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System 7/Derrick May – Mysterious Traveller review

It could be said that the proliferation of retrospective releases has some bearing on the tendency towards classic sounds and styles in modern house and techno productions, but this is hardly the case in this instance. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any contemporary producer successfully capturing the essence of this 2002 collaboration between System 7 and Derrick May. Its strength lies in an equal division of labour and this is most evident on the title track, where System 7’s tribal drums cosy up to May’s dreamy strings and moody bass pulses, or on the Mayday remix of “Big City Sky”, a fusion of the Detroit producer’s rasping metallic drums and melodic pads and Steve Hillage’s ponderous fretwork.

There are instances where one party prevails: May takes the lead on the Mayday remix of “Altitude”, with a slamming, jerky rhythm dominating the ambient landscape and the Montage remix of “Icon” is still all about that unforgettable melody line, while Hillage’s spacey guitar riffs take ownership of the evocative “Prototype 1 (Electron mix)”. However, “Traveller” is a relationship of equals, and when Hillage and May’s contributions are of the same weight, like on the widescreen techno meets Pink Floyd riffing of “Fractal Liasion”, Mysterious Traveller has all the hallmarks of an experiment that’ll prove impossible to emulate.

Richard Brophy