Cybotron’s debut album ‘Enter’ is important for when it was released (1983); notable for where it was made (Detroit); and hugely significant for who made it (Juan Atkins, one of the Belleville Three, the Detroit musicians who are credited with inventing techno in the 1980s). As the first album released by any of the Three (Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson make up the legendary numbers), ‘Enter’ makes a very strong claim for being the first Detroit techno album, and for that reason alone it should be hung in museums and preserved in Arctic seed banks for all eternity.
Fortunately, ‘Enter’ is also a brilliant, pioneering and extremely strange album, laced with sky-gazing funk, melodic clarity and futuristic wonder. While the combination of all three aspects is hugely important, it is perhaps the latter that makes ‘Enter’ the precursor for Detroit techno, a genre that looked to the horizon for inspiration and even salvation. “That was basically the concept behind the whole album,” Atkins told journalist Dave Tompkins. “Clear out the old program. Technological revolution.”
‘Enter’ marks the point when techno started to diverge from electro, and the first seeds of a new music were sown. The album’s sound isn’t always a radical diversion from electro, perhaps, but it represented a shift in attitude from the straight-up dancefloor obsessions of the hip-hop-influenced sound, towards something more radical, futuristic and extreme.
The stylistic root of this bizarrely wonderful release can be traced back to Cybotron’s unusual make-up. The group was formed in 1980 by a youthful Juan Atkins and Vietnam vet Richard “3070” Davis in music class at Detroit’s Washtenaw Community College. Davis had already released one record by this time — 1979’s proto-techno classic ‘Methane Sea’ — and there was a dozen years in age, not to mention a world of experience, between the two. Davis had seen action in the notorious Tet offensive, one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War and, as he explained to Tompkins, “I was not in the rear with the gear.” But the two bonded over synths, and soon started to record as Cybotron, the name a portmanteau of cyborg and cyclotron.