Monday, August 01, 2005

Harnessed The Storm

Storm #1: The first album in the Drexciya Storm series, Harnessed The Storm (Tresor 2002), in my opinion gives the most clues to what the series is all about and where it may be leading us. It seems odd that the first Storm should come out after The Other People Place and first Transllusion albums, but James Stinson himself said, "There’s no particular order that they’re going to be released in. The records are already done." It does at least seem right and proper that this first storm is the sole record credited to Drexciya in the series.

Looking at the music content first we begin as the title of the first track suggests, just as a storm is brewing. But this is not a storm of the land for these are ‘Under Sea Disturbances’. Once this track kicks in though it's business as usual, classic dance-floor Drexciya. 'Digital Tsunami' is cut from a similar cloth and of course the title brings to mind further aquatic storm conditions albeit of a worsening variety. The digital reference could only mean music, so this is another way of saying musical storm I guess. 'Soul of the Sea' is more contemplative, the first breath for air from the unbroken fast tempo so far.
It's also worth considering this quote by John Philip Cohane in his book The Key (1969), "Saiwala is the oldest recorded form of the word soul. The word saiwala, or soul, is closely related to the word sea." Sea as soul and soul as sea. The pace picks up slightly on 'Song of the Green Whale', you could dance to this although it tends to intentionally break down in places as it nears the close. This track is good to illustrate how Drexciya use a live approach in recording as opposed to sequencing. I've no idea how many versions they might have to jam through before they get to the definitive version but certainly this approach allows the odd tell-tale mistake to creep in, but nothing more than the odd split second release of a track in the wrong place or an effect being held for a bar too many. This approach might even be one of the secrets of the music's success; giving it a raw dangerous element of surprise.

'Dr Blowfins' Black Storm Stabilizing Spheres' is much more threatening sounding with lots of sharp angles as it rattles along. This track also introduces us to an early character of Drexciyan yore and also contains a reference to a storm. On the Grava 4 sleeve-notes it states that Dr Blowfin was given the orders to initiate the seven dimensional cloaking spheres to hide the other three planets from Earths view as an Earth scientist has just discovered the Drexciya home planet. The most obvious thing here is the seven spheres reference which has to mean the seven Storms. The reference to black storms might mean that the space would now appear to Earth as black and empty. The Storms themselves which do not us the name Drexciya also effectively hide the identity of their creators on all but this first one which maybe makes sense as this is the moment when all the storms are harnessed together and everything proceeding one will be a mystery. Going further, seeing as Earth has already discovered the planet Drexciya then it's ok to give that name away at the beginning as it's no mystery anymore but if they want to find it again they will have a problem locating it. Artistically it was also a very practical way for them to use the freedom that these pseudonyms provide when releasing so many albums that cover such a variety of styles.

'The Plankton Organization' is very fast paced, on the attack. The title might refer to a group in authority, more on this later. 'Mission to Ociya Syndor and Back' again made sense when Grava 4 came out. Not only was there a track called 'Ociya Syndor' but on the map of the Drexciya home universe there is a planet called by the same name. Musically it might be the most adventurous here, stop-starting and experimental. 'Aquatic Cataclysm' does not sound like things are getting better, this is a violent storm and it’s reflected in the majority of the music here. 'Lake Haze' sounds more old school Drexciya than anything else on the album and is firmly designed for the dance-floor. The positively titled 'Birth of New Life' is my favourite, very laid back, and could easily fit the template of Storm number 3 by The Other People Place. I will tackle this Storm later and only say now that it is very much the love/philosophy album of the seven. Which makes this the violent scene-setter of the series.

In the Pratt interview James Stinson said this directly about the album, "For me and my partner, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of personal things in my world being turned upside down. 'Harnessed' has a lot of personal memories. It's melancholy and very well-rounded. There's a lot of different emotions: laid-back, mad, frustrated, happy . . . it has it all.” This certainly sounds like they were creating a world that reflected their own at the time. Speaking of the title of the album he said in the Beere interview, "It relates to this whole situation directly with the seven storms that are brewing. It took a whole year to put together these seven albums. It was very, very violent and very chaotic in a lot of different ways. Ups and downs. If you're in the middle of a storm, you have your ups and downs. You have all the elements that there are on this planet that exist in a storm, from water to air, fire, electricity. You might have a cow or a truck mixed up in there too. Those are the images that we perceived when we made the music and that's how the concepts come about. To answer your question, it had a lot to do with the album and everything going on around us was very turbulent.” Knowing this it seems likely that each album was approached separately during this turbulent year, but something like The Other People Place album is quite different in that it sounds like it was completed in one mood, while Harnessed sounds like it was done over a period where many different moods held sway with its creators, but it won't be the only one like that in the series.

I would sum up the story being told in this opening Storm as follows. 'Under Sea Disturbances' is obviously the beginning of major problems in Drexciya's underwater world. This culminates in a tsunami so violent that it effects the very soul of its civilisation, throwing its inhabitants out of its own home, in every sense this is very much a paradise lost. There are a few lines about the Pythagorean concept of the music of the spheres which Robert Fludd wrote that resonate with this idea, "Earthly music is only the faint tradition of the angelic state, it remains in the mind of man as a dream of, and the sorrow for, the lost paradise. (The music) produced from the impact upon the paths of the planets, which stand as chords or strings, by the cross travel of the sun from note to note, as from planet to planet." Perhaps the 'Song of the Green Whale' is composed to mark this momentous event so people do not forget.

The scene now changes to the Drexciya Home Universe where perhaps acting under orders from 'The Plankton Organisation' which might be what passes for the government/rulers of this place. Dr Blowfin decisively acts and sets in motion the seven black storm stabilising spheres. As I have already stated on the surface we learn in the Grava 4 sleeve notes that these are to hide the remaining planets of the Drexciya Home Universe from the prying eyes of Earth but this is also I believe a metaphor for a puzzle which needs to be figured out before we can ever hope to regain paradise (this is the central theme of my interpretation of the Storm series). Back in the fictional world of the album and the track, 'Mission To Ociya Syndor and Back', on Earth there is now a mission undertaken to go back to visit this home universe and then to return (with the information/things they would need to rebuild again I presume). However the idea of the seven spheres or storms has been introduced and it is possible I believe that if we understand these we can attain the same goal as returning to the planet. In many ways this journey can from now on also be read as metaphor, although Drexciya will continue to use the physical journey as a device to tell the story. The most important part of this journey will be the return, this is the key/end point to the whole series. But returning to what, a memory of themselves I would say.

The full impact of what has happened their underwater world really hits as the mission begins it’s journey and the event becomes known as the ‘Aquatic Cataclysm’. ‘Lake Haze’ may stand for how they are already forgetting their previous existence. The lake here implies that they don’t even remember that it was once the ocean itself that was their domain, the haze is now the fog of memory. ‘Birth of New Life’ can only mean hope. The following Storms begin the real process of making them become what they once were and this first one is the very beginning of that process, learning the facts of what has gone before and this kindling a hope within us of new life, a return. This album and the final Storm could both be looked at as scene setting bookends to the series.

Sadly there were no extra tracks on the Digital Tsunami 12” or its artwork (just standard label text) to gleam for clues. However the artwork of the album is intriguing to say the least. Perhaps the swirl image is the storm and the 8 translucent spheres surrounding a pulsating white one which are all backed by a larger sphere (a planet?) ties into all of this in that the 8 spheres are all of the 8 albums (including Grava 4) which will make up the one story of the return to Ociya Syndor? This might be an assumption too far but your guess is as good as mine.

Next up will be The Opening of the Cerebral Gate by Transllusion.


Blogger Stephen said...

That thought has crossed my mind too, it is a bit of a coincidence.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Divisioner said...

i cannot believe what have get drexciya sounds,
please do not forget us, come to Madrid Spain, urgently !!!!

Drexciya dies and returns again and again

8:37 AM  

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