Jeff Mills

Blue Potential

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A man of many ideas, Jeff Mills has always been an experimental and prolific artist, releasing a steady stream of records exploring various forms of techno. Blue Potential therefore isn't all that exceptional for someone like Mills. A 2005 live recording of the mad scientist himself performing in tandem with the Montpellier Philharmonic Orchestra in France at Pont du Gard (a UNESCO world heritage site), Blue Potential would be considered a vanity project for most artists. Such live-with-orchestra albums are a rock cliché, after all, with everyone from Metallica to Kiss performing, recording, and releasing these sort of albums at some point, generally when it's time to get some easy product out on the market. Jeff Mills is not Metallica, suffice it to say, nor is he Kiss, so one can give him the benefit of the doubt that Blue Potential was conceived in earnest. And judging by the recording and its accompanying documentary (28 minutes), interview (28 minutes), and "studio tutorial" (19 minutes) on the DVD half of the album, Mills indeed put a lot of heart and soul into Blue Potential. In a way, this is a dream project for Mills. In recent years, for instance, he'd constructed his own soundtracks to old black-and-white silent films by Fritz Lang (Metropolis) and Buster Keaton (Three Ages). These soundtracks were appropriately atmospheric and even orchestral (in a techno sense, of course), so Blue Potential isn't too much of a departure for him. Here he revisits some of his best-known compositions, like "The Bells," and even reaches back to his Detroit days as part of Underground Resistance for a pair of fan favorites: "Amazon" and "Sonic Destroyer." The Montpellier Philharmonic Orchestra does most of the work for him, as Mills mainly supplies the percussion and serves as the frontman, occasionally introducing the songs with personal notes that will intrigue cultists. Those among his cult following will be most interested in Blue Potential. While perfectly listenable and all around well accomplished, this album isn't all that interesting independent of context. If you aren't a Mills cultist -- that is, someone who has a sense of his recent artistic trajectory and a knowledge of his back catalog -- chances are it will bore you quickly. On the other hand, if you're fascinated by Mills' continuing path of experimentation, as he drifts further away from the dancefloor toward new media, be it cinema or orchestra, Blue Potential offers plenty to ponder. Moreover, it's another notch on the belt of this techno maverick.

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