Juan Atkins | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Juan Atkins 

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It's much too simple to call Juan Atkins "the godfather of techno," but if there's anything the music press loves, it's a single-auteur theory--especially one that neatly sums up a genre built on records that nobody but DJs and other fanatics actually own. While it's pretty much true that "Clear," a single Atkins recorded as Cybotron in 1984, was the first techno record, hanging Atkins's rep on that alone does him a grave disservice. He's made consistently good music for nearly two decades now, and in my book his masterpiece isn't "Clear" but 1993's "Night Drive (Time, Space, Transmat)," which remains one of the headiest, most sensual pieces of electronic groove ever put to wax. I mean, I played it for a date once, in complete innocence, and it got me laid--how many techno records can you say that about? He also remains one of the most consistent DJs on the circuit. Late last year, Wax Trax!/TVT put out Wax Trax! MasterMix Volume 1: Juan Atkins, a fine 68-minute DJ session that serves as not only a primer to what you can expect to hear from Atkins on a good night, but also a first-class introduction to the Detroit sound that he, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson spearheaded, as well as a tutorial in how that sound was carried forward by kindred spirits from Berlin, Paris, and the Netherlands. That means instead of the relentless, static grind of way too many "purists," Atkins delivers a playful, intensely listenable variety of material, from the hallucinatory, treble-saturated dub-in-reverse of Convextion's "Convextion (AA)" and Maurizio's "7" to the bumping Detroit booty-bass of DJ Assault's "Sex on the Beach" to the trippy funk of his own cuts (as Model 500) "Starlight" and "No UFOs." He also throws in a few classic early tracks--"Nude Photo" by Rhythim Is Rhythim (aka Derrick May), late-70s pregarage disco classic "Disco Circus" by Martin Circus--for that all-important historical perspective. Expect to hear some of the same at this engagement--and to have to fight for the elbow room you'll sorely need to dance to it. Friday, 10 PM, Crobar the Nightclub, 1543 N. Kingsbury; 312-413-7000. MICHAELANGELO MATOS


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