To fans of discerning house and techno, Dan Curtin is a name that needs no introduction. Considered one of the pioneers of the American midwest scene, he’s been living in Berlin for some time now; a city it’s fair to say that’s more in keeping with his own never-ending fascination with electronic music. An equally obsessive hip-hop head, his first records were released via Detroit’s now-defunct 33RPM imprint, but it’s his work at Peacefrog (where he released his seminal LP, The Silicon Dawn) and his own Metamorphic label for which he’s best known. Aside from producing under his own name, Dan also releases and plays as Purveyors of Fine Funk, an alias that is nothing if not aptly titled. A real musical magpie, we couldn’t wait to talk classics with the Ohio native. Dan didn’t agree with every one of our picks – and wouldn’t life be boring if we all agreed on everything all the time? – but frankly speaking, who are we to judge this man’s exquisite taste?
ESP – It’s You (Underground) (1985)
I can’t believe this is from 1986, this is before I had even heard about house music but it’s since become inseparable from the house music story. Hard to imagine now quite how utterly groundbreaking this was back then – every element represents a new idea in music. From that iconic synth line to the way the drums were programmed and mixed. And the fact that it is just so good makes it timeless. With a couple of very small tweaks this could be remade today and nobody would know it wasn’t new.
Depeche Mode – Never Let Me Down Again (Mute) (1987)
Wow. Amazing. And back at this time I was quite into Depeche Mode. One of the few pop acts that I’ve liked and felt passionate about. I mean, they are one of the top two greatest bands of all time and what can I say about this that hasn’t already been said? I remember when this came out, it was the year I graduated from high school and it was the kind of thing that was completely fulfilling to the soul, exactly what I wanted from them. I was heavily influenced by them too and this was the time that I was in a band doing similar music, goth, keyboard driven, dark and heavy.
Vincent Floyd – Your Eyes (Dance Mania) (1990)
This is it right here. Everything I had learned and experienced in music up to this point including the above mentioned DM music led me to this – and this was the departure. Not this track in particular, but this and the ones like it from from him and around the same time. But this one has all the emotion and soul that I needed and still do, and then the electronic futuristic element as well. Beautiful deep house for ever – this is what I meant by the real thing!
George Morel – Lets Groove (Strictly Rhythm) (1993)
Ground breaking in it’s own way paving the way for many who were influenced by it – entire genres even. That real early Strictly Sound that I was super into back then, I had a couple of releases on Strictly around that time too! It still amazes me when such a unique and creative classic was made so simply equipment-wise. Just goes to show all you need is an original thought and some skill, more important than anything else!
Capricorn – 20hz (Global Cuts) (1993)
I appreciate where they are going with this track – and I have loads from this label – but not this one. It’s a little bit silly but still they are successful in creating an atmosphere where one could lose themselves on the floor or on the couch. It’s cool how they are leaving genre boundaries aside and just going for mood. Could this be a precursor to trance? I used to like trance before it became “trance” but when it was music to put you in a trance. Anyway, nothing bad about this at all, feels like honest music made by someone who had a story to tell.
DBX – Losing Control (Peacefrog) (1994)
I mean. Holy shit. When I heard this for the first time and played it back then people lost their minds! DBX [aka Daniel Bell] has such a strong point of view and this track just screams pure originality. Talk about minimal! A few key elements and each one is maximized to deliver such a powerful experience. You just can’t F with Detroit! And let’s not forget that remix EP on Peacefrog….devastating!
Daft Punk – Rollin’ & Scratchin (Soma) (1995)
Confession: I was never a big Daft Punk fan. I mean there are a couple that I find OK but it’s just not my thing. I’m just not feeling those abrasive sounds they favor. I like the energy in this one, and the pounding drums with a slight Dan Bell influence and groove but yeah, it’s not doing much for me. But I do like “Revolution 909” and that one where they shout out all the artists, in the end I respect what they’ve achieved but I’ll leave it for others to enjoy!
Herbert – See You On Monday (Phono) (1996)
Personally this is where I started to part with some of music like this. Yeah it’s good but it’s a house track with the real soul and real groove taken out. That might sound harsh but I always thought, well, why is this needed? If I want house I’ll listen to real house. This is house music for people who don’t really like the real thing, it’s an easy listening, watered down version. It’s nice and all but I’ll take the real thing thank you very much. But on a positive note, I’m sure Herbert was making a tribute to the deep house originators and I can’t hold that against him at all. I’ve done the same. But the fact that this has 2.5 mil views and some of the underground house out of Chicago from the same era has only a couple thousand views speaks volumes and is particularly relevant to the conversation we are having about dance music today.
Karizma – The Power (Black Vinyl Records) (1999)
This one is dope. My favorite kind of house, rough driving beats pushing forward under the groove and melody and instrumentation. I actually do not have this record but it just led me to his Bandcamp where I found so much good stuff. It’s just that right amount of optimism and uplifting positivity with underground quality, played at the right moment it will be powerful. Even a little pitched up!!
The Other People Place – Sorrow & A Cup of Joe (Clone) (2002)
This is so great and I have this one too. Detroit techno at its finest but it’s a fascinating evolution from the rough and dirty Detroit sound that I think of when I think Detroit Techno, Drexciya, ect. I always took The Other People’s Place as the cross cultural and cross continental influence of techno music, and here it sounds like some of his European gigging and traveling and cultural interaction experiences influenced his Detroit sound. Which is why techno really can be considered the first truly international music style on this planet. Lines of influence, inspiration, partnership, and evolution crisscrossing the globe and solar system. Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe is also a must have and also one of my all-time favorites on constant rotation. I actually got this after listening to it in a record store and just loving it but I didn’t know that it was Sherard Ingram [aka DJ Stingray] and I only found out afterwards! I was really surprised!