scene. Craig is one of the most revered producers on the techno/electronica scene today. Like Belgrave, he's an experimentalist, deeply rooted in his idiom's tradition; also like the trumpeter, he spearheaded his own influential label, Planet E Communications.

----------------------------------I have Craig’s reworking of Cybotron and the B52s which I really like. I suppose if one is going to jam somewhere in the US …………..

previous - next