Derrick May, Stacey Pullen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Derrick May, Stacey Pullen

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DERRICK MAY, STACEY PULLEN

This package tour celebrates the rebirth of Transmat Records. Started in 1987 by Detroit techno pioneer Derrick May, the label helped launch not only his career but also those of Stacey Pullen, Carl Craig, and Kenny Larkin. The core of May's musical legacy is a pair of tracks he cut that same year--the twitchy, paranoid, minimal "Nude Photo" (held up as an "influence" on the recent Warp Records tenth-anniversary set) and "Strings of Life," which featured driving piano chords and orchestral samples. He produced lots more fine singles in the late 80s, but has been silent for most of this decade except as a DJ (which is how he'll perform here). The Transmat compilation Time : Space, released this spring, includes his first new track since '92 (excluding a theme song he recorded for the PlayStation game Ghost in the Shell): "Beforethereafter," a low-key slice of spare beats and lush synthesizer swells, is noteworthy for its rarity, but compared to the classic material collected on May's career retrospective, Innovator, it's anticlimactic....While nothing in Stacey Pullen's sizable discography--recorded under various monikers, including Silent Phase and Kosmic Messenger--can match his mentor's best work, his cool, extravagantly synthetic percolations can raise the temperature on any dance floor a few degrees. On a 1997 collection of Kosmic Messenger singles released by the Belgian label Elypsia, his style accrues a subtle intensity; the textures of his stuttering, floor-shuddering beats are constantly jiggered as rubbery, bubbly synth patterns bounce like numbers in a lotto hopper. Pullen will also turn in a DJ set, but the rest of the performances on this bill are live PAs. In fact, recent Transmat signee Aril Brikha notoriously never DJs; the album he released this summer, Deeparture in Time, features classic techno grooves shot through with busy synth lines that wouldn't sound out of place in 70s jazz fusion. Neil Ollivierra, John Beltran, and Tony Drake, three more artists new to the label, will perform together under the name Time : Space. Saturday, 10 PM, Karma, 318 W. Grand; 312-321-1331. PETER MARGASAK

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