Even without listening to the tape, one can see from the packaging alone that Matthew Akers’ The Elders of New Detroit is ripe with retrofuturistic sci-fi and action film imagery, down to the quote from Philip K. Dick’s Second Variety. What is more, the press release cover the typical plot of an 80’s action b-movie: “Black limousines silently roll into view as dope-slinging shit bags congregate at the docks, poised to pull off the biggest scag deal in Detroit. Everything is going as planned until the shipment barge from Windsor is suspiciously late and the inside guy at the police station is not responding. Gunshots break out from all directions as the Detroit 5-0 suddenly storm onto the scene. Que Matt Akers’s synth grooves to bust in on top of the hailing bullets & gratuitous explosions as we root for a scrappy detective who manages to lay waste to every crooked fucker there & clean up the Motor City, once and for all”. Akers stresses in the liner notes that no MIDI or samples were used in the creation of the cassette, which makes it all the more impressive.
The music itself is both a tribute and a descendant to the movie soundtracks of John Carpenter and his countless followers, the ultra-polished and purely synth soundtracks of so many movies from the 1980’s. Similarly to the modern macabre techno Chicagoans from Gatekeeper or the French horrorists from Zombie Zombie, Matthew Akers fits into the growing crowd of John Carpenter revivalists. While the opening notes of side A might give a false impression of being an atmospheric drift analog ambient track in the vein of Berlin School, they soon develop into something much more sophisticated and evocative, adding the mandatory hard rock guitar riffs to accentuate the manliness of the synth sounds. After the drums kick in we get a full fledged, sweaty and uplifting soundtrack for a non-existant movie. The pulsing synth solo at the end of “The Elders of New Detroit” is simply the icing on the cake, a crowning moment of the opening theme, where we can imagine a dystopian (then) future city (it’s an interesting coincidence – I got the tape just a day after I watched RoboCop, nice).
The first track on the flipside, “The Mercenary”, doesn’t fuck around with proggy openings. Instead, it just immediately plunges the listener into the acid house bliss, a deceptively simple yet effective track with simple synth pads over even simpler drums (including fake handclaps, oh the nostalgia!). The hypnotic disco of this track gives images of an exhausting and narcotized Saturday night in a hot and overcrowded shady nightclub. The closing track, “And Man Lives On” is more relaxed and reflective, a certain toning down from the previous track excess. Still basing on slow drums, the track features ambiental waves of synths, creating an almost meditative ending soundscape.
Now that we have “carpentercore” musicians we only need “carpentercore” filmmakers, who will make movies like they used to do, movies with animatronics and matte paintings instead of CGI and oldschool synth soundtracks instead of nu-metal ones. Keepin’ it old school, y’know.