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Essential listening: Motor City Drum Ensemble

Essential listening: Motor City Drum Ensemble

Eileen Pegg | Features & Interviews

On first listen to his Raw Cuts output – a standout collection that no doubt introduced many to Danilo Plessow’s Motor City Drum Ensemble project – you’d be forgiven for thinking that the hands of a seasoned Detroit resident crafted these cuts, not a 20-something man from Germany. Nevertheless, this simultaneously timeless yet refreshing sound and production hallmark has been honed through many years of creating music; Plessow’s been releasing since the age of 16, making him an ‘old soul’ when it comes to experience.

Though the skilfully sampled Raw Cuts series helped to refine Motor City Drum Ensemble’s career they by no means define it, as is clear when taking a listen back to just five of his records from over the years.

There’s a certain charm in all things industrial that many electronic music fans are drawn towards. For these people, “Monorail” is the perfect record, hailing from the hands of a producer based in Germany’s own ‘motor city’, Stuttgart. As deep as it gets, the dusty euphoric sound created so well by the strings is accented by harsh synth stabs, adding perfect imperfection to the final, wonderful track.

Inverse Cinematics – Slow Swing
Before his Motor City Drum Ensemble project, Danilo Plessow released an impressive catalogue of records under the Inverse Cinematics alias with Joachim Tobias. By 2002, one of these productions “Slow Swing” had been picked to introduce Hipp-E & Halo’s Fabric 07 mix – a true benchmark of the career that was soon to come for Plessow. In this ridiculous, rolling, stylishly awkward beat, his love of sampling is clear, as well as an understanding of what makes a formidable groove. Compared to his later warm ‘n’ fuzzy productions, however, “Slow Swing” was cooked on somewhat cooler temperatures.

Raw Cuts #3
This self-released series on the MCDE imprint was something of a victory cry for Plessow, truly stamping Motor City Drum Ensemble’s recognisable sound deep into the collective consciousness of the house music listener. Now, the question amongst fans isn’t whether you’ve heard the Raw Cuts collections, it’s a discussion over your favourite – and Melba Moore’s chopped up tones in #3 gets our vote every time.

Get Slapped Up
“Get Slapped Up” is a roguish cut, reserved strictly for the heights of dancefloor mayhem. Best played in those hours that tread the fine line between the latest moments of night and the earliest morning minutes, there are cowbells and build ups a plenty to be enjoyed in this belter, now unbelievably over a decade old.

After inadvertently ticking Fabric off the ‘must-feature compilations’ list many years ago, 2011 gave us Plessow's fine DJ Kicks mix to add to the collection. Praised though it is for his selection of tracks, it also housed a stellar production created exclusively for the !K7 label’s series. “L.O.V.E” is a grown up ‘n’ sexy groover, dripping with soul thanks to its pulsing bassline and vocal hook, but always staying sophisticatedly subdued.

Motor City Drum Ensemble has a Sunday double header on the cards this Easter, with a sold out Circus show in Liverpool and an appearance at Manchester’s Albert Hall for Community. He also appears at UK festivals Parklife and Lovebox this summer.

Photo courtesy of Motor City Drum Ensemble and Yannick van de Wijngaert

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Essential listening: Motor City Drum Ensemble

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