John Thomas

Blackstage Re-Works

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Perhaps it is because the city's name was once pronounced "de-twah," but there seems to be a mysterious connection between the Detroit techno scene and a small group of Frenchmen -- most notably Laurent Garnier, Fabrice Lig, and John Thomas -- where even the city's most insular cliques open their arms to these foreigners. Affectionately nicknamed "the little prince of techno," John Thomas certainly called in the big guns when remixing his stellar Blackstage album. And while names like Octave One and Rolondo obviously maintain the strict Detroit aesthetic already ingrained in Thomas' work, it is Thomas himself, along with fellow Europeans Losoul and Cabanne, who broaden the scope of this release without losing the original machine/soul focus. Opening with the soaring strings and samba groove of "Working Nights," Thomas lets the underwater drums of "Module" rise to the surface. Octave One also steps up the attention-grabbing factor on their mix of "Working Nights" by adding a melodic guitar and acid squelches between the heavenly orchestral stabs. The seminal Detroit strings also punctuate Rolondo's reworking of "Working Nights," which features a surprisingly old-school European hard trance loop. Thomas himself reapproaches his music with a more experimental sensibility, dissecting "Black Panthers" into a stuttering funk machine on the verge of collapse, while his roots mix of "Blackstage" cuts the sample-heavy track into so many fractions. Appropriately, Detroit music veteran Dan Bell, who now resides in Germany, finds the perfect middle ground between these two camps. His mix of "Talking Machine" is torn down to a hyper-minimal skip around the block with a singular bass slap to anchor the breezy Detroit-style synths that flow through the ample space around the beats. Thomas certainly understands the minutiae in quality techno. And these like-minded artists all clearly understand him.

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