Carl Craig turns the page


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Carl Craig, a legend in his own right, is about to embark on a new journey and apparently so one that he has dreamed of doing for a long time. Detroit imprint Planet E links with InFiné to deliver ‘Versus’, a new album by Carl Craig fusing electronic elements with orchestral arrangements. Although Carl has been engaging with the classical music scene before this round appears to be somewhat more deep-diving. Already back in 2008 Carl was one of the first to combine electronic music with classical compositions. Originally premiered as a live performance in Paris, Carl Craig joined by the Les Siècles, Moritz von Oswald and Francesco Tristan. Similar initiatives has followed like with fellow techno artist Jeff Mills who has been touring with his adapted techno-set for a classical orchestration for a while now, but Carl does it from another angle.

“Versus” was a unique event, bringing together an original mix of big names from a range of musical horizons, united by the desire to create and celebrate alternative sounds. The fruit of four years of passionate exchange, Versus offered the audiences the chance to explore a variety of works and styles from a new perspective, inventing an entirely different way of listening to music. Craig’s finely balanced and constantly changing techno sound was the first to be fused and fermented with other musical genres. As a sign of his musical maturity, and the realization of a personal dream. Pianist Francesco Tristano imposed his unique sound, which juggles classical and contemporary sounds for both improvised and composed works, with incredible ease.

The new album titled “Versus” will hit the shelves next year and in contrast with the Paris event Carl now will have the entire album, featuring a groundbreaking techno collection, adapted for an orchestra. Carl described the production process and performance as something he always wanted to put together: “Versus is my desire and dream come true to have my music interpreted by an orchestra.” The Versus Synthesizer Ensemble live show is also scheduled to take place, where Carl Craig will be joined by five musicians interpreting the music from the album. The first dates will be announced in January 2017.

“My livelihood is making music that I can perform, whether I’m doing orchestral production or modular strangeness or generating club music. I don’t restrict myself,” said Craig. “I defined myself by being who I am. The ultimate self respect is when you say you’re going to do something and you go and do it to the best of your ability.”

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Listen to two of the album tracks, ‘Sandstorms’ and ‘Desire’, on Benji B’s BBC Radio 1 show right here. Caption: Detroit techno and house legend Carl Craig joins Benji in the studio for the full three hours, weaving through past, present and future music.

Or if you prefer the original:

The fact that Carl has put so much passion and energy into this project may not come as any surprise, few artists can compete with Carl in the cross-over field. Looking back now to Craig’s early releases from 1989-1992, one can see how much the wild variety found in his early music set the groundwork for his diverse career. He’s fortunate to serve as an inspiration and influence to countless artists in the underground electronic music scene as well as crossover acts like Underworld, Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem. His 1992 Innerzone Orchestra cut “Bug in the Bassbin” was credited as the spark that inspired the evolution of drum‘n’bass. In typical Craig fashion, “Bug…” continued to develop, morphing into a live jazz composition in 1996. In turn, those experiments laid the ground for Craig to incorporate Jazz elements onto his 1999 I.O. album “Programmed.” Then in the 00’s Craig explored jazz further still as producer on the albums “The Detroit Experiment” and “Rebirth” (2009) for legendary Detroit Jazz collective Tribe. This is but one example of Craig’s continually evolving exploration of sound.

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In a recent video interview Carl talks about his early days as an artist, his approaches to DJing and production, influences from innovative pioneers like Derrick May, and much more. Carl shares how he enjoys producing tracks using vintage equipment like the Prophet 600 synthesizer and a four-track recorder. He also discusses how he combines his analog hardware with digital audio technology such as Logic Pro and plugins to mimic classic sounds. We also get a glimpse into Carls live performance experience under the alias 69, where he revamps his early classics and combines them with a new direction to take his sets to the next level.

“Always learn from the elders. Doesn’t matter what kind of music they do, they’ve been through it – but also watch the young guys.”

As mentioned in the beginning of this article Carl was one of the first to bring techno/electronic music into a classical context. Of course there have been numerous composers who have made electronic music fit for orchestration, but in many cases these pieces have not been conceived from this perspective.

With Versus Carl aims more at adapting techno or electronic music, rather then writing it for a classical orchestration, but even from this perspective Carl is certainly not alone. An interesting concept has emerged on Kickstarter. Emika, a British-born and Berlin-based artist signaled the arrival of the project’s product, which will come in the form of her forthcoming LP, Melanfonie. The album was created in collaboration with the Prague Metropolitan Orchestra and seeks to take influence from both Emika’s electronic music grounding by placing an enlarged bass section of the orchestra at the center of the seating plan and her history of classical training.

Fellow Berliner Yair Elazar Glotman also combines a background of classical music with electronic techniques. He trained for much of his life as a contrabass player and rose to prominence by exploring electroacoustics and abstract techno for the underground labels Opal Tapes and Where To Now? as Ketev. Last year, under his own name, he recorded Etudes, focusing on the contrabass as a source of sound but approaching the instrument from an experimental angle, and he will soon release a new album entitled Blessed Initiative.

Emika: “I’ve wanted to compose a big piece for a symphony orchestra since I was a kid studying at music school,” she says. “It’s something that scares and excites me in equal measures, and something which I’ve been working towards for a very long time. I met Michaela [Srumova], the soprano, in Prague when I was recording a string piece for my track “Dem Worlds,” which featured on my second album DVA. I fell in love with her voice and she became my first serious muse. I was so inspired by the experience that I promised myself I would compose something much bigger.”

So till then stay tuned for Carl’s upcoming “Versus” album in 2017.