Boomkat Product Review:
Richie Hawtin's game-changing Plastikman debut is back once again three decades on with a timely reissue; it's a bleep-y minimal acid classic that helped inspire a generation of disciples.
Hawtin's always been a controversial figure in techno. The British-Canadian producer and DJ became fascinated with Detroit techno in the late '80s, while he was living just across the bridge in Windsor, Ontario. He had the access and the funds needed to transcend the local scene, and along with his friend John Acquaviva, started the Plus 8 label in 1990. Hawtin's Artificial Intelligence-approved F.U.S.E. material came first, before he dropped the bone-cracking 'Spastik' 12" in 1993, following it with 'Sheet One', an album that's best known for its controversial cover, that was perforated to resemble an LSD blotter. Taking cues from Chicago's mid-'80s innovators like DJ Pierre and Adonis, Hawtin used Roland's squelchy TB-303 as the heart of his sound, fleshing it out with a minimalist backdrop of skeletal doofs. "I knew I wanted it to be acidic but not Chicago acid," he admitted to MusicRadar back in 2016. "I wanted something beautiful, soulful and trippy like the guys in the ‘60s and ‘70s used to make."
If acid house had been an invitation to dance, Hawtin's minimal techno was a product of drugged experience. "It's music for the end of the party as you're melting into the floor," he explained. That's probably why it still resonates so much now; Hawtin's been charged with whitening techno and it's true that the music lacks the swing and momentum of second-wave Detroit techno and Chicago house, but its lysergic qualities prompted a generation of trippers to investigate the possibilities of the genre. There's a teeth-chattering anxiety to slow burners like 'Plasticity' and 'Plasticine' that would become foundational to so many Euro operatives, and listening back now, low-n-snaky rollers like 'Gak' and 'Glob' could still teach a raft of warehouse engineers that it pays to take stylistic risks. Even the feather-lite trance flex of 'Koma' has found its audience in the last few years. Hawtin would perfect his technique on his later albums ('98's paranoia-doom masterpiece 'Consumed' is still our pick), but 'Sheet One' still packs quite a punch.