Soaring through the skies and landing somewhere on Earth, we discovered an alien. He was not made of flesh, he was not made of stone, he was... check it out humans: man made.
In The Beginning
In the continued narrative of machine music, one of the most fascinating twists was Kraftwerk’s surprisingly close proximity to both rap and electro. It's but a short leap from Computer World to Afrika Bambaataa, The Egyptian Lover and Mantronix, artists who translated the Düsseldorf group's austere Autobahn vision through the prism of
Manuel Parrish grew up in the cradle of New York City, where he attended the High School of Performing Arts (immortalized in the
All of which is captured brilliantly on Man Parrish’s
Man Made reroutes Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express through downtown New York, taking it to school for a crash course in city life, while
Six Simple Synthesizers connects with Yellow Magic Orchestra’s quirky electropop and the sunny
Heatstroke flirts with the post-disco sound that would come to be called Nu NRG. The shimmering
Techno Trax, all polished chrome and parallaxing vectors, speaks for itself. Perhaps most impressive of all is
Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don't Stop), an acidic electroid monster jam driven by rapid-fire vocal samples and an endless cascade of tom tom rolls run through the effects units.
However, as great as the original version is, it's taken to a whole other plane on the Special Disconet Remixes 12", released shortly after. Gone is the recurring club piano, clockwork acid bassline, and even much of the electropop structure, hollowed out into a showcase of towering Echoplex percussion. In fact, the drums take center stage for the first minute or so before the synths even kick into gear, when a rubberband bassline unpacks itself at the center of track — each note like spider's legs scurrying from node to node on the beat matrix, interlocking with neon bleep sequences running perpendicular lines throughout — unfolding into vector arcades receding onto the horizon. Then, it takes a sudden left turn, switching gears into the bassline from
The Magnificent Seven, which places it at the more abstract end of the whole
Good Times chronology.
What sets the track apart from the wider world of electro is its loose-limbed rhythmic flexibility, running in stark contrast to electro's intentionally robotic, linear nature. Running through multiple twists and turns even beyond
The Magnificent Seven, through beat box breakdowns and shadowy synth-haunted corridors, not to mention a moody mid-section that was nowhere to be found in the original, it seems to rotate and reconfigure in real-time, before locking into place like the three-dimensional game grid in TRON: Legacy. I first heard it — nestled in Andrea Parker’s DJ-Kicks — some seventeen years later, and it still sounded like the future.
On the flipside, you'll find the
Heatstroke (Special Disconet Remix), which is actually the a-side of this sterling two-track 12". If not quite as mind-blowing as
Hip Hop, Be Bop, it's nevertheless a pristine slab of dancefloor magic, stretched out to a marathon nine-minute running time (complete with a wild Central Park percussion breakdown beamed onto The Grid). The whole thing hovers somewhere between peak-era Italo disco, early Nu NRG, and the sort of freestyle sound that Madonna would descend upon a year later. In fact, I'm most strongly reminded of the odyshape machine disco bullet train shapes encountered on Solid State Survivor by Yellow Magic Orchestra, which is no small praise.
As with the
Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don't Stop) (Special Disconet Remix), its a remarkably dynamic take on the sound and vision of its surrounding scenius, managing to transcend the more typical trappings to stand alone as an entity unto itself. Much like Thomas Leer’s 4 Movements sidestepped the cold brutality of contemporary synth pop in favor of a nimble, Compass Point vision of sun-glazed globetrotting electropop, Special Disconet Remixes plays like a the multi-faceted hip hop funk of The Sugarhill Band derezzed and rebuilt from the ground up on the rolling vectors of The Grid.
Taken together, both sides of Special Disconet Remixes play like an uncut distillation of the Man Parrish (the album), every electronic edge amplified in neon-on-asphalt and given a shimmering chrome polish in the digital moonlight. It's an absolute masterpiece of loose-limbed electro and a testament to Man Parrish’s vision of
Man Made machine music, an elemental rendering of prime number Terminal Vibration sonics that sounds right at home in the ever-changing present.