vi•sion quest (noun) the ritual seeking of personal communication with the spirit world performed in many indigenous cultures in which an individual travels to an isolated area for the purpose of entering a trance, during which a life path or destiny is revealed.
Visionquest are… Seth Troxler, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves and Lee Curtiss, the most innovative and exciting new breed of musicians to emerge from techno’s birthplace, Detroit in a generation. Together they make up a four-piece DJing and production outfit at the head of the much-lauded Visionquest record label, the epicenter of a collective of musical free thinkers pushing to make the next step forward in the evolution of electronic music.
Building on their already successful solo careers both as DJs and in the studio, Visionquest exploded into dance music’s collective consciousness during the summer of 2009 when they released their remix of Kiki’s ‘Good Voodoo’ on BPitch Control which went on to be on of the year’s biggest underground hits. Since then they have gone on to remix Tracey Thorn, dOP, D’Julz, Benoit & Sergio, Dinky, DJ Hell and most recently David Lynch and are soon to start work on their debut artist album. Individually and together they have released tracks on leading labels like Crosstown Rebels, Spectral Sound, Get Physical, Circus Company, Supplement Facts, Wolf+Lamb, Wagon Repair and m_nus. Both individually and rescently together as Visionquest they regularly play at clubs and festivals all the world over like fabric (London), DEMF (Detroit), Watergate (Berlin), Womb (Tokyo), Cocoon (Frankfurt), Fuse (Brussels), Cityfox (Zurich), Tenax (Florence), Goa(Rome), Trouw (Amsterdam), Warung (Brazil) and Burning Man (Blackrock City) as well as holding their weekly ‘Soulshower’ summer residency at Club Der Visonaere in Berlin. At the start of last year they launched one of the most talked-about new record labels in dance music and went onto to throw sell-out label showcases at fabric and Watergate in addition to their much-vaunted summer residency at Circo Loco at DC10 in Ibiza.
Before we look further forward, it pays to consider the past... for over two decades the city of Detroit, Michigan has been the home and birthplace of techno. In the mid eighties, inspired by German electronic bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, the ‘Bellville Three’ (named after their high school), Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May started experimenting with synthesisers and drum machines establishing a musical soundscape that was soon hailed as techno. In the early nineties local African-American DJs like Jeff Mills, Rob Hood and Mike Banks were joined by local white kids, Richie Hawtin and Dan Bell, who experimented with stripping the sound back to its bare essentials creating the early template for minimal techno. A decade later, this inspired Ann Arbor college students Matthew Dear, Ryan Elliott and Hawtin’s friend Magda, to build on this sound, exporting it globally and creating one of dance music’s dominant scenes. While all this was happening house legends like Theo Parrish, Kenny Dixon Jnr and Aaron Carl were defining the Motorcity’s unique and deeply emotive take on house music.
Enter Visionquest, a new generation of young, talented producers from Detroit who draw influence from all who have come before them, following in their footsteps, while defining a unique sound of their own. Here you have four DJs who have grown up organizing parties and DJing in the city and around the world for the last ten years. Together they’re on a heartfelt mission to save the world from the desolation of minimal techno and retrogressive commercial house while having as much fun as possible in the process. Their attention is firmly focused on the deeper soul of quality popular and electronic music, driven by emotion and developed from their very different musical backgrounds. Visionquest have their roots in Motown, draw ambitious spiritual vibes from forerunners like Theo Parrish and Moodymann, cut their teeth during the heyday of labels like m_nus and Spectral Sound, but are now unfolding their own unique take on future music. Visionquest are:
LEE CURTISS: ‘It takes a lot to break out in a city like Detroit’, explains Lee Curtiss, ‘there are a lot of very talented people making a lot of great music’. Over the last three four Lee Curtiss has made a name for himself creating primal, exquisitely deep and emotional dance tracks that pulse with life, sex, and humour, incorporating countless influences and genres but beholden to none. With his broad shoulders, even wider grin and keen sense of humour, Lee may give off the straight-shooting air of a Midwestern woodsman, but he’s got the ear, plain and simple. Lee Curtiss is an eccentric, an original, an innovator, a ten-year veteran of the electronic-music scene. From 2009’s Visionquest remix of Kiki’s ‘Good Voodoo’, sighted by many as the underground smash of last year, via his ‘Black Door EP’ on Spectral (Mixmag’s techno ‘Tune of the Month’, October 09) to his ‘And We All Fall Down EP on Supplement Facts (another Mixmag ‘Tune of the Month’), Lee has an innate ability to create instantly memorable lead riffs that will stand the test of time. Having moved to live in Chicago after an extended stay in Berlin, Lee continues to produce vital releases and remixes on labels including Spectral Sound, Supplement Facts, Get Physical, Culprit, Dumb-Unit, Wolf+Lamb and Mothership.
RYAN CROSSON: Ryan Crosson makes house and techno inspired by the historical precedent set in his native city of Detroit and his adopted hometown of Berlin. His musical output is shaped by pioneering artists like Kevin Saunderson, Richie Hawtin, and Moodymann in the US, in addition to European heavyweights like Pantytec, Ricardo Villalobos, and Thomas Brinkmann. Situated loosely between these two defining poles, alongside his fellow American peers like Shaun Reeves, Seth Troxler and Lee Curtiss, Ryan delivers a obsessive attention to the constant progression of his sound and embodies a ceaseless energy that carries itself from the studio directly into his live set and DJ performances. Ryan’s music has evolved from early minimalist releases as Berg Nixon on Minus to the real essence of contemporary emotional electronic music in his new guise as Birds and Souls (on Spectral and Supplement Facts) and his forthcoming ‘DRM’ album project with Cesar Merveille due out on Visionquest later this year.
SHAUN REEVES: Shaun Reeves is something of an enigma. His often-deadpan demeanor, punctuated by the occasional wide grin and wry snigger, belies a brain that never stops ticking over, plotting his next move with the measured calculation of a Russian chess master. Partying has always been integral to Shaun’s make-up. ‘The first rave I went to was in Kalamazoo, where Seth comes from.’ At one of these early raves Shaun heard Magda DJ for the first time. ‘She was busting out all these Perlon records which at the time no one else was playing. It was mind blowing.’ When Shaun left school he began throwing parties, first in small bars and attic spaces and later in loft and warehouses booking DJs like Magda, Dan Bell, Derrick May and John Tejada. He was the first member of Visionquest to blaze a trail over the Atlantic to Berlin, where he quickly established himself before encouraging his three friends to make to move to join him. In addition to his work as part of Visionquest, he has recently embarked on a solo production career which has seen him release on Wolf+Lamb, Raum and Lowptich including his much-lauded remix with Tale Of Us of ‘Time Doesn’t Tell’ by Terry.
SETH TROXLER: ‘I’ve always been kinda bat-shit crazy’, explains Seth Troxler. Spending time in his company is like trying to break dance in a tornado. At 26 years old he’s the youngest of the four but, standing at six foot two, also the loudest and most confident, a constant ball of energy exploding with new ideas and concepts. Descended from a family of cowboys and Baptist preachers, he’s part African-American, part Egyptian, part Cherokee Indian but while his heritage is all-American his global outlook transcends his small-city Mid-Western origins. When he’s not tearing up clubs the world over he’s responsible for laying down some of the most original vocals in house and techno today in conjunction with many of underground music’s A-List including, Matthew Dear, Art Department, Tiefschwarz, Deetron and dOP. At 14 he threw his first party and booked Madga to play for him. At 15 he landed a job as techno buyer in Detroit’s legendary ‘Melodies & Memories’ record store. Less than a decade later he’s just been voted Number Three then Number Two most popular DJ in the world two years running in Resident Advisor’s annual poll, delivered an Essential Mix on BBC Radio One and later this year will embark on his third summer as star resident at Circo Loco and DC10, arguably modern day underground house and techno’s most influential club.