Having spent over two decades as one part of Detroit’s holy techno trinity (Juan Atkins and Derrick May being the other two), Kevin Saunderson is justified in releasing History Elevate, an epic two-disc set that flaunts both his hallowed remixes over the past 20 years and original productions that have been reworked by established peers and up-and-comers.
The first half of the first disc serves as a nostalgic trip back to the late ’80s techno revolution that Saunderson helped usher in. The Motor City innovator immediately revisits ’88 by splicing a “Blue Monday”-esque keyboard line and a breezy house backbone into The Christians’ “The Bottle” before segueing into Wee Papa Girl Rappers’ “Heat It Up,” his first ever remix and one where he fuses acid house with the Girls’ ESG-like vocal delivery. But after his frenetic, hi-energy take on Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West” — a seemingly daunting task considering the utter flamboyance of the original — Saunderson fast-forwards to his more current works which find the DJ engaging in darker, deeper house excursions. Current hot artists like The Presets and Hercules and Love Affair get the Detroit dance floor treatment, which from Saunderson’s perspective includes pulsating, yet muted beats, throbbing textures, and lush synth tremors.
Under the veteran’s capable hands, the transition between practically two eras of dance music sounds effortless, which could mean one of two things: either clubland hasn’t evolved much or Saunderson has pulled a sonic sleight-of-hand and deftly bridged the generational gap. I’m going to have to go with the latter because if the second disc proves anything, the artist’s influence on the techno scene has crossed over to current acts like Simian Mobile Disco. The English production team serves up a blistering, sweaty rework of “Big Fun,” one of several tracks from Inner City, Saunderson’s project with longtime cohort Paris Grey. Fellow techno pioneer Carl Craig quickly follows up the festivities with his version of Inner City’s “Till We Meet Again,” a hypnotic robo-disco anthem that should have your synapses working overtime.
While Saunderson’s earlier moments on History Elevate have aged in varying degrees, the overall effort is a hearty exercise through techno’s past and present. Whether you’re longing to revisit the dawn of rave culture or simply seeking a refresher course, you’ll likely find a satisfying space in between thanks to one of its most hallowed institutions.
Kevin Saunderson: www.kevinsaunderson.com