Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Anthony “Shake” Shakir, Frictionalism 1994-2009

Something interesting happens if you make music and you get to the point where you put it out there for other people to hear.  You begin to get feedback from your audience telling you that they like this, they don’t like that, and they like this better than that.  When this happens you find that the feedback begins to shape the music.  You want to make music people will like and you start to think in terms of what seemed to work in the past when creating new music.  At first it was about what you liked.  Over time it becomes about what you like that works within the boundaries defined by what your audience likes.  When the music gets picked up by an industry that’s all about making more money, the perceived expectations of the audience change from being a contributing factor to being the dominant factor.  The industry controls the means of “making it” in the music business and the industry is only interested in music that will make money.  As a result, music  is mass produced by the industry to fit narrowly defined genres designed to be marketed to the industry’s perception of what the audience will buy.  Music within a genre is designed to fit the rhythmic/melodic/timbral template that defines the genre.  Within a genre it all starts to sound the same.

For every musician or music producer you’ve heard of there are hundreds, possibly thousands like Parametric Monkey that almost no one knows about.  They make music and their audience is very limited.  Some of these people want to make it in the music business and they create music that is consciously designed to have the characteristics that define popular, mass marketed genres.  The popular forms of music largely determine the music they make.  For others, the focus remains more on making the music they want to hear.  Their music is affected by the music they hear but it is not determined by it.  Their music tends to have something unique and distinctive about it.  Which brings us to Anthony “Shake” Shakir.

Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, the Belleville three, are widely and rightly recognized as the “founders” of the immensely influential style of music called  Detroit techno.  One of the most influential albums, maybe the most influential album, in establishing Detroit techno was Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit released in the UK in 1988.  Legend has it that the term “Detroit techno” came from the title of this album.  Atkins, May and Saunderson were involved in the production of nine of the twelve tracks on Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit.  One of the remaining three, “Sequence 10”, was written produced and mixed by Anthony Shakir.

Shakir’s career didn’t follow the same path as Atkins. May and Saunderson’s.  He didn’t get the recognition, he didn’t get the industry support (not that the Belleville three got much in the way of industry support compared to, say Madonna), he didn’t always have state-of-the-art music production gear or know-how.  When the other pioneers of Detroit techno put their energies into building their careers in Europe where dance music found a much more enthusiastic audience than it did in the USA, Shakir chose to focus on Detroit.  (He has multiple sclerosis which may have been a contributing factor).  What Shikir did do was continue to make music.

Shakir’s music has a quality you sometimes find in music made by people who remain focused on making the music they want to hear at the expense of music that fits more neatly into the recognized mass-marketed genres.  It’s unique.  Shakir’s music isn’t unique in the sense that it sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before.  He listens to dance music, particularly techno-oriented dance music, and makes music that is strongly influenced by what he hears.  However, he adapts the sounds, structures and styles he hears to make music that is uniquely his own.  The result is music that is wonderfully fresh.  It’s like music you know looked at from a viewpoint you’ve haven’t considered before.  If you don’t pay attention, the familiar elements can lead you to categorize what you’re hearing as just another example of this or that style of music.  If you stop and listen to what you’re hearing, a new world opens up before your ears.

Frictionalism 1994-2009 does what its title proclaims; it collects fifteen years of Shakir’s music on three discs.  Shakir may have been largely unknown throughout much of his career but it wasn’t because in following his own muse he was making music that would appeal only to him.  He has a profound musical sense and Frictionalism 1994-2009 is an extraordinarily rich collection of music.  This isn’t the kind of collection that has a large production run and unless lightening strikes where it did not before, it’s unlikely to get a second production run when the first one is gone.  If you like techno-oriented dance music, have open ears, and are prepared to give this collection the time and attention it deserves, pick Frictionalism 1994-2009 up before it’s gone.  It’s a treasure.

There’s so much variety and such high quality on Frictionalism 1994-2009 that I’m completely at a loss to choose a representative track.  Here are a couple chosen basically at random.

“March Into Darkness”

“Spectre”

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07/01/2010 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , , , ,

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