In techno the relationship between Detroit and Berlin is a well-known, but less well known is the love affair between Tokyo and Detroit. Tokyo loves Detroit. The Disk Union store in Shibuya has a large section devoted to Detroit techno and its walls are adorned with Underground Resistance posters. Every year several of Detroit’s big guns come out to Tokyo, the last two months alone seeing visits by Suburban Knight, Jeff Mills and Derrick May. And while the recent ‘Sunriser’ event at Ageha marked the launch of Ken Ishii’s new album of the same name, most of the crowd had undoubtedly come for the headlining DJ who played the final set of the evening: Carl Craig.
With such an avid fanbase in Tokyo I sometimes cannot help but feel that many of the Detroit DJs who visit are trading on nostalgia, reheating the glories of the past while offering little that is new. Craig’s set, however, was a breath of fresh air with feet equally planted in the past and the present. Craig was sure to include some obvious call-outs to the past such as ‘Strings of Life’ and Jeff Mills’ ‘The Bells’, both of which had the crowd erupt into cheers. Yet he also seamlessly included newer material such as pitched up versions of Audion’s ‘Mouth to Mouth’ and Petter’s ‘Some Polyphony’, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
The set itself followed an interesting trajectory, with Craig refusing to build up towards a peak (and a subsequent release and loss of energy), but instead skipping along a series of plateaus, carefully maintaining tension and energy. A track that energized the crowd, such as Richie Hawtin’s ‘The Tunnel’, would be followed by something lush and deep. This series of subtle rises and falls continued until the climax of Aztec Mystic’s classic ‘Jaguar’, but instead of it being the triumphant techno anthem that it normally is, Craig stripped out most of the drums, leaving the piece feeling slightly melancholic. It was a lovely inversion that neatly illustrated Craig’s creativity and talent as a DJ, capping off an engaging set that was inclusive of both techno’s past and present.