Sight Sound and Space (Digital Selection)

Sight Sound and Space (Digital Selection)

For Jeff Mills, techno means transcendence. The DJ, producer, and multimedia visionary has been facilitating out-of-body experiences since the early ’90s, when he began giving Detroit techno’s high-tech funk a steely, industrial-strength update. His interest in science fiction, meanwhile, has led to the creation of some of the most otherworldly records in the techno canon. The 2019 anthology Sight Sound and Space, culled from a discography of well more than 100 releases, sifts Mills’ output into three distinct categories: his soundtracks for film (tracks 1-6), groundbreaking techno anthems (7-16), and intergalactic obsessions (17-27). That’s a loose rubric; there’s plenty of overlap. Virtually everything here shares the same shimmery synths and luminous dissonance; beats uniformly come from his trusty Roland TR-808 and TR-909, classic analog machines that he plays with the nuanced touch of a true virtuoso. The “Sight” tracks kick off the collection with some of his most hypnotic work. Woozy frequencies wash over a muted sub-bass pulse in the meditative “Homing Device,” inspired by the 1966 film Cyborg 2087, while “Sleepy Time” serves as a gentle ambient accompaniment to Georges Méliès pioneering 1902 film A Trip to the Moon. Things turn heavier with the pummeling 1997 classic “The Bells,” which even casual fans are likely to recognize—it’s one of the most iconic tracks in the history of Detroit techno. But cuts like the corkscrewing “Growth,” with its polyrhythmic polyrhythms, and the bleepy “Microbe” are reminders of just how strange Mills can be, even when he’s conducting a thousands-strong dance floor. Things get really psychedelic with the final stretch, flitting between starry-eyed stompers like “Stabilising the Spin” and microtonal ambient fugues like “Outer Space,” which is more in keeping with mid-20th-century electroacoustic music than anything in the rave continuum. But that’s the genius of Jeff Mills: the past, present, and future of electronic music flow through him.

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