It’s a rare thing for electronic music producers to make impressive returns – think of recent re-appearances by Orbital or Future Sound of London – but this is different. Like Luke Slater’s decision to relaunch Planetary Assault Systems, Juan Atkins’s comeback as Model 500 serves as a reminder that when it comes to making music from another dimension, the Detroit native has few peers.
The key difference between Atkins’s return and Slater’s latest vision for PAS is that Control doesn’t sound that different to classic Model 500 material. Granted, the production sounds punchier and clearer, but this has perhaps more to do with the production tools than the song craft. Yet at the same time, Atkins is ploughing a furrow that he first explored almost 30 years ago, and it still sounds relevant and vital. Maybe contemporary music’s lack of a distinctive edge means that the approach that Atkins developed long ago still resonates, but irrespective of the explanation, “Control” connects on a number of levels, be it thanks to the wobbly bassline, deadpan robo vocal or combination of dreamy synths with niggling bleeps and blips. The same sense of adventure, that feeling that music could transport the listener to another place, still applies.
“The Messenger” is a typical Detroit techno groove, its shuffling, jerky rhythm playing host to a small universe worth of effects, tones and riffs, accentuated by sharper modern-day production techniques. It goes to show that Atkins’s magic touch is a powerful as ever.
2. The Messenger