Release Date: May 5, 2017
Record label: Infine
Genre(s): Electronic, Techno, Detroit Techno
Although the Belleville Three (Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson) are known for inventing Detroit techno, it's second-waver Carl Craig that's acted as the genre's true ambassador, creating the modern electronic music festival (DEMF) alongside his tireless globetrotting touring schedule. So, it would make sense that when it came time for Craig to release a career-spanning collection, he would choose to include musicians from around the world to help re-shape his best-known tracks. Born from a live performance at Paris' La Cité de la musique, Craig recorded Versus as a collaboration with Les Siècles orchestra (lead by French conductor François Xavier-Roth) along with German producer Moritz von Oswald and Luxembourgian experimental pianist Francesco Tristano.
Take dance music visionary Carl Craig, add a prodigious pianist, a pioneer of dub techno and an orchestra, and you get 'Versus': an album of dramatic neo-classical reinterpretations of some of Craig's best-known work. A decade in the making, he leads his collaborators (a list which includes Basic Channel, Moritz von Oswald and Francesco Tristano) through an album full of grand themes. Passages of pummeling grooves, emotional strings and delicate piano are impressively tied together by Craig's dancefloor expertise.
Versus is a long-gestating audio document of the collaboration between Detroit techno luminary Carl Craig, pianist Francesco Tristano, and French orchestra Les Siècles, conducted by François-Xavier Roth. All the aforementioned musicians (along with Germany's Moritz von Oswald, who serves as "spiritual advisor" for this recording) premiered Versus on-stage in 2008, reportedly to five standing ovations. Instead of taking the easy way out and just releasing a recording of the concert, Craig and company spent nearly a decade working on this album, taking full advantage of the capabilities of the recording studio.
In 1999, Innerzone Orchestra, a full band complete with a string orchestra, released its first, and so far only, album, Programmed. The album was a heady mix of jazz amplified by a distinctive electronic sound, so much so that its final track, "Bug in the Bass Bin," would quickly be snatched up by DJs around London, sped up, and deployed around dance floors the world over for crowds eager to hear what the evolution of drum 'n' bass sounded like. Not bad for an orchestral act, and not surprising when considering the man at the center of it: Carl Craig, stalwart of Detroit techno's second generation and the artist most actively in pursuit (and most deserving claimant) of the title of Most Protean Talent in Electronic Music.
Orchestral interpretations of an esteemed techno back catalogue instantly makes 'Versus' an event rather than an album made useless on budget stereo equipment: this is a strictly widescreen and binoculars affair. Carl Craig is of course worthy of indulging in the movements of a conductor's baton, and this isn't his first time either. 'The Album Formerly Known As…' reconfigured 1995's 'Landcruising', and 'ReComposed', an ambient/cinematic brainstorm with Moritz von Oswald, meaning such an amphitheatre, originally conceived in 2008, should hold no fear.