For both producers and consumers of electronica, there's strength in numbers. That's why the music is played at warehouse events where the throbbing crowd becomes part of the would-be orgiastic experience. And it's also why electro acts often play package tours such as the one that brings Juan Atkins, Pills, Frontside and Expansion Union, all of whom have recent albums on Wax Trax!/TVT, to Baltimore's Fletchers tomorrow.
With schoolmates Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins synthesized the early '80s Detroit techno sound that inspired a generation of European grooveslingers. On "Wax Trax! MasterMix Volume 1," Atkins showcases four of his own tracks, "No UFOs" and "Starlight" (credited to Model 500) and "Game One" and "Skyway" (credited to Infiniti), as well as May's "Nude Photo" (released under the name Rhythim Is Rhythim). These compositions showcase Detroit techno's accomplishment: endowing Kraftwerk's mechanical beats with the suppleness of a live funk band. Once he leaves the old neighborhood, however, Atkins's taste becomes less reliable. This compilation suffers from the inclusion of house tracks that are merely routine (B.J. Robson's "Lara's Theme") and Eurodisco (A Number of Names' "Sharevari") that's outright cheesy.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8152.)
The occasional mutterings in French on Pills' "Electrocaine" aren't an affectation: This techno trio hails from a working-class Paris suburb, although it accepts English--along with the digital beat--as the universal language. The clanging cadences of such tracks as "Darkside" and "Fun-K-Tronic" emulate the metallic timbres of Germanic art-disco, although there are influences from all over--Detroit, Jamaica, the Bronx--buttressing the relentless rhythms generated by Anthony Sandor, Karim Chala and Alix Ewande. The latter plays drums, which gives the thumping a human touch. So does the occasional guest vocalist, notably Mohamadou Balde on the Middle Eastern-spiced "Black Pearl." Purists may mistrust tracks such as "Super Harmony," which enlists both a rapper and a hard-rock guitarist. But even at its most eclectic, "Electrocaine" never wanders far from the pulse.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8153.)
Although Frontside is based in Melbourne, one of the duo's members, Scott Simon, spent some formative years deejaying in Germany. Yet the various styles on the group's self-titled debut album are more British than Teutonic, from the frenetically repetitive acid-house groove of "Bulbed Again" to the medium-tempo throb-and-skitter of "Beautiful Drugs." As such titles indicate, Simon and partner Chris Arkley-Smith seek altered states, and they even have their own Beth Orton stand-in, Katwin Edgerly, to sing the trippy album-closer, "Down in My Mind."
"Frontside" is not a bad trip, but it is a familiar one.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8154.)
"World Wide Funk" is both the title of, and the most insistent refrain on, Expansion Union's debut album. This New York duo draws on such emphatic styles as hip-hop, acid house and even heavy metal, resulting in boisterous tracks like "Playing With Lightning," the 1998 club hit included here in a "scratcher's delight" mix. Although the album's cover depicts sushi made with electronic parts, "World Wide Funk" is not delicate fare. Such metal-hop hybrids as "Step to It" and "Drunkin' Fader Style" are prime examples of arena-techno aggression.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8155.)