At this point, we're getting kind of sick of writing about the Detroit Three. Two of them have spun in St. Louis in the past year, so we've told the same story twice now, how three high-school buddies in Belleville, Mich. -- Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May -- forged the sound of techno and changed the course of music culture. But there -- the abridged story's finished now, necessarily relayed again because the third of the three, Derrick May, makes a special appearance at Liquid on Friday, spinning old and new techno.
Of the Detroit Three, Derrick May's sound has arguably made the most impact on present-day techno; it's been said that without his earth-shattering "Strings of Life," made under his Rythim Is Rythim moniker, the British "Summer of Love" of 1989 wouldn't have happened. That, of course, is an exaggeration, though it definitely wouldn't have happened the same way without the dry, minimal, nearly clumsily futurist sound emanating from May's synthesizers and string samples.
Listening to those early May records, created in the mid-'80s and compiled on the essential The Innovator double disc (released on May's Transmat imprint), you can hear the strong influence as clear as a T1 connection; there they are, the single bytes of techno and jungle, and it's safe to say that May, probably more than any other early electronic-dance-music innovator, constructed the essential aspects of the language that's now standard. May so obviously had a love for the clean, passionless sounds of the synthesizer that he was able to inject them with true celebratory emotion; he had such a way with covert rhythms that each measure contains crazy flip-flop beats -- pre-jungle jungle.
It sounds so patronizing to demand that the young 'uns respect the elders, but in this case those who attend the Liquid spin will be doing more than showing their respect: They be seeing The Man, and they be exposing themselves to some of the most transcendent and influential sounds ever created by computers.