Ah, the Motor City. Detroit occupies a special place in the iconography of electronic music – home of methods and processes, alloys and engineering, the tooling and retooling of vehicles built for the exploration of the future. Many of us remember our first taste of that hugely influential anti-genre, Detroit techno, as pioneered by Atkins, May and Saunderson in the form of swapped cassettes – rare and totemic broadcasts from a half deserted city, a world away from the ‘Detroits’ of times passed. This future Detroit was one which was embracing its alien legacy, forging a black science fiction schooled in the grooves of European machine funk and committed to the iciness of post modern abstraction, a soundtrack to decaying deco edifices and tumbleweed streets and production lines.
The second generation, as embodied by artists like Carl Craig, gave us new paradigms and moves that are still to be heard in the music of today, imagined for tomorrow. Those tapes, the closest to the original versions that could be mustered, were worn out with play, the noise and the dirt only adding to the sense of otherworldliness – a ghostly machine hewn ennui which spoke of displacement, migration and dehumanisation, the isolation at the heart of a city robbed of its hubbub.
Sand Circles seem to have soaked this up too, their album sounding for all the world like a tape from that era documenting the throb of new possibilities and the beauty of oscillations from under the hood of mechanical reproduction. This is the second Sand Circles outing and main-man Martin Herterich ups the ante here with titles that suggest yet another Motor City paper-chase, playing with the signifiers, as washed out tape atmospheres echo the skyward riffs and derelict grace of imaginations past. This is the panoply of a Detroit re-imagined, land-cruising for the bedroom studio and a ‘cassette crud’ guide to the pigeon shat edifices of machine soul.