Friday, July 22, 2005

Gerald Donald

The latest Arpanet album, 'Quantum Transposition', is about to be released and if the advance press is to be believed we can expect its style to follow on in the same experimental manner as Dopplereffekt 'Linear Accelerator' and Der Zyklus 'Biometry'. It’s all a long way from the more accessible ‘Cellular Phone’, ‘Pornoviewer’ or ‘Speak & Spell’. Certainly Gerald Donald has taken a quantum leap regarding his song writing template, so much so that he may not now even consider his compositions to have one. The Linear Accelerator album must have come as a real surprise to the fans. I was certainly taken aback but I quickly took it to heart because it was so the opposite of what I had expected that it made me even more curious about it than I might have been. It made me want to find a way in and now fits into my usual rotation of CDs with ease.
The fact that Donald has now taken three previously accessible projects into such a different musical realm shows how serious he is about following this line of thought and composition. What this means for the next Japanese Telecom is anyone’s guess.
However, this should not have been such a surprise. With hindsight the most obvious flag to this new direction could be found way back in 1999 on the track ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ on the compilation of the same name. This long brooding instrumental sounds nothing like anything that has gone before it and would not have sounded out of place 5 years later on Linear Accelerator. Presuming it had to be a new track it looks like Donald knew exactly where he was going next and this compilation was the perfect opportunity to wrap up his Dopplereffekt past and signal his own future direction. Of course he spent the next 4 - 5 years known for that early Dopplereffekt sound and even continued to produce it himself for a few more years. On the eve of the second Arpanet album it's worth pointing out that was it's predecessor 'Wireless Internet' (2002) that first signalled his future immersion in a specific scientific subject on his albums. But the music has not yet been affected by this transition. This probably was just that, a transitionary phase.
It’s interesting that it took up to 7 or 8 years for Dopplereffekts music to reach a large audience, don’t forget these tracks all originally came out in 1995. Most people only got to hear them in 1999 when the compilation came out and that was still years before the Electroclash scene really took off and every compilation had one of their tracks, if not two, alongside Miss Kitten and The Hacker et al. It’s a real testament to how amazing those tracks are that they could stand up so well after such a long time and I believe still do and will continue to. One piece of trivia as far as compilations go was way back in 1997 The Advent included Porno Actress and Plastiphilia on their Konbination Phunk comp. But these are pacey re-edits by The Advent and the cut really is superior, so it’s well worth tracking down. I can’t help but wonder if some relationship developed between the two camps out of this as it was The Advents Kombination Research label that put out the Abstract Thought album.
The science lab artwork for the first 7” Superior Race(renamed as Master Organism for the comp) is so close to the posed shots of Linear Accelerator that it has to be an acknowledgement that this new sound was the fruition of what he had been aiming for at the beginning. All through Dopplereffekt there is a whole science theme, in the song titles, artwork and even their studio is referred to as Reactor Electronics Laboratory. There are other themes too like the more obvious facism and sex, but I guess the science has won out, for now. Taking the science theme to it's logical conclusion would mean that it would have to fully embrace the nature of the music and that is where we are today.
As far as collaborators on this stuff confusion reigns. If we go by the credits then Kim Karli is involved, to what extent beyond her vocals, we’ll never know. William Scott may have been central or not, he’s not credited at all on the Gigolo comp. Donald himself went through 2 pseudonyms as well, Rudolf Fisher and Rudolf Klorzeiger. If you look at the pictures of Kim Karli on the Dataphysix releases they don’t match up with the girl pictured on the Gigolo comp, and she isn’t credited here either, but To Nhan Le Thi is credited. At least this second girl does seem to match up with the one on the ‘Linear Accelerator’ cover, although no credits at all are listed here, not even a gratuitous Heinrich Muller!
Where next, can I see anymore clues? Well, I thought it was interesting that 'Linear Accelerator' got more accessible track by track. Most people would have sequenced it the opposite way, leaving that difficult 21 minute track till the end. It’s telling that Gigolo picked the progressively more accessible second and third last tracks on the album for the 12”. So maybe that means a move away from such an experimental sound. I don’t think we’ll ever see a return to the original sound either, but something in-between. I think by the way that that word might seem to have been over used by me in describing this music but I think it might be exactly the right one judging by the science themes. Gerald Donald might well see these tracks as experiments, the best examples of things he cooked up in his recording laboratory.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Gerald Donald production style

It struck me at the time of James Stinson's death that for years we had no idea who was behind Drexciya and suddenly we knew everything about him, from his name, his age, his job, even down to how many children he had. It just felt strange at last to know, but at such a price. At least this knowledge didn't spoil what he had created, the vision had been so full of detail and depth of thought, complete; the music timeless, often peerless.

It's also easy to forget in hindsight that he had a partner, equally as talented and very much alive and still creating his own mystiques to go with his own wide range of music. Somehow managing to explore the limits of electronic music and in parallel working within the conventions of electro, often bridging the two.

It would appear that it is reliable to identify this man as Gerald Donald aka Heinrich Muller, aka Dopplereffekt, aka Der Zyklus, aka Japanese Telecom, aka Arpanet, aka Glass Domain.
Unless he wants to explain himself it is impossible to know if some of these projects were under-taken in collaboration with Stinson or others. The female vocals on early Dopplereffekt stuff does of course point to one collaborator for certain.

I never wanted this site to be about solely the past, research goes on and Gerald Donald has more than proved himself worthy for further thought and study, his music and concepts have all the qualities that made Drexciya so interesting.

For now its worth teasing out the Drexciya tracks that bear the touch of Gerald Donald’s production hand more firmly than usual and there are far more than you might think. Its a strange concept at first to listen to such a unique and original band as Drexciya and find yourself saying, ‘Hey, that doesn't sound like Drexciya!’, but there are some oddities, all pre 1996 which make you wonder. I've picked what I feel, in my opinion, are the most obvious ones because there are some borderline cases and hey, it is still all Drexciya music for sure but if you want to go a bit further in understanding the band I think its worth the effort.

1994’s Drexciya 4: The Unknown Aqua Zone boasts three tracks that would have fit a Donald solo project. The primitive ‘Aquabahn’ with Donald on vocals would not have been out of place on the Glass Domain EP from 1991. And while ‘Lardossen Funk’ certainly sounds like a Drexciya track from the title, on listening it sounds more like an off-cut from the first Japanese Telecom album, a taste of things to come as Donald didn’t start mining this seam till 1998. Lastly ‘Take Your Mind’, again with a Donald vocal, it sounds quite unlike Drexciya and more like another Glass Domain track.

It might be worth pointing out here while I am dealing with origins that the Drexciya blueprint can be found most fully realised on 'Radius of Infliction' on the L.A.M. Balance of Terror 12". Originally released on Detroits Hardwax label in 1992, which Stinson has referred to as the false start. There are plenty of other touches throughout this release that are recognisably Drexciya in waiting. Clone rereleased this in 2003 along with the already mentioned Glass Domain 12". Its illuminating to see Glass Domain solely credited to Heinrich Muller, meaning he was working independently even at this early stage. Its certainly a primitive production on the whole and bears little relation to Drexciya but does signal his future work with Dopplereffekt. The standout track being 'Interlock' and if you wanted to stretch it a bit maybe 'Shatter Prone' could be seen as an early template for the harder more dance floor driven Drexciya sound.

This isn't the definite article on the subject and of course is all just speculation but it's worth understanding how pre The Quest there was some crossover here and there. Hardly chinks in the armour but clues to the real people behind the mystique, which makes it more real if anything. Pretty much from when they came back in 1999 with Neptunes Lair, all through the Strom series to the end they managed to keep the music separate from Gerald Donalds solo productions and certainly different from everybody else. Although a little crossover did happen between Transllusion L.I.F.E. and the second Der Zyklus 12", which is really a subject for another day! I'll just get back to enjoying the music for now.