Sand Circles - Motor City

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  • As Resident Advisor readers, you're probably all seasoned in reading about Europeans making controversial Detroit-referencing records and the uproar that typically ensues when they're revealed as not-American. Sand Circles (real name Martin Herterich) is indeed European (he hails from Stockholm), and his latest LP is titled Motor City, but those getting ready to roll their eyes at another copyist record might want to hold off. Granted, Herterich surely knows something about Detroit techno—the swooning pads on "Innercity Haze" could pass for lo-fi Carl Craig—but its influence is cobbled together with a pervasive sense of smudgy etiolation. If one of Detroit techno's central facets is muscular futurism, then maybe Motor City is best thought of as its byproduct, its exhaust. It has a chugging, mechanical heart, but it's locked into decidedly slow-and-low rhythms and buried under buzzing bass and thick tape hiss. The LP is laid out like a score, replete with an entrance piece, a title theme and several "scenes" ("Downtown Holdup," "Endless Nights"), before its two memorial closers ("Summer Echoes I & II"). In spite of this, the tone remains consistently woozy, and the correlation between the titles and the actual content of the tracks is negligible. Aside from the draggy tempos, Motor City owes much of that tiredness to Herterich's synthesizers, which have all the vertiginous, diving qualities of tracks by Boards of Canada and Oneohtrix Point Never. Their looming presence tends to choke out the drums, so the LP's immediately memorable qualities are its melodies, which range from blearily optimistic solos to rippling arpeggiations, both frequently riffing on a central, forlorn theme. In the end, Herterich is quite competent in conjuring an evocative vision of a "motor city." As rich as its tracks can be, the album's sense of dragtime suggests a depleted city—its "motor" is weathered and weary, moving at a pace grueling in its lethargy.
  • Tracklist
      01. Entering Motor City 02. White Sand 03. Motor City 04. Downtown Holdup 05. Innercity Haze 06. Distant Lights 07. Endless Nights 08. Motor City II 09. Descending Into Space 10. Summer Echoes 11. Summer Echoes II