There are certain artists whose impact on culture is incalculable: the true visionaries, who pick up a brush, pen, or drum machine and unlock entirely new avenues of expression, moving the horizon like a goalpost. While many hands have worked to mold electronic music into the array of shapes it takes today, few have left such an indelible mark on the genre’s proliferation that continue to defy categorization, time, or place as Carl Craig. Whether by elevating the already stratospheric sounds of Detroit’s techno originators, to laying the foundations for UK jungle and drum & bass music, to expanding our collective conception of raves and rave culture, Carl’s impact can be felt in every corner of the techno zeitgeist.
Emerging in the Detroit scene of the late 1980’s, Carl quickly became known for his visionary DJ sets and innovative productions featuring a broader palette of sounds previously unheard on the dancefloor. After founding Planet E Communications in 1991, Carl began a tireless release schedule across numerous monikers -- Innerzone Orchestra, 69, and Paperclip People to name a few -- while also working to incubate new artists interested in expanding the Detroit sound. Landmark albums such as Landcruising and More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art still standout among a crowded field as towering examples of what techno can aspire to be.
With an eye forever on the future, Carl Craig’s involvement and support of Blast Radio has been critical from day one. Through administering early “stress tests” on the servers, to sharing original unreleased tracks and mixes with listeners, Carl helped lay the foundation for the burgeoning community that’s continuing to ferment with each new broadcast. “I make music to satisfy my soul, and when I perform, I invite others into my world,” Carl has said, and these worlds are proving to be as vast as his back catalog. After a brief hiatus to accommodate a long-awaited summer tour, Carl returned to the Blast Radio airwaves with renewed tenacity. Each broadcast has functioned as its own unique sonic journey: where some clock in at the 10-hour mark, packed wall-to-wall with floor stomping bangers, others are more circuitous and evolving, oscillating between the meditative and the metaphysical.
This is a duality Carl explored in his stunning sound installation Party/After-Party recently on display at the Dia:Beacon in New York, that mapped the liminal space between euphoria and the inevitable creep of a blue monday. “In contrast to the glamorous perception of the touring musician, I wanted to reflect the isolation of the many hours spent alone in hotel rooms and the tinnitus that I, and many other artists, have to contend with as a result of our work,” Carl’s said in his artist statement. Where techno began as a rebuke against the mechanization of labor in Motor City, DJs ended up serving a different subsect of machines.
But unlike the Silicon Valley pipedream of digitized immortality, some technology can be harnessed to recenter the human experience. Where isolation, prolonged travel, and auditory damage permeated life on the road, Carl has been finding solace broadcasting from his home studio in Detroit, MI. Settling in after a recent trip to Montreal, Carl treated listeners to a 2-hour set of early dancehall, rock steady, and expansive dub techno tracks that come from colder climates. “Dub Sessions, coming straight from my hands to your ears,” Carl said, his voice floating into the mix as the beat bowed to the slow wave of a filter. “I hope you’re enjoying the show,” he paused, “because I sure am.”