When Juan Atkins and Moritz Von Oswald hooked up for a joint album in 2013, it seemed like a weird dream, the answer to an unasked question. These two legends seemed so far apart, physically and musically, yet somehow produced low-key dub techno magic.
Now they’re back with a followup that seems to strike an even better balance of their respective styles. It’s called Transport.
If you’re not familiar with these two legends, it helps to know the history.
Juan Atkins was one of the original progenitors of Detroit techno, that supernova moment when modern electronic music was truly born. Raised on funk, rock, and jazz, his solo work as Model 500 is some of the most soulful, spacey music the genre has ever seen, even decades beyond. As the pioneer of an entire movement, his work remains relevant and vital today.
Moritz Von Oswald fist gained recognition as one half of the legendary outfit Basic Channel. He helped define Berlin techno as a more cool, minimalist reflection of the core Detroit sound, as well as expanding the borders of the genre itself. His solo work as Maurizo and his all-star band project, Moritz Von Oswald Trio, have kept the flame going ever since.
Suffice it to say that it’s an event any time a pair of this caliber meets up.
If you follow along with techno news, you might have noticed that I’m pretty late to the game. Transport dropped months ago, flying completely under my radar. Thanks to youtube surfing I bumped into the title track last week.
I was elated to hear new material, but the full name confused me: Juan Atkins & Moritz Von Oswald present Borderland: Transport. Was it only a remix album? Why didn’t I recognize the song, then?
As it turns out, the duo have adopted Borderland as the project’s name. I think it makes sense, in a Deepchord presents Echospace kind of way. Techno is nothing if not willfully enigmatic, a quality I’ve grown to adore over the years. When my favorite artists have dozens of albums spread across multiple projects, juggling new names is part of the fun.
The album itself turns out to be much more fun, more dynamic and flexible than its predecessor. Atkins and Oswald have clearly grown more comfortable collaborating; I can hear it in the playful slips in and out of genre, the formless, hypnotic passages between beat eruptions, and the vital bounce of live analog recording.
As with all the best techno music, these tracks approach jazz in their freeform verve, wild with life and passion in the cool neon glow of their minimalist channels. The expansive beatscapes evoke a dusty pixelated countryside passing by at high speed from the window of a maglev train. Or maybe the yawning moments before the sun rises on a long night of adventure. It’s that evocative dream prism logic that keeps techno weird and necessary,
Here’s a second taste. Odyssey appears as the album segues into its billowing midsection.
If you’re remotely interested in the idea of atmospheric, cinematic dub techno beamed from somewhere just left of the future, Transport is the exact kind of album you need. I say this as a man who needs to hear this kind of music on a regular basis. I thrive on a regimen mostly composed of techno while working, eight hours every day. When I discover something new that hits in just the right way, it’s the best kind of rare magic.
On their second full length outing, Juan Atkins and Moritz Von Oswald have carved a timeless sculpture of ecstatic chill. It’s exactly what you’d hope for when a couple heroes team up, but rarely ever actually experience.