There are those clubs that loom in the imagination of music devotees and depending on where your allegiances lie they may differ drastically. But for anyone claiming the slightest interest in techno’s history they should recognize the seminal Detroit club from 1988 to 1990 that was the Music Institute. For those that never attended, the stories handed down by word of mouth seem like mythical legends. Where those times as good as what our minds hope them to be? With DJ sets coming from residents D Wynn, Kevin Saunderson, Chez Damier, Alton Miller every weekend; Derrick May testing out fresh tracks straight from his two-track Vestax recorder; Juan Atkins dropping in for guest spots; Detroit techno and house being shared at basically its infancy, I should think so. (There is a great little write-up of MI by Alan Oldham on Kai Alce’s blog here.)
From that time came great music, tried and tested classics, most of which has been shared with the world and is known. Or at least that was what was thought. Luckily , Kai Alce has unearthed tracks that were shelved, gathering dust in closets, on reel-to-reel tape for all these years and brought them into the light. Part 1 in what is planned to be a 3 part series of 12″s features tracks that extend through some readily apparent origins and some not so recognizable. The most obvious is the A1 track by Derrick May that sounds like it came out of the “Sinister” production era; syncopated 909 drum programming with a rolling DX bassline, and a discharge of dramatic rough hewn strings reminiscent of a nascent “Strings of Life” melody. A2 with its more spare and straightforward approach to techno falls somewhere between Octave One’s trackier efforts and say Mills’s “Late Night.” The B-side draws focus in on the house side of what most likely would have been played on the Saturday night by residents Chez and Alton. B1 is a soulful house outing featuring understated but expressive female vocals over a funky 303 bassline with ad-libbed piano work . This song stands out in terms of providing a real hook and song structure, and then changing up with a strong jazz flow 2/3 of the way in as the piano melody gets fleshed out and the lyrics turn into a scat. The last track retains the housey leanings but instead keeps the vocals limited to just a looped sample and places the target firmly on the groove. The first half features a lilting organ line before changing gears and bringing in a massive funk bassline ensconced in a dirty keyboard sample. It’s a track that would not be out of place on an early KDJ release but I have a feeling this is the work of Alton Miller. Any takers?
Keep your eyes out for Part 2. Who knows what it will bring but more goodies from the vault. One thing is for sure, they are never to be repressed so get your hands on a copy.