- Rick Wilhite has been keeping an eye on Detroit's techno terrain for nigh on twenty years now, from behind the counter of the shop that has supplied a large portion of the city's DJs and producers. For that reason, it might not surprise you to learn that the compilation he's currently compiling has so far taken a street-level view of Detroit's musical output. What does that mean exactly? Well, even though the first two installments are all to have emerged, there is already music from more artists those not regularly out and about in the D probably won't have heard of than from big name, export calibre stars. You'll probably recognize Theo Parrish if you have a passing interest in contemporary Detroit house. Marcellus Pittman, though perhaps not as much a superstar international brand as he deserves, may nevertheless have come your way as a frequent member of 3 Chairs, the honour-roll collective of Detroit's finest, which also frequently showcases Kenny Dixon Jr., Theo Parrish and Rick Wilhite himself. Glenn Underground has a long and varied recording history, but the other two, Ricardo Miranda and Vincent Halliburton, are about as underground as people who make music in this ilk can get.
Pittman starts off the first disc. His "In Due Time" is a lean, controlled stunner, whose loops, spun round a decayed accordion, utterly mesmerise for their six minutes. Detroit's Vincent Halliburton has a similar idea. His touch isn't quite so sure, but there is a rewarding attention to drum programming that gives the impression of every hi-hat having been sweated over, if not quite to the legendary extents of Mike Huckaby, then still pretty carefully. A nicely poised bass riff sits in the middle of the inter-nesting drums, before a few simple but effective stabs of synth complete a well-executed track. Glenn Underground, who is as good as either of these two when he is on form, makes some seriously misguided decisions on this occasion. His "Ninja" starts out with the kind of corny kung-fu sample so familiar from billions of shitty jump-up drum & bass records, and never recovers much of a vibe at all. This is a crying shame from a man whose recording triumphs have been unquestioned classics, and who has showed the full measure of his talent as recently as last year's web-only Frequency 303 release.
Disc two brings out the big guns, namely Theo Parrish. Theo here is on introverted form, showing the exact opposite side to last year's Dionysian LCD Soundsystem remix. "When I'm Gone" trades on American rhythm & blues heritage and develops into a threatened ecology, or a mutable mess, of strings, bass and drums, drawn from an imaginary jazz breakdown that only Theo knows. There is a real, tentative beauty hanging off the fragile arrangements here, and though I imagine "When I'm Gone" won't eventually be ranked alongside classics like "The First Floor," it is a seriously interesting hint of seemingly illimitable depths that Parrish has yet to explore. Chicago outsider Ricardo Miranda rounds things off. His "Urbanism" plays with a distant siren and unexpected 1970s era taxi horn before glissading into a well-judged eight minute house shimmer which would, if it were just a hair better, risk joining the cannon of all time reduced-house classics like Ron Trent's track from the "Nature of Retribution" EP and Newworldaquarium's... well, a few from him actually.
There are pitfalls as well as dazzling achievements from Wilhite's tantalizing project even after just two vinyls have dropped. All the signs are that by the time all five are compiled in CD form later this year, an utter classic will be born. But just as much credit is also due to Wilhite's decision to include lesser known artists, alongside more bankable names, as there is to the tracks alone. There seems here to be an honest representation of a crucial music scene from a man who has seen it first hand for two decades. And that in itself is priceless.
A1 Glenn Underground - Ninja
A2 Marcellus Pittman - In Due Time
B Vincent Halliburton - Something I Feel
A Theo Parrish - When I'm Gone
B Ricardo Miranda - Urbanism