Digging for Carl Craig

Carl Craig’s magnanimous presence in electronic music, machine music and Techno is no insignificant thing. His body of work as a producer is large and diverse, accumulating over a broad range of styles, venturing into various genres, and come together as something distinctively his, even through his various aliases like 69 or Psyche. His extensive and comprehensive discography has featured on labels like Transmat and Planet E with his distinct musical nature at the centre of it all. O yeah, there’s his label too, the label that has contributed so much to music and then we’ve still not even gotten into the various sub-labels like Planet Rhythm. As a DJ Carl Craig is an unparalleled Techno selector, one that puts him amongst that Detroit upper echelon of DJs and has resulted in residencies all over the world. In his tireless pursuit for a futuristic aesthetic he continually evolves a sound around current temperaments of trend and style, while pushing them forward at the same time. He keeps his roots firmly planted in Detroit, the city that remains the source of inspiration, collaborating with various artists from disparate corners in music and presenting new artists through his various platforms and channels as a label boss and DJ. In his continued efforts in finding new and original methods in music, he combines elements of electronic dance music, Jazz and sometimes even classical music and it’s resulted in an immense body of work, that discogs even struggles to stay on top of. Approaching Carl Craig´s career is like standing at lowest base of Everest, preparing to climb it with little more than a pickaxe and a pair of well-weathered boots. It looks like I am going to need some help here, so I called in the help of some friends, some of Oslo’s finest DJs and selectors to help me scale this mountain. I asked Jokke, MC Kaman, Roland Lifjell, Ørjan Sletner and Joachim Krüger to pick their favourite Carl Craig or Planet E moments in an effort to help me form a complete picture of this remarkable artist, DJ and facilitator through the only thing that matters, the music.

Joachim Krüger – BFC “Please Stand By”

One of Carl Craig’s first ever releases, “Please Stand By” adopts his BFC moniker, in which he fused the sound of Detroit and the future with the break-beat rhythms, made popular through Europe’s rave and Hardcore scene at the time. Craig transposes it to something more palpable through lower tempos and subtly orchestrated pads and synths that speak more of his Detroit roots. They eddy and swirl around the ratchety beats that flow and at the time they introduced the world to the talent of the producer. 26 years on and that track still holds on to those qualities and what’s more it showcases Carl Craig’s talent for the production chair that cements for Joakim in the second track he chose for our list.

Joachim Krüger – 69 “Microlovr”

“Listen to the production quality”, says Joachim, “so many details, so airy. WOW!” Tracks like Microlvr reveal Craig’s dominance as a producer and between this track as his 69 alias or his work as BFC it shows an eclectic personality too. Whether it’s pure unadulterated Techno his producing or venturing into deeper visceral territory, there appears to be this constant drive to Craig’s music that won’t be pigeonholed. “Microlovr” could be described as a Deep House track, but at the same time it’s not and its often in these grey areas that Carl Craig thrives as a producer, pulling all these influences and styles together as music that floats between everything as a single, albeit schizophrenic musical personality.

Roland Lifjell – 69 “Desire”

Roland Lifjell will be providing the DJ support for Carl Craig during Burn’s Dagslys event and has pressed upon another track from this 69 release as his favourite Carl Craig release, seemingly making this quite a significant moment in Carl Craig’s career for many including Joachm and Roland. Roland is no stranger to the Planet E boss’ music, his own record collection hiding a few Craig gems in its vaults and his Techno-inclinations naturally finding equal ground to Craig in his mixes and music. There must be something to this release then if this collector and DJ calls on this release too.

Ørjan Sletner – Rhythim is Rhythim “Kao-tic Harmony”

When I asked Ørjan about he’s favourite moment from Carl Craig’s discography the Oslo DJ and avid collector – who gave discogs its first record to sell – took to his immense record collection with a caution: “I don’t have anything from Carl Craig after 2000.” Nonetheless, he chose a significant moment in Detroit history as his first selection. Rhythim is Rhythim might have been the moniker of another Detroit legend, Derrick May, but on this release he called on the writing prowess of Carl Craig for two tracks. A melodic ambient-like track that truly captures that early Techno sound as a futuristic construction through melody and rhythm in the machines. It is what’s always been at the heart of that Detroit sound and very few finer examples of it exist than this track. On this occasion May and Craig might even forego the impulse towards a percussive element, letting the synths provide the pulse for the music, but incorporated within this track is everything Detroit Techno has always been and will always be.

Roland Lifjell – Rhythim is Rhythim “Icon”

Roland concurs with Ørjan’s pick here, much like he did with Joakim’s before (great minds think alike), but calls on the A-side as a significant favourite for him. Here the densely layered textures that simply boil over with melody and harmony is accompanied by a laid-back break-beat percussive track the drives the serene melodic developments along, which in their own turn pull everything back through long legato movements of harmony and jazz-like melodic bursts from a thin whining synthesiser. Craig has never been afraid to dabble in other musical forms or styles and it really shows on this track.

Ørjan Sletner – DBX “Losing Control” (Carl Craig Remix)

Besides being a formidable producer, Carl Craig is also an avid remixer, applying his own significant touch to the sound of others. He has broken many new careers through his remixes and this track for DBX is very much a highlight in his remix discography.

Jokke – Ultramarine – “Hooter” (Carl Craig remix)

VOID resident Jokke too prefers a remix from Craig’s discography, with this interpretation from Ultramarine standing out amongst his other records.

“MC” Kaman LeungMoodymann “Silentintroduction”

Carl Craig’s benevolent and altruistic nature when it comes to the music from his hometown is famous in its own right. He’s an industrious facilitator for everything Detroit and in music he’s always provided a launch pad for new artists through his various labels, which centre around its flagship label Planet E. The label broke one of the most significant artists of our time, Moodymann and his debut album Silentintroduction introduced the world to a cut-and-paste House sound that took the world by storm as something undeniably Moodymann. “It is the Sgt. Pepper of electronic music”, says Kaman about the Detroit native’s first album and yes, there’s some truth to that statement. Even Carl Craig saw the appeal of the artists right from the beginning and today that Moodymann sound has won over an international audience and inspired just a few careers in the process with it’s focus on the deeper end of House, assembling collages from disparate corners of music, much like Craig’s own inclinations.

Mischa Mathys – “Recomposed” by Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald

Yes, I too have moments in Carl Craig’s discography that have made a significant impact on my listening experiences and I also want an opportunity to share these with you before the man of the hour puts in an appearance this Friday. For me, nothing captures Craig’s relentless pursuit of a future aesthetic more affectively than this release, in which he and fellow Detroit Techno stalwart Moritz von Oswald recompose Maurice Ravel and Modest Mussorgsky’s music for electronic instruments. At times subtle and at others more vigorous, this record shows how Techno and Classical music is often cut from the same cloth. The minimalist nature and uncompromising nature of Techno has always found some similarities with modern Classical music and with Carl Craig’s ability to jump between genres, styles and trends, they make perfect bedfellows.

Mischa Mathys – Carl Craig “A Wonderful Life”

And to conclude things I’ll leave you with this little ambient masterpiece from 2002. We’ve gone through quite a few tracks in Carl Craig’s discography, but together they make a mere drop in the ocean for this truly remarkable and inexhaustible talent. To get a truly complete perspective of the artist there’s only one thing left to do. Join us in our basement on Friday and see the man at work .