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Jeff Mills – Live at the Liquid Room, Tokyo


Although ironic to say, this live set of unadulterated Detroit techno is so humanesque. It’s not straight-down-the-middle, calculated or cold. It’s not uniform and not overtly chaotic. That doesn’t sound like techno at all does it?

The first ten or so minutes of Segment I exemplifies this point as Mills cycles through vinyl spastically as he swaps in and out tracks of varying speeds, not really worrying about beat-matching, freely rewinding, layering and pausing at inappropriate times. It’s an energetic mess of fun and you can hear the crowd reflect that. In this way it just isn’t as repetitive as you would usually associate with techno, the beat sporadically evolving into another banging, yet pretty unrelated, track, but the unrelenting drive is still thumping. Mills seems to straddle that line of experimentation and danceability.

His track selection is absolutely fantastic, distancing himself from other DJ track choices in the way that his own tracks are consistent standouts. Deeply rooted in the urban vibes of Detroit techno, Mills also employs hints of acid, minimal, industrial and ambient techno for tasteful variation. Fellow Tresor labelmate Surgeon and group X-102 are featured beautifully, notably X-102’s “Intro” in Segment II providing ambient evolution into a driving finish. “Strings of Life”, a scene classic from Detroit veteran Rhythim Is Rhythim makes an exceptional appearance.


I mentioned “humanesque” before because this set is initially grounded in shambles, but instead of switching back into conformity he takes it in his stride and makes disarray a central part of the set. He just makes it work. The result is both hypnotic and fascinating, a futuristic party of unpredictability and technical goof. It’s a set that other sessions will forever be compared, and most never overcome.

And, my lord, you can dance to this.


– Ry

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