Desire: The Carl Craig Story Image

Desire: The Carl Craig Story

By Michael Talbot-Haynes | June 27, 2024

Your speakers will be thanking you for all that sweet, sweet techno they will blast during Desire: The Carl Craig Story, the deeply impactful music documentary by Jean-Cosme Delaloye. This profound, pulsating portrait of pioneer Carl Craig tells the tale of techno and Craig’s place in a larger lineage of black musicians.

Techno was first developed in inner-city Detroit in the 80s amongst the wreckage of incoming urban blight. What was cooking in Motor City caught the ears of London musicians and blew everything up overseas. Craig’s ethereal sound maintains a special summit within the world of synthesizer music, as is confirmed by the many admiring musicians interviewed, including Kenny Larkin, Moodyman, and Gilles Peterson. Craig’s jazz influence is also delved into, with one interviewee declaring Craig “the Miles Davis of techno.” Some very eloquent French musicians say Craig was the first to make machines cry. The film interviews Craig and his parents and siblings, chronicling Craig’s exploration of music in his grandmother’s backyard church. Craig, throughout, remains incredibly down to Earth, even when he plays shows in some of the most fancy locales on the planet.

Desire: The Carl Craig Story is a story that seems to be about one thing that is actually about everything. The subject, the legendary Craig, is the glowing doorway to so many different things that resonate on so many different levels. Director Delaoye follows many passion paths with a slew of unusual attractions along the way. No matter what your bag is, you will find a mutual fascination brought up amongst the thousands of pop culture points that appear out of nowhere.

“Craig’s ethereal sound maintains a special summit within the world of synthesizer music…”

Craig even brings up the influence in the day of the futuristic Ranxerox graphic novels from Italy, for Pete’s sake. And all through the night we are treated to one great piece of music after another. I came in with zero background on this artist’s work and came out impressed a million times over. The tunes are sublime, hitting all those hot spots even if you are not wedded to the techno format. The documentary employs Craig’s catalog to marvelous use, reinforcing its importance as well as the awe of the experts interviewed.

Delaloye employs some deceptively unorthodox architecture for a rock doc. Subject matter that usually comes out at the beginning of a conventional doc is saved for the end here. Same with the pacing, which is mixed with the types of peaks and valleys usually reserved for the type of techno-aural frescos featured. There is one point where Craig is on a literal career peak on top of a mountain in France, where the audience feels languid with huge questions over where this can go from here. Suddenly, we are in a car hurling down a broken alley in Juarez for a show at an empty nightclub. It is a jolt that is intentional and also the perfect ramp for the darker subjects.

It was fascinating to find out that instead of partying all night after shows, Craig would retire to his hotel room alone to suffer a horrible ringing in his ears. It was mesmerizing to see Craig take this private vicious circle and develop it into an interactive art exhibit. There are also very important insights into how techno is as much in the tradition of massively influential Black American music as jazz and blues. Desire: The Carl Craig Story is the story of someone who may not be on your radar until you discover Craig’s music is on your radar. It is a surprise, a pleasure, and a wonder. 

Desire: The Carl Craig Story (2024)

Directed and Written: Jean-Cosme Delaloye

Starring: Carl Craig, Kenny Larkin, Moodyman, Gilles Peterson, DJ Minx, DJ Holographic, Laurent Garnier, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Desire: The Carl Craig Story Image

"…came out impressed a million times over."

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  1. Misty Tamburelli says:

    Great review
    Do you know what platforms or where I can watch it?

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