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Innerzone Orchestra: Programmed

While it's virtually impossible to pinpoint exactly when one form of dance music becomes another, it's easy to point to the individuals making the changes. Carl Craig has long been one of Detroit's premier techno pioneers, taking his cue from such figures as Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson and then moving in new directions. Innerzone Orchestra may be his most ambitious project yet. An early single, "Bug In The Bassbin," is looked to by many as one of the key tracks in the evolution of jungle; that makes a whole lot of sense, as jungle is nothing if not the electronic equivalent of jazz fusion. Groups such as Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, The Weather Report, and Return To Forever are often lauded by DJs and programmers as sources of inspiration, and comparing the busy drumming and washes of sound to the manic music of dance clubs, it makes sense. Craig was just one of the first to realize the connection, though Programmed is his full-length attempt to create a new hybrid of music that crosses techno with jazz. The album features significant contributions by pianist Craig Tayborn and Sun Ra percussionist Francisco Mora, giving the disc a spontaneous feel more akin to a live session than a sampling construct; one of the toughest hurdles Craig must have faced was making the music sound like more than what a couple of decades of samplers have allowed for. In other words, the question needs to be answered: How is a live drummer better than a program or a sample of a drummer? Craig's genius is illustrated in how he devises ways to incorporate live instruments into the mix so they sound like they're communicating with the machine-generated programming. It's a concept right out of science fiction, so it shouldn't be surprising that Programmed is also a concept album about the impending millennium. Fortunately, Craig has a strong grip on the bizarre—after all, the title of the group is a Naked Lunch reference—and even when the music threatens to descend into fusion mush, surprises continue to pop up.


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