‘Niobium Resonators’ sounds machine like, there is an engine or motor driving this thing along from the start in the deep, dense and static filled swath of sound which hits you continually throughout. The sound is clipped though, coming at you in stages before going back to the start. At a still substantial 14 minutes 25 seconds this track is much harder going for the listener than the opener. There really is no melody here present, just a collection of high pitched and continually changing noises laid on top of the already described dense bed of movement.
’t begin very promisingly if your still looking for something more accessible but once you get past its opening 'beyond minimal' minute and a half there is a pleasant enough passage of blips and bleeps which are soon joined by long arcs of tone. After awhile these arcs are left behind and replaced by a distorted and somehow majestic, even triumphant sounding synth
line, if that is what it is, it could be generated by anything really. Loads more weird and higher pitched sounds dot the remainder of the tune, because it does now possess one, in the same fashion as the previous tracks last section, to fade.
-Neutrino’ is amazing, especially considering what has just gone before. It was this track that Hell and Miss Kittin
were so floored by on their commentary on the Gigolo movie. The production is quite simple, nice melodic bass line, and ghostly melody line played at higher register. Really just two main elements here, classic, could have been done anytime in the history of electronic music and should sound just as fresh well into the future, well up there with his best work for me anyway, full of emotion. No surprise to find that at 5 minutes 14 seconds it’s also the shortest track on the album. It was no wonder that Gigolo picked this to be on the 12” to promote the album. There is a real melancholy here, I like to think it may be a requiem for a departed friend. The most prominent sound on ‘Z-Boson’ is very much like Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells which is ok
I guess as it does soon fill up with a bass line and a few sparse touches that gives it its own thing. It doesn
’t really develop within its 8 and a half minutes though and while it’s the second most accessible track on the album, also included on the 2 track 12”, it’s kind of disappointing, it just goes on too long stuck in its groove in my opinion. I used it in a DJ set I played at an art gallery once and should have mixed out of it earlier than I did for this reason. By the way the 12” sampler which contained the last two tracks has another nice picture of Donald and To Nhan
in the same laboratory and the demarcations given to each side of the vinyl is e+ and e- which are the standard symbols for positron / electron. Drexciya
of course have a track, 'Positron Island', so this does have some added significance here
. I'm guessing that the artwork of formulas printed on the CD are all to do with the same subject as the album, not my field, but they look cool. Another beauty comes to end and redeem the album in the shape of ‘Higgs
-Mechanism’. Long textured keyboard lines stretch out across its length joined by fiddly melodic computer patterns. It’s another weird one in many ways, sounding a bit incomplete but that kind of gives it a charm and identity of its own. It ebbs and flows just about comfortably over its almost 8 minute length and doesn
’t seem to run over long within its limited variation.
So what to make of that? Did I like it, I remember being more intrigued than disappointed when I first heard it but I suppose I like most people expected something similar, just a little updated than before. Now it's an album I genuinely like but can see of course how it’s really one for the fans. This is music which you have to go to, you have to make an effort with it, but it is not impossible to like it, find ways for it to enter your life. I for example am listening to it again, for the second time today just for pleasure, as I rewrite these paragraphs. The time is 7.20pm, a cat is asleep on a chair, I'm at my kitchen table with my laptop underneath a fluorescent tube. The music is certainly not blending in as background and is keeping my attention (track 2 on now which is not my favourite) but my point is that right now the music is a part of my environment and like anything else in this room right now it is filling my consciousness. Would anything about me change if I changed the music or switched it off altogether? Perhaps, but only my
environment would have changed. I have actually heard this album played publicly, at what turned out to be the final live appearance by Coil in Dublin, during it’s DEAF festival in 2004. This was a fantastically unusual event itself, held in the grand entrance to Dublin’s City Hall, the only time a gig has ever held there. It was actually a friend of mine, Paul, a physicist, I kid you not, who brought it along to provide something to play as the doors opened. Paul also provided me with some of the technical information for the track titles I’ve
used for this article. A circle closes! But I’m basically just asking, how weird is this, not very, we are so adaptable as human beings that with only a little effort we can accommodate anything new. Maybe that is something which Donald had to consider himself when he realised how his music was developing, would there even be a market for this stuff? It’s still not a record you should ever play at a house party or with your girlfriend/boyfriend but it’s also not for nerds only, it does exist somewhere between but as I said, you need to come to it, it’s for anyone who is willing to do that. But it will be a solitary listen nonetheless which I'm sure mirrors how it was made. There is a palpable feeling of sadness, a certain desolateness at the core of this experience.
There might also be a consensus amongst people who stopped buying his stuff after this that all of his music since sounds the same but that would be way off the mark and I am keen to get to those albums soon for that very reason because on the surface yes they do appear to continue with similar subject matter and the music does has the same synergy with the theme but they are full of much shorter and accessible tracks. Some of course, like the last Arpanet
album, 'Inertial Frame', even show signs of a return of a sense of humour and his next port of call after this very album would not even mention physics, particle or otherwise. Not to mention the variety of the work he is involved with as Black Replica and Zwischenwelt
. Basically I think Donald has perfected this synergy since this album, but you know, I'm sure he wouldn't see it that way, these tracks are probably exactly as he wanted them, whether people like me find them accessible or not is probably not a concern of his.
So what does it all mean. Well, I can tell you what it’s about anyway for a start. It is about high-energy physics, the area of physics dealing with subatomic particles moving at velocities close to the speed of light. The subject of the album is DESY
Hamburg, Germany, where this examination of the stuff of matter goes on. It was established in 1959 and is one of the leading particle accelerator centres in the world. DESY
is a national research centre supported by public funds and has locations in Hamburg and Zeuthen
(Brandenburg). The album linear notes give both DESY
location websites, one of which, at Zeuthen
, does indeed have a ‘Photo Injector’ test facility which produced it‘s first photoelectrons
in 2002 which might have been cause for Gerald Donald to celebrate and include a reference to it here. I'll get to it in more detail later but it's worth keeping in mind while taking in the following track title breakdown that the ultimate aim of these places is to understand gravity and if one of these places ever finds a graviton it will be headline news.
also, of course, has a ‘Linear Accelerator’ which is a device for the acceleration of subatomic particles at velocities close to the speed of light. One of the many things you can find in one of these accelerators is a ‘Z-Boson’. A Z-Boson is one of the fundamental forces of nature, the "weak force", is the one responsible for some forms of nuclear radiation. (For example, it is due the weak force that uranium is radioactive.) There must be gauge bosons which explain any fundamental force: in the case of the weak force, there are three, two "W bosons" and one "Z boson". So I guess one of the reasons Donald picked it is because it’s the most obvious/stronger of the two boson types. How thoughtful of him to make it so simple for us! One of the aspects of the Z-Boson is that it makes the otherwise unobservable neutrino visible when it interacts or moves, seemingly of its own accord. It is the presence of a neutrino that scientists believe is causing this reaction in the Z-Boson. It was thought in the '20s that when neutrons decay, the only remnants were a proton and an electron. However, experiments indicated that there also had to be a charge-less and nearly mass-less particle produced as well in order to ensure that there was no energy or momentum loss. This particle was called the "neutrino" (Italian for "little neutral one"). Subsequent experiments have indicated that there are three different types, the "electron neutrino", the "muon neutrino" and the "tau neutrino". Paul assures me that Myon is spelt wrong on the album titles and it should read muon. I found a reference to a muon in relation the Z-Boson in that the Z-Boson itself is produced by the quark-antiquark annihilation and decay of an electron positron pair of opposite charged muons. This is fairly confusing I know but if you read it back it does make readable sense. Surprisingly the Z-Boson or just the Boson appears to be the key to this album as it turns out that the two bosons yet to be discovered are the Higgs boson and the Graviton. So what is a graviton, well, current theories of physics say that all of the fundamental forces we see in nature can be explained by assuming that they are caused by emission and absorption of special particles called "gauge bosons". The graviton is the gauge boson that is exchanged whenever two masses interact via gravity. But look and this is all you really need to know about the Graviton. The main purpose of particle accelerators, like the one at DESY, is to find a graviton and if and when they do it will be one big step closer to a universal theory of gravity which in turn leads us to the possibility of the theory of everything, the holy grail of this field. When collusions occur in particle accelerators at close to the speed of light and if gravitons are being produced it is theorised that they may be existing in another dimension. Which is of interest to us in our study.
I could give you loads of future references that these terms touch on in upcoming albums but I’ll take it record by record. Incidentally his next album, 'Biometry' by Der Zyklus, doesn't even touch on this subject. I will give you a past reference I believe I missed from Dexciya’s Grava 4
though. That albums vexing unlisted track called ‘Gravity Waves’ might be a reference to a graviton or more specifically the cohesive state of many gravitons together, manifested as a gravitational wave. Which is a fluctuation in the curvature of spacetime which propagates as a wave, travelling outward from a moving object or system of objects. Examples of systems which emit gravitational waves are binary star systems, where the two stars in the binary are a ‘White Dwarf’ (track title on Shifted Phases), a neutron star or in a black hole. I’ll get to this key black hole business presently. I wonder if there could theoretically be a dimensional aspect to these gravity waves as well? I’m sure I’ve said it before but you can take DRL as a work in progress, possibly to be completed by others unknown but I feel that at least the ground work is done. You will be finding new meanings in this stuff forever and that is why their music will stand the test of time, if not musically, then certainly conceptually. There is a quote which seems appropriate to this from Heinrich Mann when he wrote of Neitzsche, "One cannot be considered present merely because one's works are still read and historically assimilated. The number of a man's adherents and imitators proves nothing for his work or its fruitfulness. What is the test? The work of a man who has passed on grows and changes; he is still finishing it from beyond. It has long since moved from the point where we once found it...".
Moving onto that other theorised but yet to be discovered Boson, the Higgs Boson. In order to be complete and satisfying, physics must have an explanation as to why particles have the masses that we measure. The leading candidate for this explanation involves particles called "Higgs bosons", and the manner in which these particles interact with others and generate their masses is called the "Higgs mechanism". This machine, also known as the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism, Higgs-Kibble mechanism or Anderson-Higgs mechanism, was originally proposed in 1964. Peter Higgs is the UK physicist who first proposed this idea. The Higgs mechanism itself is a form of superconductivity in a vacuum. It considers all of space filled with a relativistically invariant quantum fluid called the Higgs field, whose motion prevents certain forces from propagating over long distances. Part of the Higgs field mixes with the force-carrying gauge field to produce massive gauge bosons, while the rest of the Higgs field describes a new particle, called the Higgs Boson. The Higgs mechanism is the only way an elementary vector particle, like the W or the Z can have a mass. Although the evidence for the Higgs boson is overwhelming, accelerators have yet to produce one. So it is not clear if the Higgs is an elementary or a composite particle. Mind you, that hasn’t stopped Hollywood making one work. Check out the Stephen Soderbergh’s version of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris.
That brings us to ‘Niobium-Resonator’. Well, a resonator is a device for storing electromagnetic radiation, and niobium is a rare metal commonly used in building such devices. Resonator are vital component parts of the photoinjectors. As far as particle physicists are concerned, it might as well be gold. I found some statistics on how important this substance is for the future International Linear Collider (ILC). It will use over 500 tons of pure niobium to build 20,000 superconducting radio-frequency (rf) cavities, devices that accelerate electrons and their antimatter twins, positrons, along microwaves to near-light speeds. That means metal-refining factories would have to work at full capacity for three to four years solely to create highly-refined niobium for the ILC. Currently at three hundred dollars a pound, the niobium alone would cost the ILC upwards of three hundred million dollars. It will collide electrons with positrons. It will be between 30 km and 40 km long, more than 10 times as long as the 50 GeV Stanford Linear Accelerator, the longest existing linear particle accelerator in the world. .The country in which this monster will be located hasn’t yet been decided, it will probably be in operation by 2010 where ever it is, I wonder if Gerald Donald might do an album all about it someday? This brings me to the question, why DESY, why not CERN as he would a few years later with the next Dopplereffekt album, Calabi Yau Spaces. Maybe it’s not so much about DESY, although you could say it’s all about it, maybe it’s just a particle physics thing and the images just came from DESY this time, it could just as easily have been CERN, they do almost the same things there after all. But I am personally inclined to go with DESY this time. The picture of Gerald Donald and To Nhan Le Thi looks like their standing at the famous TESLA linear collider which was from late 2001 and early 2002 doing some of its most breakthrough work. Gerald Donald is certainly up to date with this stuff and maybe he felt that at this time DESY were the world leaders and he wanted to do a tribute or whatever to them. For example in September 2001, an international team of scientists succeeded in obtaining the maximum light amplification for ultraviolet radiation from the free-electron laser at the TESLA Test Facility. The electron laser reaches a light amplification of 10 million. This corresponds to the theoretically expected peak performance for such a device and presents a new world record. Then in March 2002, for the first time an accelerating field of 35 megavolts per meter (MV/m) is reached in a superconducting nine-cell TESLA cavity. It might not seen that interesting to the layman but it’s important stuff if your into it. CERN would make it’s own breakthroughs, not that it hadn’t already but this is down to the subjective mind of Gerald Donald and what he thinks is significant or just what had come to his attention at this time. In fact the Large Hadronic Collider (LHC), which is to be the world's highest energy particle accelerator, is currently being constructed at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland and this baby might even be able to make black holes, small ones and if it doesn't they at least hope to finally locate the illustrious Higgs Boson and graviton with it. Donald is definitely concerning himself with the frontiers of particle physics and this is where I believe his present mind is never far from. If you understand this you can understand him.
He doesn’t seem to take a position on the rights and wrongs of this research as he did when looking at NTT DoCoMo on the debut Arpanet album and I think that he is here going back to his original Dopplereffekt stance of accepting the good and the bad aspects of new technology, science etc. Which was, in a nutshell, the double standards of former Nazi rocket scientists bringing us to the moon. Particle physics isn’t all good either, far from it, nuclear bombs and power stations, radioactive waste, maybe even a future global catastrophe awaits us in one of these accelerators, who knows, where is it really bring us? That might be a question we should be asking ourselves. Whether Donald decides to tackles these questions himself or not will be interesting to see. Right now however on this album, he does appear to be making more of a pro-statement but he might be trying to catch us out, previously on the surface he also appeared to be taking a pro-Nazi stance but on closer inspection it wasn’t quite as straight forward as that.
The Black Hole has since this album become a big theme for Gerald Donald, from the cover of the Arpanet ‘Inertial Frame’ album, it’s a light cone aka a black hole, to the Zwischenwelt track ‘Black Hole’ to name just two examples or I’ll be here forever. He had of course shown an interest in infinity before and black-holes themselves were mentioned on the Der Zkylus II 12”, one of the questions, which are all certainly from the mind of Gerald Donald, posed on the Abstract Thought album is also about a black-hole. But here on the back of this album is a computer generated model of the top cone of just such a phenomenon. I think this is one of the things which he is now choosing to explore more thoroughly than before, what it is, what would happen if you went into one, what possibilities might it lead to, those type of questions, are some of his major concerns from this point on. What this fascination with black holes might be telling us metaphorically is another thing. Does Gerald Donald see us as being stuck in a black hole, asleep, not fully conscious of what lies just outside, another reality. Donald may be yearning for something deeper, some break-through in our knowledge of atoms, of what us and the universe are made of, which will answer everything and may give us once and for all a meaning to life. Now, I don't know about this either but you have to wonder where this research into particle physics is leading for the consciousness of Man? T
he question, "Who will benefit and who will suffer?", from the just previous to this Arpanet album comes to mind. Donald said when speaking of his interests in the constant advancements in mobile technology, "Evolution is their most interesting feature." I think in this way he is equally interested in what our progress and interest in particle physics and quantum mechanics says about where we are as a species than what it actually finds out about our universe. Essentially, I think in evolutionary terms he is trying to awaken a sense of awe in us. This same sense of awe which he so obviously feels about particle physics. The human psyche can be broken into two main drives, pleasure/love, which is outward and expansive, evolutionary and anxiety/fear which is inward and non-adaptive, de-evolutionary. Depending on the person then this type of awe could go either way, the pleasure of discovery or the fear of the unknown. Donald of course would want us to use it to our advantage, we just need first to get over our fear, stop ‘Running From Love’ (track from The Other People Place album), 'Don't be Afraid of Evolution' etc and then we can continue to evolve. As an artist he has certainly found a fertile ground to spark off idea's, imagery and concepts.
The liner notes are pretty scant but an email address is given to get in touch with Donald via dataphysix at scientist.com. This was also the case for the Arpanet album which was just previous to this. So as I stated then he has decided to continue to make himself contactable by fans or for more professional reasons like remixes, bookings etc. Two websites for DESY are also listed. The images are credited as Images: Photoinjektor des Deutschen Elektronen Synchrotrons Desy Zeuthen. Which makes me think that the photo’s are mocked up as surely a photographer would have to be credited. Mind you, they do look genuine, I would love to know if they were granted access. Again, it this vein it would be interesting to know if NTT DoCoMo were made aware of the previous Arpanet album. No artwork credits are given.
I have written elsewhere how you can break James Stinson/Drexciya into an inner personal evolution on both the early material compiled for The Quest and of course the Storm Series and that Gerald Donald’s projects can be seen as more of an impersonal, observation of evolution, concerning itself with the journey into the heart of matter, time and space, in both directions, micro (atomic level) and macro (outer space), but of course the more you go into those two extremes the more they seem the same. Although Drexciya did move into this terrain on the final Storm, Shifted Phases and their first and critical post storm album 'Grava 4. Which makes me think they were both on the same wavelength by the end, or more probably, on multiple levels of understanding at the same time. There are traces of this interest in physics dotted throughout the Drexciyan catalogue as well but it is not the driving force, more evidence of their thinking on multiple levels. I would like to think that with Donald’s move into the realm of ESP and the more esoteric avenues of Black Replica and Zwischenwelt, he is taking a step into an area that starts to possibly make a certain amount of sense at the frontiers of micro and macro knowledge. But it is a tentative step to date in some ways as he is doing it through collaboration and leaving it largely in cyber space. There’s a sort of admission on his part in this that he knows it is only a detour from his main concept, for now? But this approach might yet yield results for him, the most famous of these more head-scratching experiments, known as the double slit experiment, was done way back in 1801 by Thomas Young when he was sending photons of light through two slits and at first got a pattern of interference on a photographic plate where the light fell, but when reduced to one photon at a time it did not arrive. The question being then, how could it interfere with itself, how did it 'know' that the other slit was open and where has it disappeared to anyway? Into another dimension with the graviton? As if you now close the other slit the photon finally arrives but close it again and it disappears, this change is almost instantaneous and in space-time it actually has to be happening faster than light for it to happen because it is affecting light. What is going on? There are other experiments too where the observer affects the outcome of the experiment. Does the particle/universe know it’s being watched? Other titles on forthcoming releases will be 'EPR Effect' and 'Twin Paradox' and if you look into what they refer to then it looks more likely that the nature of these types of experiments are on Gerald Donald's mind. What things like this soon lead you to is, as I said, the possibility of there being ‘extra-dimensions’ (a phrase projected when Dopplereffekt played live last in 2007), black-holes, worm-holes and extra sensory perception to name but a few. But that all comes later, right now on this album he is still searching for a rational explanation, not that quantum mechanics is always rational!
This almost 7000 word article, by far my longest, is testament to the old adage that the less information you have the more you have to use your imagination. Which I’m sure Donald understands very well. In this case my over zealous research and speculation has no doubt blurred the meaning of the album for you. But basically if you remember nothing else you can break it down thus. Musically it gets progressively more accessible and is the first of his albums to fully synergise subject and music; the theme is high energy physics, in particular the on-going search for the elusive graviton. There now, I should have done that in the first place!
There is a feeling that Donald picked up the pace after this album, I don't think he was ever particularly slow but from now up to 2007 he would release an album each year which is good going by anyone’s standards. My next port of call when considering Donald again will be the debut Der Zyklus album 'Biometry' which turns out to be another side step conceptually which should serve as a warning (to me) not to think you ever have Gerald Donald totally figured out.