Following the success of the performance, the orchestra reconvened in the studio with Craig and Tristano in 2010. “We had to work through a new way of recording for me and a new way for the orchestra,” says Craig, whose studio mastery was tested to the limits in the painstaking edits and reworks he’s since worked on.
The pieces as they appear on the finished ‘Versus’ album have changed substantially, a labour of love continuously revisited over the last half decade, in and around Craig’s busy remix and performance schedules.
A mere member of the orchestra in the original performance, Craig has stepped to the fore on the recorded version, designing new interlude pieces and completely new percussion tracks for each composition. ‘Versus’ now offers an even more integrated marriage of machine and orchestra than the live show, and as a result some tracks, like the Iraq war–inspired ‘Sandstorms’, would even work in a club. Others, like ‘Desire’, boast a crunching rhythm closer to the original recording, and ‘At Les’, while retaining the psychedelic beauty of the original, is all about the orchestra’s delicate layers.
But does music inspired by sci-fi and proud of its forward-thinking nature lose any of its vision in the hands of traditional instruments? Carl Craig doesn’t think so, citing the Gravity movie soundtrack as a comparable example of merging orchestration and modern techniques to create something beyond contemporary. “You can be futuristic with a guitar and a flanger,” he says. “It’s not the instrument that’s futuristic; it’s the idea behind what’s played that makes it futuristic.”
“With us, in Detroit, Chicago or New York, when technology came into play we didn’t need to hire a studio with a band,” he says, comparing house and techno’s pioneers to earlier ensembles like MFSB and Salsoul Orchestra. “That wasn’t the vision. The vision was a futuristic one: man and machine. The necessity for an orchestra became nil.