Essential Techno – Waveform Transmission Vol.1 by Jeff Mills

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Jeff Mills' first solo album after he left Underground Resistance is one of the stepping-stones in techno's history. A relentless amalgam of naivety, brutality and funkiness - and inspired generations of techno producers in the process.
In 1992 techno entered its most furious, relentless phase. The music got faster and faster, the 909 kickdrums got more and more distorted and as a result a lot of tracks got more punishing and dangerous than ever before. One album that epitomizes (some surely would argue kickstarted) this transition was Jeff Mills' legendary first solo record „Waveform Transmission Vol.1.“ Twenty years ago Mills had just split from Underground Resistance and left Detroit for New York (and a residency at the raging Limelight club), the still very young Tresor record label released this set of uncompromising, adrenaline-pumping sonic assaults that would change the perception of how menacing and brutal techno could be, while still being incredibly funky. Apparently Mills wasn’t so sure about some of the tracks at first, but Dimitri Hegemann, spiritual figurehead of Tresor, was completely blown away by their intensity and raw energy, and convinced him to release them on his label. Mills came up with the idea of starting a series of compilations and an accompanying concept behind it: „The Waveform Transmission series was designed to emphasize a new form of communication. A non-verbal dialogue that relied on notes and harmonic frequencies. It was designed to hold conversations between producers on either side of the World. I’m not sure if this initiative was clearly recognized, as most DJs at that time of its first release were just looking for something to play, but the concept was always there,“ he told Fact magazine in an interview a while ago. The eight tracks on the series’ first volume (the second would come from fellow Detroit producer Robert Hood, while the third was again by Mills himself) set a new standard in terms of what was considerd hardcore techno. Listen to the hysteria of a track like „Jerical“ or the sheer furious aggression of „Berlin“ today, you instantly see (and feel) a dark and dirty basement club only filled with fog, strobe and twitching delirious dancers in front of your inner eye (if you are old enough and/or ever had a thing for techno that is of course). High-octane techno like that just fit perfectly in a club like Tresor, located in an abandonded bank’s vault close to the slowly being torn down Berlin Wall (and its former death strip), but as Mills said it was also his experiences in New York, where labels like Lenny Dee’s Industrial Strength also explored new levels of intensity and brutality. He played the Limelight every week and he just needed the right set of fierce DJ tools that fit in the omnipresent appetite for the meanest and most distorted techno attack back than. Twenty years later, „Waveform Transmission Vol.1“ hasn’t lost any of its edge. It’s a testament to a time when techno really sounded like a „sonic revolution for change“ (as a famous quote from Underground Resistance from that time goes). They just don’t make ’em like that anymore.

PS: Jeff Mills has just remastered and re-released „Waveform Transmission Vol.1“ via his own label Axis Records (but so far only on a USB stick and on vinyl).


Published: Jul 16, 2012
by Sven von Thülen (artistxite)
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