Electric Music Foundation

The young, soft-spoken duo of John Golden and Mike McClure are typically unimposing members of the invisible Minneapolis techno scene. But as the two-man staff behind the Electric Music Foundation, Golden and McClure have sold thousands of records and climbed European DJ charts. Anyone who's been to a local underground event--or even First Avenue on a Saturday night--would not be disoriented by the hard acid techno of the Foundation's 20 or so vinyl releases, though one might discern above-average craft and introspection in the grooves. Actually it's perfect dinner music, though, I suspect, rarely used that way.

The Foundation began in 1994 with the support of Freddie Fresh, the prolific local dance pioneer who's best known for his Latino-inflected house music. (Legend has it that while Fresh was scoring his earliest hits in Europe, he was holding down a job as a pizza deliveryman back in Minneapolis.) But the Foundation is primarily an acid label, rostered by locals like Fresh and DJ Slip, along with various East Coast and European artists. EMF also releases work by the founders' own project, Auto Kinetic. "We have our certain signature we put on it," says Golden of their Auto Kinetic work. "If anyone's heard or followed our stuff versus DJ Slip or versus Freddie Fresh, it all sounds different. We always try to have some bizarre sounds, strange but under control--where Fresh, he'll have a bizarre sound that's out of control." They also take pride in their use and choice of synthesizers. Their home studio (which doubles as McClure's bedroom) is decked out with archaic consoles and vintage analog snyths. It's similar, they point out, to the sort of gear Pink Floyd used on The Dark Side of the Moon.

The reference is not completely surprising. Mindphaseone, their new collaboration with David Jarosz (the owner of dance shop Bassment Records who many know as DJ Drone) is the modern product of this sort of old-school technology. The group's debut CD, A Wave Length Away, has just been released on the local UltraModern label in hopes of reaching a general audience. Like the best collaborations, the CD is bursting with ideas. Together with Drone's limitless supply of sounds (mostly sampled live from vinyl to tape), the band goes into a peculiar post-techno territory where time signatures and tonal continuity fall off the map. You can try dancing to it, but you'll be challenged. "We got a stack of the weirdest records we could find, put a whole bunch of beats and melodies together, pushed together the ones we liked, and we were done," says Golden. "It was more of an intuitive project than it was structural."

In a fate similar to many dance-music composers, Golden and McClure get decidedly commercial for their bread and butter: They create interactive how-to manuals for CD-ROM games. Meanwhile, they've already performed with Mindphaseone, debuting at last week's Future Perfect trance/drone experiment at First Avenue, where on March 6 the trio will open for New York's DJ Spooky. McClure and Golden have only been in the game for a few years, but with their diverse résumé building, they're solid evidence of a techno scene growing up.

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