Is it just me or do fewer people seem to care about Detroit than they did a decade ago? The city's name doesn't seem to instantly command the respect it once as less DJ's appear to keep up with the always vital techno hub. Where in 2007 I could expect a packed club like Apt for a fringe UR act like Los Hermanos, today it's tough for me to envision the type of fan allegience the city once commanded of dance music fans here in NYC.I don't know, maybe having one of the most revered techno labels suddenly drop a trio of heaters in the middle of July isn't so notable anymore? Which would be an understandable position if the records didn't bang...BUT THEY DO.
Alongside Juan Atkins' Metroplex and Kevin Saunderson's KMS imprints, Derrick May's Transmat--and its equally amazing sublabel Fragile Records--has quietly continued on releasing bangers new and old, though they've been largely quiet since 2016. That all changed around the middle of July when the label initiated a sudden sonic strike on the general dancing populace with new twelves from UR vets (and personal faves) Scan 7 in prime house mode plus the twelve-inch debuts of house producer Drummer B and South African producer Mbuelo's singular post-UKG sketches. Now, while both of the former two records sound quite promising, it's the Mbuelo release that really caught my ears by surprise. Where the other two records both stay well within Detroit dance music traditions, the four-track Robot People is a stunningly confident debut that takes the polyrhythmic kicks and snares of late UKG and infuses them with balmy, dank atmospherics. On the title track of a lead single,
Mbuelo manages to evoke a tribal processual through his stark and forceful kick drum rhythms and booming subs, the attendant percussion largely serving to re-emphasize the primary pattern. The producer really shows off his sense of pacing with this one, not dropping the 8-bit crunch of his snare on the two and four, shifting the direction of the track from circuitous nodder to lowdown booty shaker. By the time the principle melodic motif steps to the forefront, so much earth and sediment have made their way into the mix that the notes serve to moisten the arid ground beneath it worn thin from the heavy dancing feet. A most promising debut.
And if you still have a Detroit house itch that needs scratching, make haste and scope the lead single off of Scan 7's Test Of Time EP that soulfully marries a quixotic disco organ sample with the kind of MIDI gospel stylings that makes the group perennially compelling.