Deep Sea Dweller
The first release as Drexciya was Deep Sea Dweller which came out in 1992 on Shockwave Records. At the time this now defunct label worked out of the same infamous building as Submerge at 2030 Grand River along with UR and the appointment only Somewhere in Detroit shop. I know that the first Acid Rain release by Underground Resistance is on Shockwave, so I suppose this was a UR sub-label of the time. Drexciya's beginnings are therefore placed right at the epicentre of 90's Detroit techno. Of course they have always disavowed any musical influence from the city but they certainly benefited from its blossoming facilities and growing popularity.
Following on from this release would be the 12”’s known as Drexciya 2 - 5. This has to make this number 1, even though it doesn’t state it on the label it wouldn’t strictly be necessary if it was the first.
This came out a year after the false start of the L.A.M. 12" Balance of Terror and surprisingly the first two tracks here on side A could easily fit that mould. 'Sea Quake' and 'Nautilus 12' are both extremely fast paced and would suite any dance floor that liked it hard. They are good tracks certainly but not the brave new start you might imagine. However, the two tracks on the other side are the brave new start. The vinyl on this side, perhaps significantly, runs from the inside out and it’s two tracks display the soon to become recognisable Drexciya sound or template. ‘Depressurisation’ and ‘Sea Snake’ are both more medium paced numbers which show off an already mature production technique. Quite why we have such a jarring mix of music on each side of this record might be a sign of wanting to give some variety or possibly an uncertainly over the latter two tracks appeal. The source of this uncertainly might of course lie with the label. It’s no wonder that latterly both of these more recognisably Drexciya sounding tracks were included on The Quest compilation, although to be fair ‘Sea Quake’ is on there too. The fact that the vinyl runs from the inside out on side B might be a neat way to symbolise how different this new sound is to their old, effectively turning it completely on it’s head/backwards. It's strange that the title of the first and last track of the EP are so similar. Again this might be to underline the differing nature(Quake/Snake) of the music while coming from the same source (Sea). National Sound Corporation (NSC) cut the vinyl like they did for UR and a whole host of other Detroit labels. At this early stage the engineers there were a big part of Detroit electronic music, having already turned Jeff Mills on to the possibilities of locked grooves and were working closely with UR on unique vinyl design, check UR’s Rings of Saturn 12”, which also runs from inside out.
Thankfully for us Drexciya started as they meant to go on by giving us a separate title for this EP, not just using one of it’s key tracks. So we get an album type theme for how they envision this release. Deep Sea Dweller and the two run out groove etchings, ‘Techno from the Deep’ and ‘Deep H20’ gives this release its keyword, deep. This word is even underlined three times on the ‘Deep H20’ run out etching. Of course this is all from before they started to detail, populate and story tell about their undersea world, all we have here at the beginning is a hint of what is to come. If anything it’s just an initial location of where we are going with introductions to follow later. All the titles refer to the sea, notably none of the L.A.M. titles are remotely aquatic. This all might seem a little thin as far as a theme goes, although an EP can only go so far, but Stinson himself spoke of how water alone contains everything, “...the reason I adopted the whole background and whole theme of water was for it’s longevity. Water was here at the beginning before we existed and water will be here when we go away. It’s beautiful.”
It might seem surprising that Drexciya seem so happy to label themselves as techno, but this is not so straight forward for this is ‘techno from the deep’. They are here already letting us know they are not going to be a conventional Detroit act, on the surface yes, but look deeper and you will know. It’s always struck me as a nice coincidence that they should work so closely with a company called Submerge too.
The image used on the label, shown in negative on the reverse, looks like someone with very long arms outstretched or at a glance the observation deck of a submarine, certainly more down going themed stuff.
The credits read simply ‘written, mixed and produced by Drexciya’, which could be read as a clear and proud declaration of independence on their behalf.
If we try to date the recordings themselves my best guess would be to put the L.A.M. style tracks around mid 1992 and the other two towards the end of 1992. This in between period might be the real musical breakthrough point for Drexciya, while the whole philosophical side had been gestating since as early as 1989.
Following James Stinson’s death Deep Sea Dweller was re-released, along with a number of their 12” from the 90’s, in 2003 by UR. It was great to see Drexciya’s legacy being recognised in this way and the fact that the music could stand up so well ten years later spoke that this was more about the music than someone having died.
Drexciya 2 Bubble Metropolis is next.