Claude Young – Celestial Bodies

Album Reviews

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Label: Fountain Music/Different World (CD/Vinyl)Score: 8.5/10

Back in the late 90s, I had the pleasure of DJing with Claude Young in the Irish town of Waterford. Apart from being a hoot in the after-show hotel bar, he was also one of the most passionate, not to mention deadliest, DJs I saw that decade. His cut-and-blast set was infused with the granite electronic funk of his Detroit birth-place, delivered with the energy of his mate Derrick May.

Claude first appeared 20 years ago on Kelli Hand’s Acacia label with ‘You Give Me’, before releasing EPs on labels including Dow, Utensil, Seventh City, Fracture, Superstition, Deta and Axis, while 1997’s Soft Thru set on Elypsia took techno as deep as it gets on the bottomless swirl of ‘Gates Of The Afterlife’. He also enjoyed an association with the mighty Djax-Up Beats label between 1995-2003, starting with the pummelling Nocturnal EP, continuing through the Pattern Buffer series, also including 2000’s Patterns album and Fear Of Eternity EP. He also released 2005’s One.Nine.Eight.Four album on cynet:media.

Throughout, Claude’s style has been his trademark subterranean symphonies in his keyboards, tempered with endlessly inventive percussion dynamics. Maybe it’s living in Japan for the last few years, but his latest set predominantly does away with jacking beats to concentrate on the melodies which have always imbued his work. Although living on the other side of the world, Detroit will always be in his blood and, like the beatless ‘Meditations’ on his friend Carl Craig’s recent Masterpiece set, Claude also could be paying homage to his beloved but beleaguered Motor City and its sweeping ruins, along with following the personal spiritual path which underpins much of the album.

With its desolate washes, booming orchestral swells and poignant string themes, Celestial Bodies could be taken as a ethereal sound painting of towering abandoned man-built edifices, but tracks such as ’Signals From Amor’ are also imbued with twinkling textures, finely honed sonic tints and subtly melodic embellishments which add lustrous layers and up the emotional content. Rather than pile on the overdubs, Claude uses that energy to make every sound count, whether glacial synth pattern or the sub-aquatic fizzes and drones which pepper ‘Observing The Kulper’ like a giant abandoned factory haunted into life. The ghostly electronic breathing of ‘Sagitarius B2‘ recalls avant guitarist Loren Mezzacine Connors as much as Jeff MillsMetropolis‘ before a flickering synth pulse arrives to set up the locomotive rhythm, which continues through the hornet’s nest of ‘Galactic Coordinate System’ until the  guitar-like loop and electro pulse of ’Hawking Radiation’ steers into more familiar streets. Even those end up heading  into space as the weightless beauty of ‘Cryosleep Dreams’ wafts in to stop all the clocks.

As far as electronic music goes, this album often forges way beyond the barriers. Take ‘Sedna 90377’, which sets up a kind of African stick rhythm with scrubbed stringed bass and robotic gasps; startling enough itself until leaping Strauss-meets-Mayday strings appear to send the track in another orbit entirely. By the last two pieces, he’s into modern classical realms, albeit five miles above the red planet. The closing ’Messier 86 [NGC 44] positively freezes over as its epic aural glacierscape evolves and slowly sinks into the mist.

Stunning piece of work, which Claude Young can be proud to call his masterpiece.