Orchestral interpretations of an esteemed techno back catalogue instantly makes ‘Versus’ an event rather than an album made useless on budget stereo equipment: this is a strictly widescreen and binoculars affair. Carl Craig is of course worthy of indulging in the movements of a conductor’s baton, and this isn’t his first time either. ‘The Album Formerly Known As…’ reconfigured 1995’s ‘Landcruising’, and ‘ReComposed’, an ambient/cinematic brainstorm with Moritz von Oswald, meaning such an amphitheatre, originally conceived in 2008, should hold no fear.
Piano stammers installed as techno metronomes, impish darts of woodwind, brass acting as both royal announcer and firebrands flying out the traps (the grime-horned ‘Sandstorms’ sounding like Run the Road’s Dynasty Crew, souping up the original’s cyclical minimalism), and poignant string sections, are all brought together by the project’s cornerstone – anticipation (see ‘Darkness’, whose dystopian chunkiness remains instant, and the riffs of ‘Technology’). Both coy and cacophonous, it’s an expectancy deserving of an introductory Star Wars scroll to determine whose allegiances lie where, making drum kicks wait an almost interminable amount of time to get thickening the action.
Two original pieces by Francesco Tristano – highly complementary, if not quite what’s advertised – bring everything to a chilled standstill before adopting a slap bass hepcat status with ‘The Melody’, a fine garage-jazzer while Craig changes costumes. The same goes for intermissions understanding the nobility of the spectacle while still plugged into techno’s sci-fi ideals, as either missing link or independent filler.
Going head to head with the source material (including 1995’s ‘Desire’, under Craig’s 69 moniker) states the obvious: what once was raw is overcome by the richness and vastness of the many orchestral parts. The steady pace might have you lumping this in with when Pete Tong took a load of tunes to the Royal Albert Hall; then again, the point of the project is transformation (Craig’s remix of Maurizio’s ‘Domina’ is the reboot writ large) and interpretation. Pushing techno closer to the edge as well as the coffee table, while it possesses opera’s inherent pomposity, calms and storms become one. The act-to-act cohesion is seamless, as is the recreation of rigid techno militancy, and should be met with at least one bouquet brought to the stage.
Words: Matt Oliver
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