Richard Davis – Methane Sea (Spanish Mission, April 2016)

Plenty of 12’’ releases in this month’s round-up, and this 1978 single is perhaps the most long-awaited and mythical of the lot. Unusually obscure and rare for something so frequently cited as seminal, Methane Sea was released in 1978 by Richard Davis, who went on to found Cybotron with Juan Atkins a couple of years later. As brilliant as Cybotron’s overstated techno-funk is, here Davis was quite far off in another direction. Driving melodies, sweeping drum machines and rhythmic vocoded space poetry seemed to matter much less to Davis at the time, who appeared to be in a more experimental mood, producing a soulful though broken, bleak Kosmische.

The two tracks, “Prelude” and “Aftermath,” privilege texture over beat, atmosphere over danceability, and perhaps also concept over form. Colour, mood, feel is what we mostly have; from opaque sequenced belly-washes to starry sweeps of tingling white noise, to swathes of synthesised supernovas hovering just above the listener’s head. Sounds go in and out of frame, of volume, of presence – in fact, it’s like listening to Cybotron zoomed in, so close that you can see the fibre, the way one sonic molecule attaches onto the next. Davis, only slightly vocoded – enough to sound distant but not alien – is the religiously solemn instrument piercing through this foggy, mysterious techno-ambient. Defiantly, almost threateningly he begins: “I am my own fate/ I am my own destiny/ I write my own biography/ I am my own God”. Bang goes Detroit: a tradition was born.

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