Electric Avenues

One of Detroit's newer names, Terrence Parker, produces music that departs slightly from his hometown forebears. It's missing that telltale melancholy feel. Instead the emphasis is on strains of uplifting piano tinkles. Expect his set tonight at Zanzibar (615 Washington Ave., 305-538-6688) to focus on deep house -- easy on the screaming divas, heavy on the crunchy, waist-high grooves. Swayzak also mans the decks, representing a growing number of British artists who operate in the same realm, aping Americans such as Parker, and more often than not, coming up with the goods.

Techno originator Derrick May defines his style of music as "Kraftwerk meeting George Clinton in an elevator." If that's true then Juan Atkins's own brand of techno would be like a curious boy in that elevator who pushes all the buttons just to see what's on each floor. Although he was present at the birth of Detroit's electronic music explosion, Atkins's own music has always stood slightly apart. Whether giving playful nods to space-age funk, or crafting cool wisps of misty sound, he seems on a continual search for the soundtrack of a future world. That may be nothing more than a hunch, but it is backed up in the liner notes to his latest CD Wax Trax! MasterMix (Wax Trax!), where he explains that "Techno isn't the jazz of today; it's the pop music of tomorrow. I see myself having the same relationship to future crowds as Jimi Hendrix has to contemporary pop, in that he started a whole thing with distortion and a new way of using the guitar, which people take as standard today." Hear tomorrow today, or rather, tonight, when Atkins spins at Chaos (743 Washington Ave., 305-674-7350). Also on the bill is Brooklyn, New York's Adam X, who purveys his own blend of raging, assaultive techno.

Monday, March 15
Put the words "house music" and "Chicago" together and invariably Derrick Carter comes to mind, famed as much for his remixing capacities as for his ability to work a crowd. Indeed his prowess extends beyond the DJ world to guitar-slinging rock circles. When fellow Chicagoans Tortoise were looking for an appropriate pair of hands to tinker with their own jazzed-up post-rock sound and carry it to the dance floor, it was Carter they tapped. What attracted them was that grounded, both-feet-on-the-floor funkiness, something that should be in full effect for Carter's set tonight at the Shadow Lounge (1532 Washington Ave., 305-531-9411). Also appearing is Todd Terry, who made his name in the late Eighties with a series of sparse, stripped-down tracks that became a veritable template for today's house engineers. Since then he's continued to record his own material. But he is probably best known as the genius responsible for grafting breakbeats onto Everything But the Girl, transforming them from frumpy VH-1 figures into the aural companion to a Prada suit.

Tuesday, March 16
A truly inspired collaboration comes together tonight in the form of Miami's own master turntablist DJ Craze and Germany's Funkstsrung. The winner of 1998's DMC competition, Craze arguably has bragging rights as one of the world's most exciting hip-hop experimentalists, while his live cutting and scratching skills usually inspire jaw-dropping smiles and dumbfounded head shaking. Funkstsrung, no creative slouch in its own right, has created a buzz through a series of deeply abstract twelve-inches, taking forceful hip-hop acts like the Wu-Tang Clan and chopping them up until they sound like an eerie, shimmering echo of the original. The two meet onstage for the first time tonight at the Mission (637 Washington Ave., 305-534-5420), and though it's anybody's guess what the results will be, it should be interesting.

Downstairs (and let's not hope simultaneously) will be Detroit's Stacey Pullen, rightly considered a legend. Although his own music is certainly acclaimed, it's as a DJ that Pullen has made his name, moving effortlessly through a wide range of soulful techno. He keeps the emphasis on spinning vinyl created by fellow Motor City folks and like-minded Europeans, but he tweaks and filters their sounds into wholly new creations all his own. Elegant without being sterile, Pullen's DJ Kicks (K7) captures this approach perfectly, and provides an excellent primer for anyone wondering why the word Detroit is still uttered in hushed tones by the faithful. A number of Brits round out the bill, including the hip-hop flavored DJ SS, Bill Riley, and E-Z Rollers. Andrea Parker spins a highbrow post-modern take on early-Eighties electro while A Guy Called Gerald (whose "Voodoo Ray" was one of the original anthems of acid house and England's first rave explosion) returns to action after several years of keeping a low profile.

One of the common complaints lobbed at dance music is that it's just music to dance to, nothing more. A convincing argument against that proposition was 1997's More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art (Planet E) from Detroit's Carl Craig. Certainly there were grooves aplenty to shake your tail feather to, but More Songs mostly made you want to pick up some headphones, kick back on a couch, and simply lose yourself inside Craig's sumptuous soundscapes. Mournful synthesizer notes hung in the air then spiraled to the ground, while graceful beats wound around your ears. More than anything else, this was a thematic album, not merely a collection of songs. That it was only one facet of Craig's sprawling discography is even more startling. Recording under several different names, he's created a mighty impressive body of work. As Paperclip People, Craig has produced a series of dance-floor burners, songs that churn along gracefully with a nod to pre-Studio 54 disco while carrying a vision that extends far into the future. As Innerzone Orchestra in 1992, he created "Bug in the Bassbin," an infectious shuffle widely credited with shaping the direction of drum and bass. A 1996 remix of that tune proved Craig was still ahead of the curve, working with members of the Sun Ra Arkestra rhythm section to prove that jazz and electronica could be melded in exciting ways. Psyche, 69, and Urban Culture are the other pseudonyms under which Craig has left his unique imprint. Taken all together it's not surprising that many consider Craig to be one of the most important figures in the electronic music scene, an opinion shared by New Times, which is sponsoring his live appearance this evening at Tantra (1445 Pennsylvania Ave., 305-672-4765).

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