Friday, September 02, 2005

L.I.F.E.

Storm #6: I was inclined to believe that L.I.F.E. by Transllusion was the natural closer of the Storm series until I began to see so many connections between Shifted Phases and the post Storm Grava 4. So what we have on L.I.F.E. is the conclusion to the evolutionary curve we have been on and the beginning of the physical journey home which is concluded on Shifted Phases. Personally I would have expected the Storm to be one conceptual piece without the beginning of a physical journey seemingly tacked on to the end but after trying to interpret Shifted Phases from all conceivable angles I just can't in good conscience place it anywhere but the end. Although Storm #2, the first Transllusion album, is when the evolutionary theme really begins, so in one way it's quite fitting that the second Transllusion album should end this process.

To recap, on Storm #1, Harnessed The Storm, we have the violent scene setter which tells us that all is not well but ends on a note of hope of a new kind of life. Storm #2 The Opening of the Cerebral Gate is when things start to become clear, it is the first real step in the Storm towards this new life as we learn to look within and explore our mental dimensions. Storm #3, Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe, tells us to continue this process of finding our true selves but also to develop/retain our basic human emotions, especially love and not to become a victim of the coldness of technology/modern society. Storm #4 by Abstract Thought, is the first of two pre-evolutionary exercises, in this case 6 thought exercise. Storm #5 by Lab Rat XL is where 6 biological experiments take place. On L.I.F.E., Storm #6, we take the final evolutionary step.

There is a wealth of titles, subtitles and artwork to furnish us with additional information to crack the concept here. The true title of the album turns out to be ‘Life Is Fast Ending’. This can even be extended to the phrase 'Life is fast ending, so live' taken from their 'message to the world' in the artwork of this album as well. This reminds me of when Stinson talked of his inspiration in 2001, “It came from deep inside my mind. God gave me this vision and I’m building on it, bringing it to life for the whole world to see."
We’ll never know for sure how certain James Stinson was of his impending death, if anything when he speaks of his future in Atlanta he seems full of positive plans, “...the move is going on. It involves relocating and rebuilding our studios, re-launching the businesses and then that's going to be about it. Once our company gets going, I'm going to cut my hours back and eventually I'll get my own truck.” So I don’t think we need to be too morbid and always think he means himself when we read things like, ‘Life is fast ending’. He was obviously aware of his heart problems and even the move to Atlanta was for this reason but I feel he is making a broader point for all of us and not just thinking of his own potential end.

In small type underneath Transllusion is the subtitle 'Don’t Be Afraid of Evolution’. In the second of these Storm articles I argued that a possible meaning of the word transllusion was to become transparent. Maybe in this context the real meaning of transllusion is evolution? Once our fear to evolve is overcome how might this step towards evolution be consciously approached? In the Rephlex press release we luckily have some additional instruction from the band, “Open your mind to another time, place and dimension. Feel electronic music in a way you may have never felt before.” The is a crucial line as the first part is almost like a summing up of the Storm so far as you will by now be familiar with the concepts of another time, place and dimension and more besides. The second part is telling us to use these same insights when listening to electronic music. To the point that we will be able to feel the music in a way we have never done before. It could be read as the ‘Open your mind and your ass will follow’ quote for the electronic age. Considering also that this is probably the musically least accessible of all the Storms it's interesting that this is the one in particular that we are being asked to listen to in this way. It is a deep album for sure but there's some real clashes going on sound-wise. Listen to it on headphones and you'll more easily appreciate how many tracks are layered on here and how some of them even work against each others melodies. This is best shown on ‘I’m Going Home’ which has what sounds like a keyboards banjo setting playing it’s own melody and some other sound altogether playing another set of notes which are kind of good on their own but a bit messy at the same time. In saying that, this is how they want it to sound and I can still find some obvious stand-outs here like 'Consequences’, ’Memories of Me’ and ‘Jogging on the Moon’.

Previous album titles like The Opening of the Cerebral Gate and track titles like ‘Power of the 3rd Brain’ come full circle in the artwork which includes two images of a human brain. There is no artwork credit but it seems likely that Drexciya had a large hand in it. As I said before when considering the Abstract Thought artwork it may be that a designer friend of theirs did it with them or someone else under their instruction. Even though its a good design, the finish is quite rough, both the front and back cover for example look like they were saved at a slighter lower resolution than is standard, but it does the job. The front cover doesn't tell us much but the back is where things get interesting. One large superior looking silver brain is circled by a repeating pattern of star, crescent moon and sun. To speak of ‘the sun, the moon and the stars’ is a common enough phrase regarding enlightenment and I think that’s exactly what this is about. There are 3 other brains circling this one and they seem to be more densely packed with the stuff of the universe and also have the same sun, moon and star patterned outline. Two other spheres contain outlines of human figures which are doing nothing less than ascending, the third sphere is a more crude rendering which represents the same thing. There are seven spheres in all which matches the number of Storms , but could be a coincidence. I would read it that the ascending figures are now at this next stage of evolution, ascending as a result of the insights they have received during the Storm series. As usual we have a Dimensional Waves production credit in the artwork too, which has been ‘Transmitted’ in this case, the third time that phrase has been used alongside ‘beamed’ and ‘filtered’.

To take the track titles in order we begin with ‘Dirty South Strut’. This appears to be a tongue in cheek start anyway from the newly southern state resident Stinson, an in-joke and message to anyone who ever thought that location was a factor in the Drexciya sound. I guess this and the untitled Lab Rat XL tracks were also confirmation that while the music of the Storm series was done in one year the titling and artwork etc was done at a later period closer to the release dates. 'Memories of Me' may be our first cause to consider Stinson making a direct reference to himself, though as I've said I get the impression from his quotes that he was looking towards a future. But I guess he would have also been prepared for the worst which this seems to indicate. 'Consequences' too might also be hinting at being resolved to something ending although the title 'Rolling with the Punches of L.I.F.E.' shows an accepting and positive attitude to life’s ups and downs. There is also a very slowed down male vocal which sounds like it is saying 'Just Roll, just pick it up', back and forth through out the track. 'Jogging on the Moon' is significant in that it is the first reintroduction of a space theme since Storm #4 and that is where we are heading on the next and final Storm of Shifted Phases.

‘Bump It’ features a space alien type voice which was previously used on Der Zyklus 2 on ‘Mxyzptik’. I will reprint the entire lyric only because it is concerned with space and experiments which has proved to be relevant so far. “I am Mxyzptik coming from a black hole on the other side of the gamma quadrant. I am now conducting tests with your bio-ports. It's an experiment in bio technology. I’m up to my old dirty tricks again. This is Mxyzptik conducting experiments and testing new theories in alien concepts. I am now in connection with your mind, I shall now exit.” Not that the lyrics to ‘Bump It’ are anything like that, they are more of the “Bump it, work it, side to side” variety, nor does the music sound alike so maybe we should not look for a connection, more the hazards of sharing the same studio, but the lyrical sentiment may be worth considering.

‘Code Blue’ could be a warning of something not right, shades of ’Under Sea Disturbances’? The final track is ‘I’m Going Home’ and this is the one that really explains the journey in the next Storm and even the destination on Grava 4. The home referred to here is the Drexciya home universe and its planet Ocyia Syndor. What they have been doing with the Storm series so far is preparing us for our journey home, it could even be argued that this is not the first time they have hinted at these space origins either, but I will confine myself to considering the Storms for now.

This album is all about life and death, it tells us to live life when we have the chance but also to accept the bad things too and even death when it comes. Whether we are close to death or not we can all relate to questions about the meaning of life and what happens after death and this is what seems to be concerning Drexciya in this final evolutionary Storm before our journey home through space.

Rephlex also had a 12” EP by Transllusion called Third Eye. This release no doubt relates to the album and therefore plays its own role in the Storm series. On it the very echo filled male vocal on ‘Your Holding Me Up’ says lyrics along the lines of, “Your holding me up, your holding me back, test the beat, damn funny, kids don’t make none, roll the dice, lets see what you got, don’t hold me up, lets go.” This sounds like someone ready to evolve to me. The similarity of its title track and 'Power of the 3rd Mind' from the other Transllusion 12”, Mind Over Positive And Negative Dimensional Matter, might be telling us that this is part of the evolutionary process, to gain vision of the 3rd eye, as well as use of the 3rd brain. The fact of these type of similarities between the two Transllusion albums (Storn #2 and #6) look very much like they are being flagged as the beginning and end of the evolutionary part of the Storm (Storm's #1 and #7 being more like the bookends of the physical story).

Maybe some final clarification of the nature of the Storms is needed at this stage. As I explained when discussing Storm #1 (Harnessed the Storm), on Grava 4 we learn that Dr Blowfin releases the seven dimensional cloaking-spheres to hide the other three planets of the Drexciya home universe from Earth's view. These are the seven Storms and each one a dimensional wave. This is a cloaking device in that it is a puzzle. As long as we fail to understand the Storms we fail to see the connection with the Drexciya home universe/Grava 4. To be worthy/able to truly ascend/go home is to follow the path taught during the Storm, to look within and explore our mental dimensions, to develop/retain our basic human emotions, especially love, to carry out the 6 thought exercises and 6 biological experiments and finally to overcome our fear of death and take the last evolutionary step, to then live in this knowledge and ascend.

It strikes me that the way we may be meant to read the phrase 'Life is fast ending, So Live' could be, life as we live/know it is fast ending for us if we have been following the evolutionary progress of the Storm series to this point, so now is the time to really live anew in this knowledge. There is a wonderful universal message for everyone contained in the Storm series. The fact that it concerns a purely mental evolution means it is open to everyone. Truly Dexciya's inspiration did indeed come from above. So follow the instructions and remember, life is fast ending, so live.

The evolutionary part of the Storm has ended, now the journey begins with Shifted Phases next.

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