Jeff Mills’ is widely considered to be one of the seminal pioneers of techno. His music has a majesty and futurism that is recognizable as his own, yet, paradoxically, has a sense of being impersonal, showing little trace of what we might consider typical human emotion. Rather, it has a strangeness which is perhaps more abstract than anything else. This other-worldliness gives Mills’ music a philosophical quality, more concerned with universals than about any personal issues he may or may not have. It is this very quality which gives his music a timeless feel.
His recent project, One Man Spaceship, is another example of how Mills is able to produce techno that sounds as contemporary in 2007 as it did in the eary 90s, unlike many other techno artists who seem to be stuck in the previous decade. Going to the club these days often often feels like a rehash of the 1990s, which, in my opinion, counteracts the whole futuristic vision of techno music.
On his website, Mills describes the concept of the One Man Spaceship in his trademark cryptic writing style:
The “One Man Spaceship” project pays tribute to people who exceed beyond what is expected of them or of the normal and predicatable way. One Man Spaceship observes the art of barrier-breaking and the deep solitude of transgressions into unknown and uncharted territories.
In this process, it is common to distance and lose those that are nearest and dearest to you. It is a special isolation that develops due to the extreme focus on a ideology and perspective. This sacrifice is sometimes necessary as the objective is larger than life itself.
The hauntingly alien melodies and innovative rhythms of the album make this one of Mills’ best efforts of a long list of great albums in a distinguished career as a DJ and musician, one truly worthy of the year 2006 when it was released. Brilliant energetic tracks mix with subtle ambient ones that displays Mills’ mastery of his art as well as a brave naivete that have come to be the hallmark of the Modern of the last 100 years as seen in Warhol, Dali, Ballard and Burroughs. It is an artwork that represents more a vision than an album, engaging in as much poetry as one would find in any painting of the last 10 years.
It is Mills’ innovations as a musician and DJ that have helped contribute to the notion of DJing as a legitimate art form which can be thought alongside of the experience of visual art. Interestingly, techno, like Pop art, has the ability to share that precious space that great artists have sought to occupy where the sophistication of the avant-garde fuses with mainstream accessibility. In interviews, Mills has long argued the point that DJs be considered in this regard.
It’s not easy being futuristic these days with our iPhones and technological wealth, but Mills has managed to achieve this once again, demonstrating how techno, still, can be as relevant as anything one would confront in a modern day art gallery. Matter of fact, chances are one would be more affected listening to Mills.