M IS FOR MODEL 500

Model 500 is Detroit techno godfather Juan Atkins. Model 500 was his name for some of his best work, starting as far back as the 1985 classic “No UFO’s” and extending to singles for his own Metroplex Records and several others for the Belgian R&S label.

Born 12 September 1962, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Atkins attended Belleville High School until 1980, where he met Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, his future compatriots in the revolutionising of techno. He acquired his love of dance music listening to the various mix shows on the radio, and in particular those of the Detroit DJ The Electrifyin’ Mojo. Inspired by the emergence of synthesizer technology, Atkins first came to prominence in the early 80s with Cybotron, an electro outfit he formed with Rick Davis. The duo achieved some success, most notably with the 1982 track “Clear”, which established the basic sound of what would later be termed techno. Branching out from Cybotron, Atkins concentrated on Deep Space Soundworks, a music collective he had formed with May and Saunderson in 1981. The three men also founded Detroit’s Music Institute, which quickly became the focal point for the city’s underground club movement. From 1985 Atkins started working solo as Model 500, releasing polished, minimalist, hi-tech gems such as “No UFO’s”, “The Chase” and “Night Drive” on his own Metroplex label (home to the first releases by many of the Detroit stars), which were pivotal in the development of techno (most of these were later reissued on Belgian label R&S Records’ Classics compilation).

Atkins’ reputation took off in the late 80s, when the new Detroit dance movement reached the shores of Europe, and was frequently invited to remix tracks for artists as diverse as Inner City, Coldcut, Fine Young Cannibals, Seal and the Style Council. During the exploitative early 90s Atkins remained justifiably aloof, with his own artistic output somewhat limited, although during this period he continued to work in conjunction with Mike Banks and Underground Resistance, helping to produce such classics as Underground Resistance’s Galaxy 2 Galaxy and the excellent Red Planet series of releases. In 1992, he reopened his Metroplex label, and when Model 500 signed to R&S, releases such as Classics and the brilliant EP Sonic Sunset received the attention they deserved. With the album Deep Space, Atkins treated a new generation of dance enthusiasts to his typically highly crafted compositions. A second compilation of his early 90s, Metroplex-based work under the name Infiniti was released by the German label Tresor Records. Although at times sounding formulaic, the compilation did include “Game One’ (produced with Orlando Voorn), one of Atkins” most memorable records, capturing his classically minimal yet warm style. In a prolific period between 1998 and 1999, Atkins recorded new Infiniti and Model 500 albums and the US label Wax Trax! released a mix album.

There’s no chance of a career retrospective in tracks – you should pick up the “Classics” album for that – so here’s a mix of the track that started him off and some 1990s remixes:

Model 500 – No UFOs (Instrumental)

Model 500 – The Flow (Underworld Mk 2 Mix)

Model 500 – I Wanna Be There (Dave Angel Mix)

Model 500 – I Wanna Be There (Juan Atkins Mix)

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~ by acidted on September 24, 2009.

One Response to “M IS FOR MODEL 500”

  1. […] a series of podcasts (also on iTunes it would appear). But this caught my eye. Juan Atkins (aka Model 500) is one of the godfathers of techno and so it seemed right to focus on him. Free […]

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