Dusted Down – Plastikman’s searing Sheet One | Juno Daily

The sheet hits the fan

Plastikman – Sheet One (30th Anniversary Edition) (Novamute)

British Canadian producer and DJ Richie Hawtin changed the landscape of electronic music forever in 1993, with the first album release under one of many monikers: Plastikman.

Working under the name of F.U.S.E prior to that, contributing to Warp’s ‘Artificial Intelligence’ series with 1993s Dimension Intrusion, a contemplative, rhythmic tonal march that released to rave reception at the time. It was not too much of a sidestep from the minimalist techno that would proceed under Plastikman, an act birthed in response to the Detroit scene dynamics shifting – the birth of a new wave of artists creating a maximalist, more Euro-slanted and drug-centric culture. It was a natural fit for Hawtin, who was born in the UK before moving to Windsor, just across the Canadian border from Detroit, and whose father would play Kraftwerk around the house as he was a child, effectively giving him one foot in each camp.

Teaming up with Italian-Canadian contemporary John Acquaviva, the two formed legendary label +8, referring to the maximum speed you can increase playback of a song before it gets too much, some subtle shade to the increasingly quick and vicious sounds that were developing in the 90s. It’s no secret that +8 and Underground Resistance were rivals, and that UR was getting a rise out of +8 – leading some of the artists to, seemingly unconsciously, raise their BPMs and give the tracks more bite later down the line.

In the beginning, however, +8 was spearheading a minimalist techno – simultaneously offering a direct alternative to the mainstream sound, as well as pioneering something seemingly new in North America that sought to find a middle ground in the unspoken genre-beef. Just as Hawtin rejected totemism in the scene, he sought to unite and inspire – with impeccable timing as, across the pond, Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 had just turned electronic on its head.

Enter ‘Sheet One’, which boldly opens with a droning synth ambient track, underpinned by subdued and strained violins that create a sustained atmosphere that Hawtin admits was made in 20 minutes, following an impulse purchase of the Vintage Keys rack mount by E-mu. What comes next is the abridged ‘Plasticity’, a minimalist acidic cut that was nearly 40 minutes long – ior was, until Hawtin took an axe to it. All the tracks that follow the opener were made in sequential order, and ‘Plasticity’ sets the tone perfectly, the end-of-night soundtrack for sinking into the sweaty, wooden floor.

Hawtin confessed to never turning his machines off, leaving them on for weeks at a time due to superstition, a prevalent attitude that informed the eerie ‘Vokz’, a reverbed out-the-wazoo collection of vocal samples from a gifted CD, or the hyper-minimalist ‘Helikopter’, a condensation of everything that makes ‘Sheet One’ so good. 808s, 606s and a double kick are all you need late at night and ‘Helikopter’ capture the magic of the early 90s Detroit scene – and what would lead to the black, spread eagled, no-thumbed alien on the cover to becoming one of the most recognisable icons in electronic history.

Casey Faulkner

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