Music » Music Stories

Arcanum Festival, featuring Kevin Saunderson, Jesse Saunders, Q-Bert and D-Styles and Handsome Boy Modeling School

Saturday, Aug. 19; Black River Amphitheater (Lesterville, Mo.)


Newbies and vets alike can learn a load about electronic dance music and hip-hop, from its roots to its flowers, this weekend at the Arcanum Festival. It's one of the most interesting and significant line-ups of techno, house and jungle this region has ever seen, one that both honors the contributions of the early creators and traces their influences through the minds and music of their disciples, resulting in myriad electronic sounds. If you've never been to a huge dance party, this is the one; if you go to them all the time, well, this is the one, an outdoor overnight slam-dunk at the Black River Amphitheater, with five soundstages hosting a total of 65 or so DJs and performers over an 18-hour span. Obviously we can't highlight all 65, but here are a few examples of the range of Arcanum.

Kevin Saunderson is one leg of the tripod of Detroit techno, the "Belleville Three," which also includes Juan Atkins and Derrick May (who will perform at Liquid next week). The trio forged the electro-stylings of the music in the early and mid -'80s, in Belleville, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, single-handedly transforming their influences -- disco, electro, new wave and synth-pop -- into a new world of sound. Over the course of the last two decades, the sound has exploded worldwide, and some of the responsibility for its influence rests solely on Saunderson's broad shoulders. One artist obviously influenced by the Belleville Three is Ectomorph, a Detroit native who has been making weird and wonderful retro-experimental techno for the past half-decade. He's gigging at Arcanum as well.

Jesse Saunders arguably released the first Chicago house record ever, 1983's "On and On," and witnessed the rise and fall of the salad days of Chicago's house scene; over the course of that time, though, the sound he helped create went from a little site-specific genre to one of the most broad-ranging and influential underground movements of the latter part of the 20th century.

Over in England, where Detroit techno and Chicago house were adopted and transformed into a worldwide movement, the rave explosion of the early '90s produced a backlash that manifested itself in an "intelligent dance" sound, which transformed the rave-centric music into armchair/headphone music that could just as easily be appreciated at home as on the dance floor. Mixmaster Morris, a.k.a. the Irresistible Force, was an early proponent of this shift. As the Irresistible Force, Mixmaster Morris used Brian Eno's ambient works as a springboard into the waters of pulsing drug-induced soundscape bliss and helped shape the sound of techno listening music.

Sheesh. So many more greats are at the festival: Q-Burns Abstract Message (who has been part of the Astralwerks Records roster for the past half-decade, along with heavies the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and Basement Jaxx, and whose 1998 album Feng Shui was one of the year's best, including a fantastic cover of kraut-rock band Faust's "Jennifer"); Jega (who released one of the weirdest and most wonderful drum & bass/drill & bass records of the late '90s in Spectrum); Q-Bert and D-Styles (formerly of the recently defunct turntablist supergroup Invisibl Skratch Piklz); the Handsome Boy Modeling School (the duo of Prince Paul and Dan the Automator).

And we haven't even started to hack our way into the heavenly jungle that'll be featured. For more information, including directions, call 314-995-9533.

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