Terrence Dixon’s return to the public domain is one of the best things that has happened in Detroit for a long time. His recent outing as Population One on the Reduction label is definitely something unique, and his 2012’s album under his real name on Tresor was a real gem, showing that Detroit techno can renew itself. For our greatest pleasure, Dixon hasn’t waited another five years to write a new album, his latest record ‘Badge Of Honor’ comes only a loose year after From The Far Future Pt. 2.
At first, it seems to be a futuristic/war themed album. The packaging shows a decorated military uniform, and the tracks’ titles also strengthen this concept (e.g. Out Of Time, Deploy, The Mission, Space Probe etc.). The A-side opener Operation Acoustic’s beats are like barbed wire, but its sounds are laser clear. The rhythm’s perpetual, hasty jumping is one of the album’s always perceptible elements, while the out-of-sync snare constructions are recalling Dixon’s work as Population One. The only difference this time: there is no chance to uncover bigger ideas in order to hypnotise the listener, as Badge Of Honor’s tracks are not long. Apart from one exception, all sides of the vinyls contains four pieces (fifteen at all), and they usually last in between 3-5 minutes.
Badge Of Honor accurately defines the Dixonian surrealism of techno. From the very first second until the last, the artist is mixing up two different timelines: one set of tracks (or rather, sounds) are clearly from the future, while the other from the past. This confusion is definitely the album’s biggest achievement. Take The Mission for instance: fast paced drums creates the illusion of tense movement, the rhythm is a nervous metronome in the background. Around halfway, sonic effects are altering the environment, and suddenly it is hard to know what is the most important part of the track, or on which we should focus our ears. The best solution is to listen to it two or three times in a row.
The real masterpieces come on the second vinyl, where sonic pandemonium spreads heavily. Ocean To Sea is one of the classic pieces on the album due to its deeper bass and space textures in the vein of Jeff Mills. Light Years is a bit of an alienating piece: a long, beat less work of improvised, colliding synths, which unexpectedly extricates the listener from the record’s 4/4 context, and teleports to a dangerous, soon to be non-existent place. In Radio Room, industrial machines echo and human voices appear on a clacking, hurried rhythm.
Hot on the heels of ‘From The Far Future Pt. 2’s‘ critical success, Terrence Dixon quickly accomplishes another great concept. Badge Of Honor may not be for a wide audience, but still, it portrays the Detroitian artist in his best form. Deserves careful studying.