Detroit techno legend Model 500 (aka Juan Atkins) is back with Digital Solutions. This is the first record Atkins has put out under the Model 500 alias (rather than his own name) since 1999, so we might expect him to take it old-school for this release. Single CD or Double LP, released by Atkins’ own Metroplex label.
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Juan Atkins returns as Model 500 (accompanied on a few tracks with Underground Resistance head Mad Mike Banks) with just his third album under the alias and the first since 1999’s ‘Mind and Body’. ‘Digital Solutions’ is out on the "Godfather’s" own Metroplex label, celebrating 30 years in action for the seminal Detroit imprint. I absolutely adore Model 500 -- Atkins has made some of my favourite records of all time but I wasn’t exactly blown away by more recent 12” offerings on R&S so I’ve approached the album not expecting anything as revolutionary as ‘No UFO’s’ ‘Nightdrive or ‘Interference’. Both stylistically and in terms of it’s appeal to my ears in 2015, it’s pretty mixed bag really but there’s certainly the odd moment of pure “Magic” Juan.
Things kick off with the full on cosmic disco of ‘Hi NRG’, a homage of sorts to Giorgio Moroder, in particular recalling Moroder’s ‘The Chase’ which has been documented as one of Atkins’ influences and a cut I heard him spin some years ago at a Lost party. ‘Electric Night’ is a mellow, sorta melancholy electro track with electro-funk flourishes that recalls the direction Drexciya took on a few 'Neptune’s Layer' tracks, complete with Juan’s deadpan/ Kraftwerk style vocal delivery. As the title suggests ‘Standing In Tomorrow’ has it’s eyes set firmly on the future with crisp drums and lush celestial synths. The initially bewildering ‘Encounter’ is built from an exoskeleton of weedy plastic dubstep along with soulful keys, strings and a smattering of acidic melody.
Of the nine tracks, ‘Storm’ most closely resembles contemporary techno/ house and is reminiscent of some of his collaboration work with Moritz von Oswald or his own dub techno classic ‘Starlight’. 'The Groove' unleashes a cringeworthy spandex rock/ ‘Purple Rain’ flavoured electric guitar solo that I’ll not be revisiting. ‘Station’ is a pretty standard spaced out electro affair with proggish synth lead. The title track is comprised of plinky plonky/ bleepy electronics and Atkins repeating the words ‘Digital Solutions’. Here the contrast between the early analogue productions really becomes apparent, lacking the warmth of older Model 500 material but perhaps there is an intention to sound more sterile, synthetic and less human. The album closes with ‘Control’ which was the previous Model 500 12” release on R&S. Although much of “Digital Solutions’ fails to resonate with me it’s always a pleasure to hear what this legendary figure is up to -- still on a mission, after 35 years creating electronic music.
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