Although the Belleville Three (Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson) are known for inventing Detroit techno, it’s second-waver Carl Craig that’s acted as the genre’s true ambassador, creating the modern electronic music festival (DEMF) alongside his tireless globetrotting touring schedule. So, it would make sense that when it came time for Craig to release a career-spanning collection, he would choose to include musicians from around the world to help re-shape his best-known tracks.
Born from a live performance at Paris’ La Cité de la musique, Craig recorded Versus as a collaboration with Les Siècles orchestra (lead by French conductor François Xavier-Roth) along with German producer Moritz von Oswald and Luxembourgian experimental pianist Francesco Tristano. Released nine years later, the 14 track LP is part live document, part remix album and part new release, as many of Craig’s compositions are given a fresh makeover.
After a trio of sullen ambient mood-pieces, including the orchestra-led 2004 single “Darkness,” Versus truly kicks into gear when Craig and his guests raucously reshape his immortal hit “Sandstorms,” which finds the Detroit and German musicians interweaving their spacey electronics with Tristano’s resourceful piano and Les Siècles’ brooding accents. Although Craig’s bigger tracks are covered — “At Les,” “Desire” and “Domina” among them — he also fills the 65-minute LP with lesser-known fare like “Barcelona Trist” and “Technology” to help give the performance a precise shape and narrative.
Although Versus is certainly not a place for casual Craig fans to start, nor is it designed for the dance floor crowd, it’s an achievement that appropriately showcases one of Detroit’s finest exports. (Planet E)