"YOU KNOW SYNESTHESIA? That thing where certain people hear words or numbers and they see colors? I get that with Detroit. When I see the city, I hear music." This is Jimmy Edgar's explanation of how growing up in the ailing urban industrial zone has affected his music.
After living in New York and Berlin for five years, Edgar is back in his hometown. He explains, "I felt a little guilty about joining the cliché that anyone in Detroit that does anything leaves. People in Europe think it's some apocalyptic techno mecca, but there's no opportunity for artists here. The best you can do is maybe have parties or at least try to inspire people."
But there was a time when Detroit was making techno history, and it coincided with Edgar's formative years. He found himself DJing alongside techno legends like Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and Richie Hawtin at age 15, but only because his friend's brother was promoting raves and needed cheap opening talent. "I didn't even really know who those guys were," says Edgar. "I just thought they were local DJs."
Edgar was more drawn to Detroit's art community, and he concentrated on photography and attending Baptist church (strictly for the music lessons). Soon his sexed-up microchip beats impressed somebody at Warp Records, and he was signed to the holy grail of electronic music labels at age 18. More recently Edgar joined boutique dance music label K7 for XXX, a thematic electronic art pop album that continues to explore sex and tension. "Sex is such a taboo subject," says Edgar, "if you start getting creative with it, it'll get shot down, and I find that really interesting."
Opening tracks "Function of Your Love" and "Hot, Raw, Sex" bring to mind the glory days of Afrika Bambaataa, Prince, and Nu Shooz, while "Push" is squarely in Justin Timberlake territory. Edgar reminisces on early 1990s skating rink jams, but deftly updates the sounds with ample club bass and his signature skittery beats, R&B touches, and of course, traces of his native city.
"Detroit brings about this specific, cinematic experience and special energy," says Edgar. He pauses, then delivers the best city simile of all time: "It's like this groaning, crying, decrepit, beaten woman that you just wanna take care of in some way."