Techno Elders, Aging Gracefully in a Youth-Oriented Genre
DETROIT — At the Movement Festival here, electronic and dance music fans were reminded once again how techno music has its seeds in the cultural dialogue between Detroit and Berlin. And that few individual conversations have been as central to the aesthetic and philosophical evolution of that genre as the one that the American Juan Atkins and the German Moritz von Oswald have been intermittently holding since the late 1980s.
The pair of musicians held court on the festival’s main stage, then stayed in the late-night mix, performing bass-heavy D.J. sets at afterparties that would not end until the sunrise. At 53, both men are regarded as techno music’s spiritual and literal godfathers. Though the two have experienced health issues (both chose not to comment on these), they continue making vital contributions to what is regarded as a youthful practice.
The pair used Movement, over the Memorial Day weekend, to mark the live debut in the United States of “Transport,” the second album they recently released under the name Borderland. Over Skype in April, Mr. von Oswald called the LP an “aura event,” a high-profile and often meditative reunion between two artists, whose relationship stretches back to before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It also poses a question: In a dance-music bazaar often driven by shiny musical thrills, mass market-oriented festivals and nighttime party economies, is there room for the ruminations of elder statesmen?