Richie Hawtin

Pioneers of Electronic Music, Vol. 1

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Not a new album but an issue of a DVD magazine, Slices, Pioneers in Electronic Music is an enjoyable if not Sundance-award-winning overview of Richie Hawtin's career up through 2006. The people behind the documentary have done a professional-enough job, but there's nothing unique or striking about their approach (especially evident in the narration, which is dully professional at best). This noted, anyone interested in Hawtin's career or in the continuing impact of techno and electronic music would definitely enjoy this; it's definitely worth a Netflix rental, say. Besides Hawtin himself, who proves to be an engaging and warm interviewee, a wide range of figures are interviewed, ranging from Detroit techno legends Derrick May and Mike Banks to Mute label head Daniel Miller, German DJ Sven Väth, and Hawtin's former Plus 8 label partner John Acquaviva. Hawtin's parents are the real delight; his father's gearhead obsessions for anything electronic help to explain Hawtin's career in general, while his mother's stories of helping out with the legendary Plastikman warehouse parties provide some witty moments. Archival footage from early Detroit parties helps to flesh out the larger context Hawtin grew up in as a techno-obsessed teen from across the Canadian border, while snippets from official videos and various performances over the years help show Hawtin's own evolution as a DJ and performer, transforming into the Berlin-based showman he is today. (A brief discussion about his image transformation -- from shaved head and glasses to contact-wearing male model -- provides an amusing aside.) There aren't any Behind the Music-style tales of tragedy shared -- turning-point moments like his mid-'90s ban from America and the end of Plus 8 are briefly discussed but not much angst is apparent, if nothing else a testimony to Hawtin's own focus and resiliency. It's still worth a watch, though, and the excellent soundtrack, providing snippets of Hawtin's music over the years, deftly illustrates his sonic evolution. Extra DVD features include more interview footage, the Plastikman "Plastique" video, and a roughly filmed but still amusing clip of his first band incarnation, the trio Cybersonik, live in Detroit in 1990.