Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Deep in the Crates with Stacey Pullen

For the second feature of our Ode to Detroit series running throughout the month we explore the pure sounds of classic techno with Stacey Pullen, one of the vanguards of the movement’s second generation. We asked him to dig deep in the crates for three records that define the heart and soul of his Motor City birthright.

We’ve had our eyes and ears on Detroit’s Stacey Pullen ever since his Fabric 14 compilation had us aurally salivating. Pullen is considered a bastion of Detroit's “second wave” techno generation and symbol of hope that the city’s legacy for musical creativity, innovation and originality will live on. He was one of the lucky few to grow up under the wing of the “Belleville Three,” the trio of Detroit's techno pioneers made up of Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson.

Pullen, in a sense straddles the fine line between the old and new generation, a part of him set on “defying expectations" of the past while the other side remains solidly rooted in the initial values of techno's founding fathers. “When we first started making music, we [didn’t have] marketing budgets or big studios,” he said of his memory growing up around the Belleville Three, “All we had was this creative energy to be competitive on an artistic level. We didn’t have much to do in Detroit so therefore we took it out on our music."

Music, like any other strain of art is the ultimate release, inextricably linked to environment and emotions. With these three selections or records, Pullen takes us back to the roots of techno's alien, robotic and mechanical sound, widely reflective and influenced by bleak, industrial environment of Motor City. “I wouldn’t say that [Detroit] is the capital of techno, but our place in history cannot be changed no matter what. Knowing that gives us a one of a kind type of position that you can't deny. It's the spirit that will stand the test of time.”

Below are the sounds of this spirit he speaks of, musically unmatchable in their futurity, originality and pure mechanical soul.

Model 500 – “No UFO’s” (1985, Metroplex)

Classic, classic tune by Juan Atkins, considered a “landmark” track of techno that set the aural groundwork for it’s industrial, mechanical and jacking signature sound. “This was one of my first Detroit records,” said Pullen, “When you still hear it, it still sounds futuristic.” That’s the thing about hearing the future, it’s a sound of hope beyond the bleakness of the present.

Reese & Santonio "Truth of Self Evidence" (1988, KMS Records)

Reese is Kevin Saunderson’s moniker he used when partnering with Santonio Echols, another cat considered a major player of Detroit’s first wave. “This track has a very powerful sample of Martin Luther King over it,” said Pullen, “It represents our struggle as a people.”

Rhythim is Rhythim "Nude Photo" (1987, Transmat)

Rhythim is Rhythim is one of Derrick “Mayday” May’s esteemed guises. This track is considered a rare techno classic and the second vinyl release on May’s Transmat label. “The lead bass line is the most syncopated line in dance music. I can remember listening to this with friends in my living when i was 17 or 18 and i had goose bumps."


Pullen will be performing as part of the Movement 2010 schedule. He is also part of the all-star team behind the “D25 Tour,” celebrating Twenty Five Years of Detroit Techno. After an eight year hiatus from original production, he has re-launched his label, Black Flag Recordings and recently released the first single on the revived imprint, “Alive,” an explosive, solid tune that undeniably sets the stage for a new, successful chapter for Pullen. If you’re in New York this weekend he’ll be dropping the beats in style for Basic NYC this Saturday.

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