Motor City Drum Ensemble

Johnny Owens

I had planned to begin this review with an analogy about how apt it is – given the collective preoccupation with zombies and the like over the last few years – that Motor City Drum Ensemble (real name Danilo Plessow) is in the habit of resurrecting things that for a long time were considered by the vast majority of us to be dead and forgotten, but what would be much more appropriate would be to dub him as some kind of soulful Victor Frankenstein. In both his original productions and his DJ sets, Mr. Plessow digs up songs from the vinyl graveyard before cutting and chopping and slicing them into something wholly new and rather wonderful . What Mr. Plessow makes isn’t your bog-standard, common or garden variety House – with the usual thump and rattle of its pre-packed, pre-fab 909 kicks and claps – but something genuinely incomparable, inimitable and – if you aren’t already familiar – I suggest you get yourself acquainted.

I’ve decided to detail the only main criticism I have just to get it out of the way before getting into the review good and proper, the reason for this being that it wasn’t actually detrimental to the night overall, or the fault of Mr. Plessow. It is actually one I have had – and will no doubt continue to have in the future – about pretty much every night that I’ve ever spent at Sub Club, which is the overegging of the goddamn smoke machine. Sub Club isn’t a particularly big establishment and it’s usually a sweatbox – which was certainly the case on this night – so the use of a smoke machine every five minutes, or even at all, really isn’t necessary in the slightest – unless of course your top priority is to both blind and suffocate your patrons in some sort of weird, Lovecraftian disco catacomb.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get back to the music. What’s particularly remarkable about Mr.Plessow is that he seems to treat his productions and his DJ sets as entirely separate entities from one another. Of the sets that I’ve heard by him, I cannot recall ever having heard him playing one of his own songs during any of them. Mr. Plessow utilises his DJ sets not as a tool for self-promotion but instead as a way of communicating his very real love and appreciation of the music that he plays, while simultaneously reminding his audience of the true ethos behind house music, which originally put great emphasis on sharing music and the importance of community.

As far as technical ability is concerned, Mr. Plessow is certainly unparalleled – at one point transitioning seamlessly between disco and acid house, something I personally would have considered close to impossible to accomplish without the 303s of the latter creating a squelching cacophony, but Mr. Plessow seems to be making a habit of achieving the near impossible (he apparently creates each entry in his Raw Cuts series within a time limit of two hours).

I think I can safely say that this was by far my best Sub Club experience – perhaps even the best night I’ve had anywhere in Glasgow – and if you get the opportunity to see Motor City Drum Ensemble for yourself sometime in the future then take it, if for no reason other than the fact that Mr. Plessow goes against what many audiences have come to expect of modern DJs and producers: he doesn’t stand behind a set of decks looking moody, he dances and he smiles and he sings along to the music he loves. Disco ain’t dead anymore, and I’m pretty alright with that.


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