Freewheeling through time and space, Kris Needs continues his adventures in sound. This month: Red Planet
The passing Red Planet reference in last month’s Underground Resistance tribute led to me digging out my treasured and well-worn complete set. This didn’t require much vinyl excavation as those red covers have accompanied my every move since they started looming in FatCat Records 30 years ago.
In my humble opinion, Red Planet is one of the finest bodies of work in techno. On my last count, 14 of these mysterious EPs had been released between 1992’s ‘Meet The Red Planet’ and 2010’s ‘Techno Symphonic In G’. In the course of their creation, they descended from Martian polar caps to an arcane spirituality, addressing Native American suppression or the invincible spirit of a besieged but never unbroken Motor City.
Prime UR with a soulful, shimmering edge, the booting grooves could pinball between electro and space techno, lathered in ethereal string stabs, lush rising pads and starbursts of cathartic electronic emotion on titles including ‘Sex In Zero Gravity’, ‘Journey To The Martian Polar Cap’ and ever-lethal trouser-demolisher ‘Star Dancer’, which I deployed in destroying Liverpool’s mighty Voodoo as the new year of 1994 came in (it was simply a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of Mr Weatherall).
Adding to the label’s mystique, the question still remains – who done ’em? These extraordinary electronic beauties were always credited to The Martian, with help along the way from Drexciya, Octave One and, in the case of RP 14, Galaxy 2 Galaxy. Of course, it had to be “Mad” Mike Banks, the unshakable force behind UR, yet he’s always denied it (and, somewhat confusingly, Discogs credits some bloke called Will Thomas as producer).
All Mike’s hallmarks are there, glimmering like a space hippo’s testicles, from his voice as Astral Apache on 1994’s ‘Wardance’ from ‘The Long Winter Of Mars’ set to 1997’s ‘The Voice Of Grandmother’. Knowing the man as I did, this is pure Mad Mike, paying tribute to his blood lineage with supernatural sensitivity.
‘The Last Stand’ has it all – relentless Motor City funk attack (that double hi-hat slash every eight bars a crucial additive) and gorgeously melancholic strings that transform the track into a pulsating space hymn, like a Detroit ruin glowing with transcendent defiance. Trawling through these tunes once more this weekend reaffirmed Red Planet as the gold standard for hi-tech soul in electronic music as they slaughtered my mate’s garden party.