Saturday, November 20, 2010

Black Tokyo

I have two disclaimers I need to unravel hereabouts in order to set the record straight about me and Aux 88. The first one is that I'm a huge fan of the Detroit duo, and have been for well over a decade.

Also known as Tommy Hamilton (aka Tom Tom) and Keith Tucker, they've released through respected labels like 430 West, Submerge, Metroplex, Direct Beat and Studio !K7.

Too many of their releases are absolute classics, like Aux Quadrant on Direct Beat, which hasn't left my record crate in about 15 years; I also really dig the self-titled Aux 88 album they put out through Soundscape over here in Japan five years ago - it's hot.

So it should come as no surprise that I've been keeping an eye on the Black Tokyo project they're finally releasing through Puzzlebox this week on November 22nd... along with nifty associated furniture.

Fortunately I haven't been anywhere near disappointed; this is superb stuff.

While the name of the album itself is a wee bit misleading - after all this has been engineered and produced by two Americans from Detroit rather than persons Japanese residing anywhere near Tokyo - they get away with this by calling themselves Arashi Hoshino and Shin Muramatsudo here; also on board for the ride are bona fide local musicians Akiko Murakat and Erika Tsuchiya, and the opening track 'Intro (Japenesse)' has a nice monologue in nihongo over lush strings.

There are also track title references to Japan like Kyoto Station, Winter in Japan, Tokyo Telacom, Tokyo Drive and, yes, Black Tokyo.

Musically speaking the album brings together that classic Detroit techno sound along with the more riotous electro sensibilities and basslines that Aux 88 are famous for.

The title track references classic Detroit by the likes of Derrick May and Carl Craig, wrapped around vocal riffs Kraftwerk would be proud to claim, while Tokyo Drive is a crisp, bouyant reconsideration of classic electro and Electronic Cinema continues this theme with some floating/spacious vocal work-outs.

Then Stance (Interlude) again takes up the baton of lush strings from the opening number.

But for me it's the second and eleventh tracks, Groove Theory and Dragon Fly, that stand out here as something subversive and definitely ones to drop on a late night, up-for-it floor in order to mess with some headz.

I'm also a little biased, which brings me slap-bang into that second disclaimer I alluded to above.

When I recently rather cheekily bounced the idea off them about doing a remix for one of my Little Nobody tracks, Hamilton and Tucker promptly agreed.

Even more jaw-dropping was Tucker's extra added bonus comment that "the original mix sounds hot.” (Zounds!)

That mix - called The Condimental Op - is being released along with the Aux 88 rejig and another one by Chicago pioneer K. Alexi Shelby (Transmat/Trax/Warp) on old skool vinyl at the end of November 2010 through IF? Records, via British distributor Prime Direct.

It's already being spun, charted and is gathering steam thanks to support from Laurent Garnier, Trevor Rockcliffe, Alan Oldham, Inigo Kennedy, Kirk Degiorgio, Steve Poindexter, Jerome Baker, Lenny Burden, Mike Dehnert, Dan Curtin and Anthony Shakir.

Dave Clarke's also spun the Aux 88 remix on his radio show White Noise - twice.