For as long as electronic music has existed, Detroit has loomed large. Detroit gave birth to techno, one of the earliest electronic genres, a movement that helped usher in the world of dance music that’s since taken the world by storm.
The history of techno is vast, spanning over three decades of dance music innovation. It’s a story of Detroit’s cultural inheritance from Motown to psychedelic rock and dance roots, combining with a mythos of technological experimentation. The influence of early techno pioneers like Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May is immeasurable. It serves as a renaissance period in American music, showing the diverse ways that African-American communities have used electronic sounds to express their experiences over the decades.
Whether you’re an outsider new to Detroit techno or a veteran of the dance floor, Soundtrack 313 is an essential listen. Originally released by The Detroit Escalator Company (aka Neil Ollivierra) in 1996 and recently reissued by Swiss label Mental Groove Records, Soundtrack 313 is a hazy, psychedelic touchstone, situated halfway between ambient and techno.
Ollivierra’s interest in ambient music and observations from bike rides around Detroit inspired him to create music that was different from what he saw dominating dance floors in Europe during the mid-1990s. Album opener “Gratiot” is a soft and meditative track that reflects his interest in new age soundscapes and his observations of Detroit at night. Later songs like “Abstract Forward Movement” and “The Inverted Man (Falling)” carry on the blissful nature of the album, but with a more futuristic vibe.
The combination of sounds on the album provides a backdrop for deep reflection while simultaneously hinting at the emotional depths of Detroit techno itself. Splicing together glimmers of ambient bliss with mysterious soundscapes and an unshakeable groove, the album leaves an undeniable emotional footprint, creating a tangible habitat for the listener to live in.
Soundtrack 313 makes the case that Ollivierra is just as central to the development of techno beyond the boundaries of the dance floor as his more renowned counterparts. In combining sweeping synths with pummeling rhythms, Ollivierra found tranquility in a city that helped put electronic music on the map.