The Saturday before last, Detroit techno troubadours Octave One had the honor of closing out this year’s Sydney Festival with a live performance at the Mad Racket party at Beck’s Festival Bar. Mad Racket is a long-running and popular house-music monthly featuring international guest DJs alongside residents Simon Caldwell and Ken Cloud. It normally takes place in a bowling club in Marrickville, so the large midsummer’s event they throw once a year for Sydney Festival is a hot ticket.

The shindig lived up to its billing and then some. It was a gorgeous night at the end of January, and the fabulous Festival Bar, an open-air venue at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum smack dab in the middle of the city, was packed with a good mixed crowd party people, including me, my lovely wife and some old friends of ours. As detailed here, I love this venue, and I was sorry to see it close down for another year.

Here’s my review of the gig on Music Feeds.

And here’s a clip of Octave One playing that night that I shot on my iPhone:

Yes, I’ve joined the legions of people who upload cheap videos shot at live gigs. The sound is distorted, but I like this footage because it gives you a sense of the great vibe on the dancefloor and the enthusiasm of the Burden brothers. You also get a glimpse of the shape of the huge marquee (canopy) that covers part of the venue along with the projections and the awesome light sculpture overhead.

Someone else got better footage than I did, closer to the stage, with better sound:

Note the terrific use of footage from The Shining in the video projections.

The week after I saw the gig I still had Octave One’s music on my mind and did some searches for their stuff online. Here’s a clip of them performing live in the studio.

It’s part of a longer video starring Jeff Mills (well worth checking out; Mills mixes techno like no one else in the world). I love this video because it shows the geeky, obsessive, knob-twiddling characteristics universal to electronic musicians, while at the same time highlighting the musicality and soul of the Detroit sound – e.g., the Latin percussion in the drum tracks, the improvised live keyboard playing. I can’t remember seeing any other videos of electronic musicians playing in the studio, and it makes me think we need more of this kind of thing. But the Burdens are special in any case.

And I found this tune off my favorite Octave One record from back in the day, Generations of Soul by Random Noise Generation (one of the Burden brothers’ other monikers on their homegrown label, 430 West). I lost this record years ago and was so happy to see this. The subtle, deep, minimal sound epitomizes the “second wave” of Detroit techno (along with Mills and Robert Hood).

It’s not only the music; I love everything about this EP. I love the name of the project, with its plays on the word “generation.” I love the muted colors and design of the sleeve and label, the fonts, the image of the buffalo soldiers. Collecting music is about so much more than the signal coming from the speakers, it’s also about the peripheral stuff, the collateral, the communication that takes place on the side. The feeling that in this big world with its cynical divisions and entertainment apparatus, you’ve come across evidence that someone else in a distant city has something in common with you, thinks the same things are cool.

I love the song titles:

We Can Survive
The Transition
Last Campaign
My Soul “Will Be Free One Day”

Especially the way the first two run together on side A in so that it seems like a statement: We Can Survive The Transition. In the years since I lost this record, I may have forgotten other details, but that phrase stuck in my head and became a weird little “found” slogan that touches on a lot of things in the world today. We can survive the transition. Indeed.

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