Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Journey Home

Drexciya 5 'The Journey Home' EP came out on Warp as a 12" and CD single, their first appearance in digital. The year is 1995 and this second European label hook up signals an important development for the Drexciya producers as released alongside this EP came the first sounds of Elektroids on the ‘Kilohertz’ 12" and their friends project Ultradyne with their 'E-Coli' EP. An epic trilogy that will cost you big bucks if you want to own any or all of them today.
From quite populace roots in rave, Warp went on to usher in a new school of ‘intelligent’ electronic music during the 1990’s and continue to do so right up to today. Working with Drexciya at this point certainly put them ahead of the times. While still a very unknown and underground act at this stage, Warp were hardly seeing dollar signs with this 3 EP project, which all shared similar artwork and were marketed as a package. No, this was about getting to work with some of the most exciting producers around at that time. I'd like to know if Drexciya’s stuff was being widely used in clubs at this point or if it was selling more for home listening purposes.
Musically I'll just fly through the four numbers we have to consider here. 'Black Sea' starts out sounding very suitably titled, dark and bassy, with only a few lighter touches appearing as the tempo builds and it evolves into a fully formed Drexciya stomper. 'Darthhouven Fish Men' reminds me of some of the shorter tracks on Neptune's Lair, it's pretty full on with hard beats plus an unexpected ending. 'Hydro Theory' builds slowly and is the key track here with lots of great sounds floating through the mix. Another track that could move a dance-floor, but as ever, an open-minded one.
For my money I also get a real Neptune's Lair feel, but more fully realised, from the final track here, 'The Journey Home'. Quite an efficient number, no slack here, good bass lines, weirdly perfect. As I said I think this track signals a new template for the band, a foretaste of things to come.
Conceptually what is this all about? Well, the question is where is home? Does it mean the journey back to our, the listeners home, back to dry land where we began from on Drexciya 1 'Deep Sea Dweller' or does it mean the home of the Drexciyan's. Well so far, as I have been reading it, we have been following a journey designed for the listeners/strangers perspective. We have been visitors in Drexciya up to this point, this reference to home must refer to our own, whether we are familiar with it or not.
Lets consider the clues, such as they are, the title’s being the most we can go on. Although there is a little message to us in the text which includes '...We're Going Deep', which does suggest this journey is bringing us further rather than back. The artwork image of a squid looks to me like it came from the label, but I might be wrong, either way it only serves to push the aquatic angle and doesn’t reveal much else. 'Black Sea' is unlikely to be a reference to our own Black Sea, that mysterious landlocked region which borders some of the most volatile countries in the world. I've always seen this sea as a country in itself and can imagine that smuggling and various illegitimate traffic between these countries must be endemic there. So much so that whole outlaw families may be born and raised here, completely stateless. While this does parallel the world of Drexciya to some extent I think it unlikely that they were on this track. In the context of exploring Drexciya, as we have been doing all through the 4 preceding EP’s, maybe reaching this ‘Black Sea’ area means that we have now arrived at a point where we can begin our journey home, the nature of which I’ll get to. It strikes me that if the water is black then we are at a place where the normal laws of nature and physics do not apply.
Certainly at this point we encounter ‘Darthhouven Fish Men’ but what is their purpose and what does Darthouven Fish Men mean? The latter question might be explained if Darthhouven is the name of the region and I think a fish man might well be the term for everyone here, except the ladies. Their job or purpose might be that they are the gate keepers that explain to us the ‘Hydro Theory’ which will get us started on our ‘Journey Home’. If I’m right this is a very neat and tidy finish to our journey which is balanced by the ambiguous destination and nature of ‘home’, Drexciya leaving it up to us to figure out, for now. However by the time of 1997's The Quest they seemed to be sign-posting 'home' as Africa. This is fair enough, especially when you consider that this does not have to exclude anyone, as there is good evidence that all human life came from that continent. What's important to note here is the development of their concept from the physical to mental realm. Because of the same type of language this could well be the beginning of them conceptualising the existence of the Drexciya Home Universe, the Utopia finally revealed in 2002 on Grava 4.
There are no tracks from this on The Quest, the music for a change not being licensed from UR or Submerge, although they and God do get a thank you credit in the text. It will be interesting to see if and when Warp might ever make this available again, probably never. But it is available to buy as a download from Bleep.
That brings the Drexciya 1 -5 12” series to a close and leaves us starting out on another journey whose destination we are reassured is home. Before we get to 1999 and Neptune’s Lair there will be plenty of bumps in the road and nothing will be as clearly defined conceptually as what we have so far considered. Never the less, confusion is good also, it would be another 7 years before Drexciya themselves arrived at where they were going and in that time they would cease working, make a triumphant return and splinter in a myriad of aliases. The next releases up to The Quest do continue this story but not as clearly as before.

Get ready for the ‘Aquatic Invasion’.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Unknown Aquazone

Drexciya 4 'The Unknown Aquazone' came out some time in 1994 and was a double pack, or 'Aquapak' as it states here, on Submerge. By this time Drexciya had obviously become a very safe bet for the Submerge/UR axis, knowing that an investment in a twin vinyl release by the band would pay off both musically and financially. I'd like to know the kind of numbers they were moving at this time, techno peaked sales wise in the mid 90's, but certainly this was their biggest musical achievement to date.This EP could also be called ‘Exploring the Unknown Aquazone’ because that is what we begin to do, not that we will learn everything about it, that is not the Drexciyan way, but will gleam more scattered detail. I will tackle the music and meaning simultaneously this time.
The opening 'Intro' track on side one informs us in a very slowed down male voice that we are "Welcome to the fusion zone". This short piece begins and ends with the famous helicopter rotor blade sample from the beginning of 'Apocalypse Now' along with an array of weird sound effects with no musical structure. The main opener, ‘Living on the Edge’, is musically shuffle-tastic, I go into the detail of it’s meaning later but it's vocal has something to tell us. Outside the repeated title we hear these phrases, "No friends, no cold, no light, no love, no wife, no patience, no race relations, one man will stand." Obviously in their view these circumstances bear some of the conditions necessary for 'Living on the Edge', but some of those words might be misheard.

Living on the Edge could be taken as the Drexciya credo as this quote elaborates, "There's nothing that's planned, there's no set course. So the mystery of the unknown is really what makes us tick. The curiosity of not knowing where we're going to end up at once this track is done, or when this album is done, and so forth and so on. We never plan our course or where we're going with a particular project. It's mainly the unknown is what makes us tick. It's like living on the edge." An instrumental version which ends slightly differently is included on The Quest.

‘Aqua Jujidsu’, spelt wrong by the way, is a bit of fun with what sounds like the classic vocalisations that go with those moves echoing round the track, which does make it sound like it’s taking place underwater. To show how open this process of interpretation is only limited to your imagination I could write some stuff about how maybe the discipline involved in jujitsu or it’s related martial arts might be a way towards enlightenment and could fit that in quite well to my thesis but in this case I think that would be going too far, but who knows. For now I’ll stick with what seems obvious, to me anyway.

‘Aquabahn’ is another fun track that would not sound out of place as a Japanese Telecom track. It also features what sounds like Gerald Donald saying “The Aquabahn” as it’s vocal element. The track itself is adventurous enough with plenty of spin back production action. Obviously the title is a tongue in cheek reference to their forefathers Kraftwerk, respect. ‘Mantaray’ has a nice groove(I know I’ve used that phrase before, but it is a nice groove!). Beyond the also obvious aquatic reference this short track doesn’t tell us much. ‘Lardossen Funk’ also sounds a bit touched by the hand of Gerald Donald in his Japanese Telecom guise and similar to the short tracks you find there this also sounds a bit incomplete. No vocals so no more information to consider beyond the title. This is our second reference to a place called Lardossa and bears out my belief that this EP is all about exploring this underwater place, so far we have been finding Aquabahn’s, seeing other sea creatures and now visiting Lardossa and sampling it’s funk.

‘Take Your Mind’ is a revealing track with what again sounds like a Donald vocal. “Take your mind to another level, feel the power of the...” The fact that we don’t get a conclusion is a tease, making us want to hear more. But we have enough information to wonder anyway. Take your mind to another level, when you get there feel the power of the...? Of the what, that is the eternal question with Drexciya and I can only here give you what I think it is.

Record one and two are broken into Fusion and Basalt Zone’s with degree locations attached either side of the label. I can’t see any reason for this beyond it being a way of identifying each record as separate entities, but what the words fusion and basalt mean in this context remains unclear. Also worth knowing but I can’t conclude much from is the ‘Defcon5 Productions’ credit which never appears again on any Drexciya release. Maybe this was an early attempt to set up a production company that would eventually arrive as the conceptually fully formed ‘Dimensional Waves’ for the Strom series.

The short ‘Intro’ track on records twos side one has a vocal that sets an ominous tone right from the off, “This species is socially and scientifically advanced and they will conquer the entire universe. Year 1994 beware.” The vocal is delivered in a slow old school Stephen Hawking voice, you know the one. They certainly couldn’t put their view any clearer than this anyway. Lets look at this more closely. The Drexciyans are both socially and scientifically more advanced than not only humans but whatever else lurks in our universe and will, in time, conquer this same universe. 1994 now becoming the year we are warned of this. Of course this is a taste of things to come and maybe this reaches a conclusion, of sorts, when Drexciya is revealed as Utopia on Grava 4. This would make their conquering of the universe a mental one with no force needed, slow yes but also sure and effective, it’s time still at hand, ready whenever we want to accept it. But time may be of the essence in making this decision, it strikes me that how close we are might be answered in the title of ‘Living on the Edge’. Time is obviously short and I guess you only have to consider our planet on the environmental level to understand how human life is under more threat than ever before. This also reminds me of their Message to the World on L.I.F.E. ‘Life is fast ending, so live.” I have gone back and included an expanded paragraph on this line in the L.I.F.E. piece but will repeat the essence of what I say there again as it does tie in well with this concept. We may be meant to read this as, life as we live/know it is fast ending for us if we have so far followed the evolutionary progress of the Storm series to this point(L.I.F.E.) so now is the time to really live anew in this knowledge. Don’t be afraid of evolution indeed.

The following mysteriously named ‘Aquarazorda’ is a suitably dark number after this declaration with a phat bass line and plenty of Drexciya signatures. Maybe my favourite on the EP. ‘Bubble Chamber’ is a bit throwaway as a track but it’s title is the second reference to bubbles, ‘Bubble Metropolis’ of course being the first, an essential element for survival here? I’ve wondered whether Drexciyans are able to breath unaided underwater or not, the forthcoming ‘The Mutant Gillmen’(an experiment gone wrong) makes me think not. This is an issue really at the core of the physical nature of Drexciyans. I would say that the original outer space species which settled underwater need some kind of aid to breath in water, unless this is their natural habitat, and even the offspring of the pregnant African slaves would also need the same aid, perhaps being slightly better adapted, like water birthed babies of the surface world. So a Bubble Chamber and a Bubble protected city might well be a convenient way to breath normally.

‘Water Walker’ as a name sounds like their contribution to the Red Planet series, this being a common title theme within the UR camp, but in reality it’s a face paced number that does all the right things to keep an adventurous dance-floor happy. It’s suitably aquatically titled anyway. The closer is ‘Red Hills of Lardossa’ which makes this double pack Lardossa central. Hills underwater, why not? This may be a massive red tinged coral reef. It’s another good track as well, in fact classic Drexciya, quite unlike anyone else. Luckily James Stinson did speak to Andrew Duke about Lardossa in 1999 and had this to say about it, "Lardossa is just another city that's on the other side of Drexciya. There's many different cities around there, and as time goes on we'll bring them forth or whatnot. It's a place on the other side of the Red Hills, it's a very calm tranquil place where things are very easy-going, there's not really that hustle and bustle and it's more or less carefree and mellow, like you're in a trance."

This EP was briefly available again in 2003 when reissued on coloured vinyl by UR and is fairly well represented on The Quest with 5 tracks. It strikes me that it deserves a CD reissue too, being of album length it would be well justified. Does it work as an album, maybe not but it’s still better than most.
Image and subtitle wise the EP is all over the place. We get abstract images on each label, including an Olmec stone head, two views of surface of water and possibly underwater heat plumes. Side 3 has it’s own message, ‘Research must continue at all costs, even if it means death.’ This of course will appear again in the artwork for ‘Neptune’s Lair’, five years later. The most interesting of these is the Olmec head which is from a mysterious ancient tribe from South America which show features of a man unquestionably of African origin.

The thank you list is interesting in that it identifies the term that Drexciya, at this point, use to define their fans, ‘to all the Aquatic Troopers around the World.” Another new Drexciya term appears with ‘the Drexciya Death Squad’, another mystery grouping for us to ponder. One name from this list is that of Helen Stinson who we would learn, after James Stinson’s death, to be his mother. Respect is also given to Aphex Twin, whose label had put out their preceding release but this kudos must have been slightly tempered for the Cornish maestro when he was misspelled as Apex Twin.
It would appear not only from the Submerge catalogue number and dates on Discogs that this came out before Drexciya 3 did, why this happened I don’t know, but I guess it makes more sense for my purposes to follow the numbers than the release dates.‘The Unknown Aquazone’ is undoubtedly a key release, it’s the first time we really get a good look at Drexciya and get to move around in it’s environment.

I’ve decided to skip their next scheduled release, ‘Aquatic Invasion’, for now, in favour of following the Drexciya 1 - 5 series to its conclusion. So that means, barring anymore Gerald Donald interviews or other detours, that Drexciya 5 will be next.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Arpanet Interview

Thanks to another of my readers for finding this 2002 interview with Gerald Donald about the first Arpanet album. The reason I choose to reproduce the question and answers segment of these interviews here and not simply give a link to its web page is that this site is also beginning to serve as a reliable archive for this stuff. In fact, one of the main contributory reasons for beginning this site was that I, by pure luck, had saved some of the James Stinson interview texts from pages that now only turn up as dead links. While I was certainly not the only one with this information I felt it was important that someone collect them in the one place sooner rather than later. So it’s now in the same spirit that the words of Gerald Donald are being saved for posterity in case they too suffer the same fate. I am grateful to all the writers and hope they don’t mind me reproducing their work on this non profit site. In this case John Osselaer did the necessary, which makes him probably the only person to have interviewed both members of Drexciya. In this case the page is still active so you can read the full text here.
On another Donald related issue I recently updated the AKA posting to document the little we know of his obscure Intellitronic project.

Arpanet was the predecessor of the internet. How quickly were you hooked on the net and what do you mainly look for out there?

It is primarily utilized for information gathering and electronic mail exchange, not much entertainment.

How do you think the internet and all the technology that surrounds it will develop in the future? (or what evolutions would you like to see)?

More wirelessness is certain for humans are very mobile conscious in most present day societies; eventually everything will be wireless, mobile and nanofied/microscopic. The upper atmosphere, human body and space are the new mediums, the wire is obsolete.

Apparently you are fascinated by Japanese technology. However, it was that same Japanese technology that caused the dramatic decline of the most important industry in your native city Detroit, being the car industry. How do you feel about that?

Well in this world either you move forward or you perish. American auto giants had more human concerns than practical ones. Automation is precise and does not require medical benefits or paid vacations. Sometimes you have to make harsh choices and ultimate sacrifices to sustain life. These are the laws of nature and natural selection.

How important has the Japanese technology, both the musical instruments from companies like Roland and the issue we discussed above, been for the development of the electronic music that emerged from Detroit?

Well the technology not only benefited this sphere of musical development, but it also aided in the process of the global electronic discipline. All cultures interact and exchange ideas.

You are clearly fascinated by Japanese technology and European sophistication (both probably pretty important influences on your music). Which elements of your own culture are important for you and your music?

Actually our culture was diluted with inferior ideas for nearly a millennium and we are still not bacteria free, so over time we patchworked many influences in connection with our already existent high racial spirits to create something uniquely our own, this is our new identity at present.

What is it about the Japanese that always makes them come out on top in the field of technology? (what drives them, makes this technological mastery possible?)

The Japanese believe highly in dedication to work, country and company. Perfectionism is part of their cultural ethos and this manifests itself in their material and social output. Even though they are experiencing some economic hardships at this time, they will recoil.

What's your cue in the idea that all this technology and progress alienates people from each other and from nature?

Nature itself is the greatest masterwork of technology. A man who takes his directives from nature is actually bringing togetherness through his inventions. We are all linked by technology, just take a look at the world around you and you will see.

What about people who have trouble or are even unable to keep up with all the technological evolutions, how is their future going to look like?

Well keeping up with technology is synonymous with keeping in line with the Jones, its impossible. The best thing for a person to do is acquire the devices he needs to suit his needs. There is a smart way and impractical way to upgrade.

To what extent can one consider i-mode/wirelessness as a step towards the man-machine, the interface between humans and machines?

Yes, for now people will have the internet/communication in their pocket and the goal will be achieved: mobility and accessibility.

I have a feeling the track 'Devoid of Wires' refers to the character of Seven of Nine in Star Trek Voyager. Are the Borg something that fascinates you and in what way (positive or negative)?

Sometimes it is good to act collectively and sometimes it is good to act individually.

A lot of the new technologies that have become part of our every day life used to be considered pure sci-fi a couple of decades/years ago. What other sci-fi visions do you foresee becoming a reality within the next few years/decades?

Possibly more voice command and wireless items in addition to environment friendliness.

You have maintained an extremely high level of independence and control in all your musical projects. The new technologies also include highly improved (nearly perfect?) ways to survey and monitor people. To what extent are you worried about this control over people and what are your own concerns?

Well the concerns are that we will eventually loose our liberty because tracking and data chips will eventually sooner or later be installed in all unborn generations via world governments. I will refer these yet to be born as the GPS-generation for they will be tracked anywhere on the planet by our big brothers via satellite.

What about musical equipment, do you think that will eventually also become wireless? What do you think would be the (dis)advantages of that?

It will liberate one to perform other duties in the production stages and this will be a great savior in labor necessity and research.

The Arpanet album is about the idea of wireless internet and telecom. Both the press release and the album explicitly mention NTT DoCoMo. It is very uncommon for an underground act to actively promote a brand, especially such a big company. What was your motivation to go in such detail and use this companies name as a point of reference?

This firm and its products are worthy of being documented so it was documented through waveforms and visuals.

What do you think are the main reasons holding back the US and Europe on the technological/i-mode front?

The main drawback is technical infrastructure. You need very sophisticated networks to support these new 3G and 4G phones, entire systems have to be updated and that's very expensive and time-consuming. The second reason is that the West has not been properly introduced to these innovations, but they will eventually see the light when the Japanese have moved on to the next step.

In your opinion, what are the most interesting features i-mode has to offer right now and what are the most exciting evolutions around the corner?

Well it's difficult to say because they are constantly evolving so you cannot say what is the ultimate feature or the least feature; you just have to keep your focus on their evolution. Evolution is their most interesting feature.

Nowadays we are able to communicate with people thousands of miles away, yet still a lot of people feel reluctant to communicate with their neighbors because they have a different color of skin, different ethnicity, religion,… How do you feel about that and what will it take to bring down those barriers?

That is a sociological question. I recommend you speak to people authorized to make such analysis and judgments, but basically exposure, exposure and intimacy with the world around you.

In an interview for URB magazine techno godfather Juan Atkins made some strong remarks about racial prejudice within the music industry. What are your views on this issue?

Well, our African culture is more superior when it comes to creating new forms of sound and visual. Look at past deeds and accounts of history musically and the aforementioned statement will be validated, it's very Darwinist.

Arpanet stays very close to the tradition of the very early Detroit techno/electro. To what extent was maintaining that original sound a purpose on its own?

Call it what you wish, but fundamentally it is electronic music. Placing labels on music in these times is similar to stereotyping and racism and or racial profiling. It's senseless and trivial.

Although your fascination with the digital world is clear, your music is undeniably analouge. Whats your view on the whole analogue vs digital debate in the music production world?

Well, it depends on the requirements. Sometimes digital is needed and sometimes analogue is needed. Analogue should not be underestimated nor should the digital domain. They all have disadvantages and advantages, its all technology.

What are your critera for allowing a label to release your music?

The record executive should not interfere with the scientists or their scientific work. Every one should know their position in the machine and things will work out perfectly. It's similar to church and state relationships.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Well the future is uncertain so the future cannot be elaborated on.

This interview was done in April 2002, by e-mail.
Interview by John Osselaer

Friday, December 02, 2005

Buying Drexciya

Since my request for information on where best to get Drexciya stuff online I've done some of my own research and realised that basically there is hardly anything currently pressed that bears their name. Those 2003 UR 12" were the last things and they might even be gone by now. Over at Tresor they've decided that selling MP3's of their Drexciya and related catalogue is the future. Not that you can’t turn up the odd thing here and there online too, Warpmart had the best available selection, but back stock in actual record shops can still be some of the best places to find their work in its original format, so be vigilant. The suitably titled Neptune Records also has a fair amount of in stock titles. Also check out Juno. Most of the Transllusion stuff available from this link of the Replex site here.
The next best thing is used so I've got two links, for Gemm and Ebay. But as you already know, the prices will be expensive.

Of course it saddens me that their records are not currently generally available but maybe downloads is how new people will discover their music and keep their memory and legacy alive. Perhaps I’m old fashioned but there is something missing without the artwork, vinyl, or even the CD. It strikes me now that this site must be even more illuminating to people who never got to experience Drexciya through their records. Of course some day an all encompassing reissue campaign will come their way and a new generation will be exposed to their world and music but till that time we must help to keep their memory alive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Molecular Enhancement

Drexciya 3 'Molecular Enhancement' came out first in 1994 on Rephlex and reappeared again a year later on Submerge with 2 additional tracks(possibly after Drexciya 4). The latter release is the definitive version but respect is certainly due to UK label Rephlex for being the first European label to licence Drexciya music and introduce them to what would become their major market. Considering they had at this stage only put out two EP’s which were themselves only available outside the US as imports it’s even more impressive that the label best known for it’s connections to Aphex Twin should be so on the case. There is something quite prophetic about this transatlantic liaison so close to the beginning of their career as they would gradually, by their 1999 hook up with Tresor, deal exclusively with European labels. Not to mention the fact that Rephlex themselves would put out a Transllusion LP and 12” almost ten years later.
The reason for the 2 additional tracks on the Submerge edition may be due to fears of the label that no one who bought the Rephlex version would want to buy it again without the lure of something extra. Certainly some time elapsed between the two releases, it would not surprise me if a band as prolific as Drexciya had by then come up with some more tracks that they felt complimented the original EP. On the Rephlex label it reads that the tracks are licensed from UR, but it would be Submerge which would finally put it out. Of course I have already explained how both labels go hand in hand so while there may have been some delay in the US release I don’t think it was due to UR postponing it or something like that. As far as the release dates go I’m only going by the information I can gleam from their Discogs entries as I wasn’t even aware of Drexciya at this time and maybe someone else who was will let me know if this information is wrong.
Musically this is a meaty 6 tracker which as you can imagine further expands the Drexciya musical palette. I suppose it is so far the most bold release to date, still ‘techno from the deep’ only getting deeper and weirder. The track and sub-titles etc share the same theme/abstraction which seems to be about adapting to this aquatic environment. This follows on quite naturally from the initial location/hint of ‘Deep Sea Dweller’ to the journey to Drexciya of ‘Bubble Metropolis’. Now that we have arrived we need to adapt. On a basic level they seem to be implying here that biological science will be our means to this change. This change might not be as extreme as we think because this is simply a case of ‘molecular enhancement’, developing what we already have and using technology such as an ‘Intensified Magnetron’ and ‘Hydro Cubes‘, whatever they are, to bring us the rest of the way. The biological part might be the use of ‘Antivapor Waves’ to alter our biological structure along with somehow introducing ‘Aquatic Bata Particles’ to our body, perhaps produced by ‘Bata Pumps’.
The sides of both editions of the vinyl continue the science theme and are named Alpha and Beta. But it’s the images used on the Rephlex edition that are the most revealing(the Submerge artwork being only text with some molecular drawings). They look like a human figure under going a 2 stage transformation. It’s not exactly in the same league as the famous Leonardo Da Vinci depiction of Man but it would pass for the same thing. This all reminds me of the evolution part of the Strom series, but this is purely a physical change that is going on here. Evolution was certainly a constant theme with Drexciya, it was perhaps inevitable that they would go beyond the physical to examine the mental.
The remainder of the label text on both editions reads ‘Special thanks to God and Mad Mike of UR. All songs were particle accelerated by Drexciya in Drexciya, ion filtered at Black Planet Studio in Detroit.’ This tells us a few things, I guess they were feeling grateful at their third release and were obviously still working closely with Mad Mike Banks. The tracks were certainly done at their own studio but some additional engineering must have occurred at UR’s Black Planet Studio, perhaps for edits or simply mastering as ion filtering would not be a common studio practice!
This EP is well represented on The Quest, with only the 2 additional Submerge edition tracks omitted. As these two tracks are relatively short maybe that was the reason, although the opener ‘Anti-Beats’ is the longer and neither are inconsequential. ‘Antivapor Waves’ has a nice bass line and scuttles along with some sharp edged sounds. ‘Intensified Magnetron’ is harder and more insistent but maybe it doesn’t really go anywhere. ‘Hydro Cubes’ is the classic track on here for me with at least two Drexciya signatures on display and a nice breakdown. The surprise on this one comes with the voices at the end asking, “Does God really exist? God is virtual reality.” This is a really weird touch, maybe the oddest Drexciya moment to this point. Another strong track for the closer ‘Aquatic Particles’ which has a nice groove which would go down a carefree storm on the more open-minded dance floors.
This EP was included in UR’s 2003 reissue campaign and now appears on coloured vinyl. As a side point I’ve found it quite difficult to find Drexciya stuff on the web. For research I went to the Clone shop and found most if not all of the Drexciya listings unavailable and even at Submerge itself I couldn’t locate very much. If anyone knows a good online site with a fairly complete and in stock Drexciya section it would be worth sending it to me so that I can post it here.

Now that we are fully adapted to our new environment we can more fully explore Drexciya 4 - ‘The Unknown Aquazone’, which is next.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Another View

For the sake of archiving and presenting another persons interpretation of Drexciya I think it’s worth including the section on them included in an essay by Peter M Boenisch I found called “Make World”: Archaeology as Alienation in Contemporary Performance. Full text here.

"One of the most extraordinary and most influential instances of sonic fiction comes with the music of Detroit techno music pioneers Drexciya. Drexciya is a two man project - but actually it is more of a place, a virtuality, an entire alien universe. Over more than ten years of releasing their music, the duo has never unveiled neither their names nor their ‘real’ identity. Rather than re-presenting themselves as the (black) Detroit techno musicians they are, they suggest that their music is produced by mysterious aqua-men, who are seen only in paintings on their record covers and who, of course, communicate with us through their music. In the sleeve notes to their 1997 double CD The Quest, a collection of material previously released on vinyl, they describe Drexciyans as some marine species descended from ‘pregnant American-bound African slaves thrown overboard by the thousands during labour for being sick and disruptive cargo. Could it be possible for humans to breathe underwater? A foetus in its mother’s womb is certainly alive in an aquatic environment. Is it possible that they could have given birth at sea to babies that never needed air?” Consequently, Drexciyans are introduced as exactly these ‘water breathing, aquatically mutated descendants’ (ibid.). Drexciya, the band, thus create their own cultural mythology, they defamiliarize, they alienate history and cultural memory using performative sonic fiction. With each of their purely instrumental tunes, with each song title and record cover, they map out a cartography of the alien underwater worlds of the Drexciyan amphibians: Listeners are taken to “The Red Hills of Lardossa”, “Bubble Metropolis” and their newest lab, “Neptune’s Lair”. There, we encounter “Darthouven Fish Men”, “Mutant Gillmen”, and “dreaded Drexciya stingray and barracuda battalions”, and we learn about the sophisticated underwater nature and technology, about “Manta Rays” and “Polymono Plexusgel”. And we hear that Drexciyans are well prepared for war, with their advanced weapon arsenal of “Aquatic Bata Particles” and “Intensified Magnetrons” - the original magnetron, by the way, was the heart of the microwave radar sets which were used by the USAF in WW2.
Drexciya records resemble acoustic photo albums, and sonic special-effect movies. They create what Kraftwerk, the pioneers of contemporary electronic music, have termed “tone-films”. However, in downright contrast to similar mythologically informed cultural fiction, such as e.g. the Star Wars-movies, Drexciya avoid the perpetuation of traditional cultural strategies of representation. Taking instead the peculiar tactic of performative alienation to an extreme, Drexciya manage to break up the inherited chain of signification. They even create a certain freedom which is located at the same time within and yet without - or, more precisely, as the underwater world geographically suggests: underneath hegemonic discourse. Thus they manage to express and communicate something unspeakable, delving into areas which have been forgotten and suppressed by the hegemonic discourse of White and Western Cultural Memory. The performance of purely instrumental techno music becomes an extremely effective political tool, even a weapon."

Drexciya 3 'Molecular Enhancement' is on the way.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Heinrich Mueller Speaks

Thanks to one of our readers for finding this rare, possibly sole, interview with Heinrich Mueller aka Gerald Donald concerning his 'Biometry' album as Der Zkylus. Check it out in full at Gaz-Eta

Why did you decide to name your new project Der Zyklus?

This concept has been present for some time now it is not a recent invention. This is the latest theme within this conceptual template.

The first vinyls of Der Zyklus released by Gigolo in the late 90's was electro beats-oriented. Why did you change a musical direction on "Biometry"?

The Biometric theme required a different technical perspective and the science of biometry stimulated the musical electronics. The music reflects concept of biometry.

How did look your work on music for "Biometry": were it a rapid eruptions of inspiration or a slow experiments with sounds?

There is no single method for music development everything is considered. Whatever instigates the musical idea will be considered its stimulant. There is no formula or rectrictions on methodology. Musical creation should always be free of contraints.

Are there any elements of laboratories researches in your work in studio?

Electronic music is based on science and the scientific method is utilized in its creation. Theories and hypothesis are put forth and if they are practical and plausible they will tested to verify them. Some theories work and some don't, but no theory is considered too abstract. All is considered. The more radical the better.

How long lasts work on music for "Biometric"?

There was no time frame in which work had to be completed,when the concept is comprehensive then it is considered complete. Time tables are not a part of our working ethos.

Why did you concentrate on "Biometric" on experiments with rhythm structures?

There are rhythms throughout this work,everyone has a different perspective of what rhythm is. Percussion is not the only source of rhythm,waveforms are also rhythms. Patterns that repeat themselves is rhythm. No certain sound or percussive element is exclusively a rhythm, every element produces its own rhythm.

Some parts of "Biometric" sounds like avant-garde classic modern music. Did you find any inspiration in this style during your work?

Actually the enviornment is the fundemental inspiration for a musical work and this embraces everything, sound, science, social structure etcetera. Inspiration has no boundries.

What is so fascinating for you in science?

Well science is a body of knowledge that mankind has accumulated over the ages about the natural world,the greater universe. We use this knowledge to gain command over nature for the progress and benefit of the human race. Science is imperative for our survival and progress, so I would not say its facinating but more essential.

Is science a kind of art?

To a certain extend you could say this. It takes skill and improvisation to unlock the hidden secrets of the natural world. Science has a beauty all its own. Science and art always interface to create something new and innovaitive. Take electronic music for instance, this is the perfect example of the science and art interface. The term art has many connotations.

What dangers do you see in progress of science and technics?

Science and technology are not perilous at all, its the people that control it that are dangerous. Atomic energy does not threaten our very existence its the powers that be and other subversive elements that make it threatening. We are our own worst enemy,not science and technology. People always fingerpoint inventions when their masters should be the ones that are singled out. Machines don't make decisions(at least not now)human beings do.

Pawel Gzyl

Monday, November 07, 2005

Bubble Metropolis

If ‘Deep Sea Dweller’ was the initial locator then 1993’s Drexciya 2 ‘Bubble Metropolis’ is when the details of that location start to be revealed. The title track here is key because we are ourselves arriving here for the first time and should probably consider ourselves as passengers on the Lardossian Cruiser which the female voice is guiding into dock at the opening of this track. Strangely there’s no vinyl etchings but we do have fresh water and salt water sides of the vinyl which is key.
The EP should be read as a journey into Drexciya itself. The fresh water side begins with ‘Aqua Worm Hole’, we can take this as the entry point, maybe a whirlpool type scenario which brings us to our first location of ‘Positron Island’. I wonder if Gerald Donald was already taking an interest in particle theory with this reference to the positron? Although it’s more likely they were both interested in this subject. As I’ve found out as I gradually steel myself for someday tackling his ‘Linear Accelerator’ album in some scientific depth, the positron is the antimatter counterpart of the electron. So maybe this island is not what we imagine, it certainly might be invisible or at least would be the opposite of what we might expect. The positron, which was the first evidence of antimatter, was first discovered by passing cosmic rays through a gas chamber and a lead plate surrounded by a magnet to distinguish the particles by bending differently charged particles in different directions. Today, positrons are produced in enormous numbers in accelerator physics laboratories. I found this explanation on some website, along with a pretty cool picture of one which looks like a planet, but I can understand what’s being
said here and can see that Gerald, some ten years later, has gone on to explore the process of producing them. This theme is not about to go away either as Drexciya 3 ‘Molecular Enhancement’ will show. Also one of the subtitles of the Storm series 12“ ‘Power of the 3rd Brain’ was ‘Mind Over Positive And Negative Dimensional Matter’. That Stinson quote about having linked each release was certainly no idle boast.
So maybe this worm hole does not yet deliver us into deeper water, because but this island seems to be out last contact with land. Perhaps it’s a dimensional thing, which will of course become a factor much later on in their career, but we know this island is our last point of reference before descending 'Beyond the Abyss’. Strictly speaking the sea is all salt water, but where a large river meets the sea there would be a grey area where the two types of water meet. Certainly with an island close by we are close to land so the fresh water side makes some sense for these 3 tracks, but once we start to submerge we enter the pure salt water of side 2. Side 2 begins, “This is Drexciyan Cruiser Control, bubble 1, to Lardossen cruiser 8-203X , please decrease your speed to 1.788.4 kilobahn, thank you, Lardossen cruiser 8-203X please use extra caution as you pass the aqua construction site on the side of the aquabahn , I repeat, proceed with caution.” Midway we hear, “ You are now clear for docking, have a nice stay here in Drexciya, I’m Drexciyan cruise controller X205, if you have any problems let me know, Bubble 1 out.” We have arrived! I’m surprised though at all the caution and warnings in this message, does this mean anything? Well the next track is called ‘Danger Bay’ so maybe we should proceed with caution, if only in that we are new here. Good advice and of course if we have any problems there is someone to ask. Just remember, from now on we are in uncharted territory, later to be dubbed the unknown aquazone. But I think the welcome is still on the positive side as the final track here is simply titled ‘Welcome to Drexciya’.
In the future we will come across at least 2 more Lardossa references, ‘The Red Hills of Lardossa’ and ‘Lardossen Funk’. I suppose this is just a region of Drexciya, maybe I’ll have figured out it’s importance by time I get to ‘Neptune‘s Lair‘. The place we are docking is of course the main city of Drexciya, is it protected inside an actual bubble or is that just an aquatic term they use?
While Deep Sea Dweller may have been somewhat schizophrenic in it’s musical styles ‘Bubble Metropolis’ is a more confidant and consistent EP all round. The generous 6 tracks on offer here begins with the quite sophisticated production sound of ‘Aqua Worm Hole’. You might even call it the second Drexciya classic, after DSD’s ‘Depressurisation’. This is certainly a strong release which goes a long way to showcase the Drexciya sound we will come to know so well.
‘Positron Island’ is the sort of track which would baffle most people on first listen but it soon reveals itself as the potential off-centre dance-floor smash it is. In many ways this non-straightforward techno is what Drexciya provided, techno and electro but not as we know it, ‘Techno from the Deep’ indeed.
‘Beyond the Abyss’ is more of an experimental groove but full of possibilities, a sign of a group over flowing with idea’s. The title track ‘Bubble Metropolis’ begins with the already mentioned female introduction and then settles down to a nice medium paced floor filler with plenty of nice touches filling out it's groove. 'Danger Bay' has vocalising that sounds like Gerald Donald. The few words we can make out are kind of throwaway but this is the first time we hear one of their voices so it's quite historic in that. 'Welcome to Drexciya' ends this side and the EP in a similar fashion as 'Beyond the Abyss' does on side 1. A short experimental track, but with some nice sounds none the less, a bit like what you might hear as incidental music on a futuristic TV show from the 70's, has old school synth sounds.
The production credit this time reads ‘Filtered by Drexciya’ a change from the more conventional credit used on the preceding DSD. I guess it’s a water thing in this context. There is also a ‘special thanks to God’. I wrote about this a bit before, save to say that if you were lucky enough to catch one of the recent Galaxy 2 Galaxy live shows you will understand that this is not about religion just a respect for a higher power, but certainly Christian. It’s a refreshingly joyous and positive attitude to God which is very African American, expressed perfectly by Gospel music. I think this Stinson quote explaining where his inspiration comes from also puts to rest why God is thanked so often, “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." But interestingly, in this same interview he went on to reveal some of the method, “It comes from within our soul, from tapping into our subconscious during meditation.”
The final bit of text tells us 'Tracks made in Drexciya for UR in Detroit’ which really underlines how removed Drexciya feel from their surroundings, that it is of no influence to their music.
The artwork depicts some nice drawings of dolphins underwater on each label. The fact that both images show a view which includes sky, land and sea, right down to the sea bed, is a nice fully realised picture of the world as we know it. The emphasis and detail of the pictures however is on what’s happening under sea level so we are left in no doubt what the subject is.
Only three of these tracks ended up on The Quest, ‘Positron Island’, ‘Bubble Metropolis’ and ‘Beyond the Abyss’. I guess I’m surprised that ‘ Aqua worm Hole’ never made it but of course this EP is still available and when I get to The Quest we’ll see that it’s not just a ‘Best of’. In 2003 UR re-released this 12” on coloured vinyl. This is of course the first time Drexciya put out a release with UR which makes this an even more significant piece of their past. The two camps were well suited to one another, both actively cultivating mystery and both uncompromising in their musical vision.
To sum up, this EP firmly establishes the Drexciya sound and begins to fill out the mythology of the place they have brought us to, Drexciya itself.

Drexciya 3 ‘Molecular Enhancement’ is next.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Deep Sea Dweller

I’ve decided to go right back to the beginnings of Drexciya and work my way up to Neptune’s Lair, everything post this time being now covered. There might well be some detours along the way but this will be my path for the immediate future. There is a great universal theme here to reveal also, as in the Storm series, but I will also be charting the development of Drexciya and their world itself which is certainly worthy of study.

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.

Friday, October 07, 2005


There is a small group of projects with Drexciya involvement which seem to cause a lot of confusion. It's time some order was introduced to them so I've written an outline for each. Is there anymore outstanding projects not covered so far in this blog, as far as I know this last piece on the subject covers it. But any additional information you can furnish me with regarding these specific projects or other ones not covered I would be grateful for and will rework into this article. I've rejigged comment box so that anyone can leave a message or email my main address on banner. This reworking has been something I've been doing all along to make these articles as definite as possible rather than reposting and creating multiple entries as I learn or think of something new to add, so reading some of the previous posts at this stage may a worthwhile exercise.
I am only dealing here with the projects I have not already mentioned previously, like L.A.M., Glass Domain, Elektroids etc.

FLEXITONE - This project appears to be have been largely overlooked. Production duties were by Gerald Donald and Brendan M Gillen of Ectomorph. Only 2 12"'s came out under this name, 'Rotoreliefs EP' & 'Nausicaa' on Carl Craig's Planet E in 1995 plus 2 other originals on compilations. Deleted by now for sure, I think a compilation of the 7 original tracks and various remixes would be a worthwhile exercise. The title of the latter release is likely inspired by the cult Japanese animation film 'Nausicaa' by Hayao Miyazaki who went on to make the more well known 'Spirited Away'. This may be seems like early signs of Donalds growing interest in Japanese culture which would more fully bloom in the coming years. Donald was reputedly involved with Ectomorph up to this time, which makes sense, but I think we can take it that his involvement was brief, just at their inception. He may or may not be featured on their releases dating up to 1995, but not beyond. Check their Discogs listing for more info and images of artwork, which was high concept.

INTELLITRONIC - Credited as a Gerald Donald project, it's single track, 'Pixel', dates from 1993. The track itself reportedly sounds a lot like Drexciya's 'Hydro Theory' which would eventually appear two years later on 'The Journey Home'. Available on the Juan Atkins compiled 'Magic Tracks - Deep Detroit Volume Two' on Tresor which also features Drexciya's 'Positon Island'. Intellitronic, as the name suggests, means intelligent electronics and seems a ripe topic for an offshoot project but I guess this one didn't stick. If it had this would have been the first Gerald Donald project to run in parallel with Drexciya and the argument could be made that this was the first conceptual stirrings of what would become the Elektroids.

X-TERNAL PULSE - This dates from way back in 1993 and appears to feature one or both of the Drexciya members input at the very early stages of Ultradyne. The sole track, 'Crossphaze', came out on the 12", 'The Silicon Ghetto EP Vol. 3', on Daniel Bells Accelerate label. Again check their Discogs listing, which has a comment which mentions a marked similarity to Drexciya's 'Wave Jumper', a track which would eventually come out on 'Aquatic Invasion' on UR the following year. I guess that makes it less surprising that this would be one of the rhythms they were playing around with at this time.
I’m not sure how long this working relationship existed with Ultradyne members Alex Lugo and Dennis Richardson, it hardly seems likely that they were still involved in the next release, all of 2 years later. This EP, ‘E-Coli’, was part of a 12” series on Warp alongside Drexciya and The Electroids from 1995. The artwork for the three releases was similar and it was marketed very much as a package at the time. This does imply a connection between all the bands but its hard to say for sure if any of the tracks on their EP had any Drexciya production involvement or not. They may have just had the one session together for all we know, which is often the nature of these things, and when Warp came up with the idea for the series and needed a third related act they simply nominated their friends project. Previously I did an interview with Ultradyne in which they gave the impression of being very much a self contained group and makes me doubt that any material released under the name Ultradyne featured any outside input, although that question was not asked specifically.

CLARENCE G - James Stinson solo project with one now very sought after 12" to its name which came out on Detroits Fluorescent Forest Records in 1991. The four tracker features more of an electro/ hip hop sound but it does have one track, 'Turbine', that is a dead ringer for 'The Countdown Has Begun' which would turn up on 1994's 'Aquatic Invasion'. The title of the EP is ‘Hyperspace Sound Lab’ which is wording that wouldn’t seem out of place in the future. The only aquatic aspect of the release is the black and white picture of Stinson reclining on a rock beside a lake or ocean on the label. Another false start or just another project before he settled on something more definite? I would say the latter.

DIGITAL APHRODISIAC - This pseudonym was only ever mentioned on the Dimensional Waves website, built and written by James Stinson. No releases seem to have emerged under this name. It appears at the end of a list entitled ‘Production Company Fuelled by High Powered Groups’ which included mostly Storm aliases. Sounds like another project which was planned or never finished, certainly unreleased.

DR. FINN & DR. OTTO HENKE - Gerald Donald alias used only once for remixes of 'Wasteland' by Scan X. Released in 1996 on Laurent Garnier's F Communications label. Here Donald gets his own side of a the 12" for his two mixes of the title track, which he subtitled as Prototype 1 and 2. The name continues his flirtation with German imagery, just more ambiguously than usual.

DREXCIYAN DJ STINGRAY - The first appearance of this guy to my knowledge was on the Warp Magic Bus Tour in 2002 and he continues to do shows to this day. All that Stinson said on this subject was, “We are going to send out a Drexciyan DJ first to secure the land,” in relation to following it up with live shows. I remember him playing a pretty pitched up electro set of fairly contemporary tracks. He played masked to further hide his identity. Not to be confused with another US DJ working under the name DJ Stingray.
His name is actually Sherard Ingram and he produces under the name Mystic Tribe and Urban Tribe. He has a large discography which includes an album on Mo Wax with input from Carl Craig and Moodyman. There is also of course a Mystic Tribe track on the flip of The Other People Place 12" on Clone.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Grava 4

Grava 4 was released midway through the Storm series and can now be recognised as the first and final post Storm album and understood in the light of the seven preceding Storms.

The first question is why was it not held back till the Storm was over? I suppose Drexciya were very much in release mode at the time and since the other Storms didn’t come out in order either it wasn't a big issue. For the US based Drexciya to liase with one European label is one thing but when you put five in the equation things can get complicated. With 8 albums and various 12”s coming out over this 2 year period, if there wasn't to be a clash then any release windows which arose would have to be taken advantage of. I would imagine Drexciya were reasonable about this, knowing this is still a business for these labels.

Clone put out this album and may well have been poised to become Drexciya’s main label if things had worked out differently. They did go on to release Gerald Donald's second Der Zyklus album along with becoming something of a Drexciyan archivist by re-releasing some of their earliest music with the L.A.M. and Glass Domain 12”’s, not to mention the mid Storm The Other People Place 12”. Another reason why Grava 4 came out when it did may be because there was obviously some delay with Lab Rat XL, which was the final storm to be released and came out on the Clone sub-label Dub, and as Grava 4 was ready to go it might have been a good substitute.

The title Grava 4 must mean something, it sounds so specific, the only things that come to my mind is that it might be short for gravity or else is the name of the universe itself, the 4 meaning the 4 planets. I had originally thought that it could clear up the mystery of the missing track number 4 which has turned out to be a mistake on the CD artwork. The title is actually 'Gravity Waves'.

The phrase ‘Drexciya presents Grava 4’ in the sleeve notes gives the album a certain importance, this is unusually grandiose wording for an album and more akin to a movie credit. Certainly the impression it gives is that we are to approach this album differently than usual. The next line goes on to justify the wording, ‘Earth has finally discovered Utopia.(Drexciya Home Universe). This is an event worthy of celebration indeed and I believe ‘presents’ makes more sense in this context. It seems obvious that the Drexciya Home Universe is a metaphor for Utopia. If the Storm series was leading us towards an evolutionary jump of consciousness then any mention of Utopia immediately proceeding it should be taken as the end result. It's quite exciting to imagine where Drexciya would have taken us next. But in a way it makes so much sense to leave it at this stage, where can you go once you find utopia? If James Stinson had lived maybe they would have just ended up reiterating this destination and ways to attain it in varying degrees. He was lucky he lived to see his vision through to its conclusion. Maybe this is another reason the album came out when it did, as Stinson knew it had to come out at all costs. It could likely have been in a finished state for sometime as well.

A 12" did come out to accompany the album but it only featured tracks from the album and no additional titles or information, although it has become known as Gravity Waves for some reason. Probably because Clone listed it as such just to have a title to sell it easier rather than list it as untitled. As mentioned there was a mistake in the album artwork which did not list track number 4, said to be 'Gravity Waves' but on the 12" there is also a mistake in that the listed 'Drexcyen Star Chamber' turns out to be the troublesome track number 4 of Grava 4, 'Gravity Waves'. Confusing, I know!

The big talking point about this album at the time was that Drexciya had officially named a star after themselves. It's really beautiful that in the future there will always be a star named ‘Drexciya’. Perhaps there will come a time when people look back on our time as we think of Atlantis. Granted some disaster would have to befall the Earth, but give it enough time and it could happen, the things to be saved would be any records of human learning like medicine, agriculture, maps and why not star charts. Some day an archaeologist of the future might even unearth artefacts regarding Drexciya and a legend would be born about the people of the planet Drexciya. The exact wording of the sleeve notes was ‘The star chart is authentic; you will be able to find the star by using coordinates on the star chart. The planet Drexciya can be found in the international Star vault in Switzerland and recorded in the astronomical compendium. (your place in the cosmos, volume 6) copyrighted in the USA available 2003.’ The website which they used to do this is at http://www.starresistry.com Sadly they don’t give you the option to look for previous entries, it’s basically a money making scheme.

The artwork here has no more production credits to Dimensional Waves or even any Drexciya email addresses either which marks the album out as separate from the Storm series too. Even the return of the name Drexciya in this context, not used since Storm #1, can be taken as a sign that the Storm series is over. The text goes on to say, “Earth scientists discovered the home planet Drexciya on 2-14-2002. Within moments Dr. Blowfin was given the orders to initiate the seven dimensional cloaking -spheres to hide the other three planets from Earths view.” As we have discovered, the 7 cloaking spheres are the 7 dimensional waves/Storms which created a shield/puzzle which when figured out did indeed reveal our destination of this Utopian place. I'm inclined to believe that the date is simply the day their star was registered, by now the studio work would have long ceased, although the artwork and titling as we know from previous releases in the series went on right up to manufacture.

The long and slowly lethargic opener 'Cascading Celestial Giants' seems to soundtrack a rebirth or re-emergence for Drexciya. The hymnal vocal sample gives it an epic, even religious feel, hinting that what we are about to access is something special. The celestial giants are probably a reference to the two largest planets in the Drexciya home universe, Ceeroze and Ociya Syndor or all four of them (which are shown on a map in the artwork). As a side note the musical template for this track would not have been out of place on Dopplereffekts Linear Accelerator (2003). ‘Powers of the Deep’ sounds like a pre Storm era title but in this context could mean deep space and is another slow contemplative number. ‘Ociya Syndor’ of course brings us full circle from the very first Storm’s ‘Mission to Ociya Syndor and Back’. It seems unlikely that all of the four planets in the Drexciya Home Universe would be habitable, we only have to understand the basic principles of our own universe to understand that. The sleeve notes tell us that the home planet is Drexciya, which leaves us asking what’s with Ociya Syndor, is this their Mars, only colonised? Whatever it is, Ociya Syndor is central. Maybe if James Stinson had lived they would have gone on to explain and build a mythos to go with this universe too. A simple colonisation may well be the answer, on the map it's certainly a larger planet than Drexciya and would be the obvious choice for an expanding civilisation. Ceeroze looks too close to their Sun. I wouldn’t be surprised if tiny Bowslac would also have turned out to be colonised, being about the same distance from their Sun as Drexciya.

‘Drexcyen Star Chamber’ finally breaks into a sweat with a more recognisable pacey electro edge and sounds like it could have originated from L.I.F.E. material. The title sounds like an attempt to build a history around this newly revealed location. This star chamber may be a place to view a map of the Drexciyan universe. I am drawn to view this as more ancient than modern by the archaic language used to describe it. The ancient Egyptians would have had what would pass for a ‘star chamber’ and we have already had a reference to the Egypt obsessed Sun Ra on the final storm. Although I think we need to look towards another ancient but equally as mysterious culture to cover all the possible historical origins that this album is hinting at. I would recommend to investigate the African Dogon tribe as a possible influence here. They are famous for having detailed astrological information about the Sirius star system which was then unknown at the time. Their whole belief culture is based around this. This could fit with the title ‘Hightech Nomads’ which sounds very future primitive, whether these people would be found on Ociya Syndor or Earth is up for debate.

'Drexcyen R.E.S.T. Principle (Research. Experimentation. Science. Technology.) has been mentioned before in the press release for Lab Rat XL and I discuss it in that piece but this is basically the method used by Drexciya for doing tracks. One additional piece of information is that this is not the first time this type of phraseology has been used. As a sort of subtitle on the Neptune's Lair album it reads 'Scientific Research Development Lab', this theme is so strong and consistent with Drexciya that it even influenced the title of this blog. Research is key.

'700 million light years from Earth' must be giving us the distance of the Drexciya Home Universe from Earth. 'Astronomical Guidepost' has a vocal and ends off the album in a cyclical fashion as I will show. The sentence, "Use the star chart to fix a celestial navigation point, from there you should be able to plot your path back to Earth using rudimentary astronomical guideposts." sounds like it was sampled from somewhere and neatly brings us back to Earth, therefore completing the mission from Storm #1, Harnessed the Storm, to get to Ociya Syndor and back. It's nice the way the music drops away for the final vocal sample and the album ends, it seems these are our instructions and so our journey home begins.

It strikes me that the naming of the Drexciya inspired Aquanauts could itself be a hint at what was coming next after Grava 4, Drexciyans in space, wouldn’t Aquanauts be the perfect way to describe that? Maybe Stinson had explained his new concept to his UR brothers, lets hope so.

Speaking with Osselaer Stinson talked about the Storms as hitting Earth, “...seven storms released around the world. So far three of the seven storms have hit Earth. The next four storms are in a holding pattern.” This totally ties in with conceiving of the storms coming from outer space. For them to effectively hit all over the Earth this would also explain why multiple labels were necessary. Also in the Osselaer interview he gave one of his only references to anything post-storm, "Some of the things of slavery will tell more when the time comes. Stay tuned! I can only tell you a little bit now. After the storm is over I will tell the story. What I can tell you is that in Africa we have a dimensional jump hole. Tell you more later." This is a major hint at what was to come, tragically it wasn't to be but I've put together a possible scenario which Drexciya may have used next to reveal their history and future direction.

'In Africa, thousand of years ago, high-tech nomads began to emerge from an dimensional jump-hole. They were coming from Ociya Syndor, 700 million light years from Earth. To those that know, they have left their mark all over the world, but especially in Africa where their traces can be found in the famous Dogon tribe. One day their story will be rediscovered, for they carved forever in stone their journeys path in the Drexcyen Star Chamber. Its location is a subterranean city, deep on the ocean floor. This is where the Africans were brought to when they were thrown off the slave ships. They were rescued and helped to adapt by their ancient cosmic brothers and sisters. Here they became deep sea dwellers in the bubble metropolis and in time went through the hydro doorways and became star travellers themselves.One day, when the need of Earth will be at its greatest, the powers of the deep will be made known to the surface world. For the Drexciyans are never idle, their principle has always been, Research, Experimentation, Science and Technology, from Neptune’s time to today.'

As I’ve said before, this is only my interpretation. Drexciya chose to create a mystery so we could think for ourselves.

This final quote from James Stinson both clears any doubt towards their intentions with their music and I feel justifies my own endeavours in trying to piece together what their Storm series might mean."All the records we’ve made give you clues, how to tap into your inner selves. We bring you right to that door and give you the key. We’re doing what we’re able to, dropping messages from day one without getting too deep and scaring people off. We can only hope that people will pick up on what we’re doing.”

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Shifted Phases

Storm #7 is the Shifted Phases album The Cosmic Memoirs of the Late Great Rupert J. Rosinthrope. The hidden element to this storm is that what we have here is a map to the Drexciya home universe. As I have said previously in many ways this bookends Storm #1 very neatly in that the theme is self contained. This Storm is also on Tresor too so there’s a kind of join there but that could be just coincidence.

Shifted Phases immediately conjures up images of changing dimensions, realities whose frequencies are phased just out of step to be different from each other. Maybe this would be something we need to do to ever hope to reach the Drexciya home universe in a human lifetime. Perhaps one of the unnamed biological experiments on Lab Rat XL would have been to reconnect this part of our brain with this universal mind, that would be evolution indeed.

The album title seems to be telling us that it contains the life story of an individual. Well first of all, like most people interested I put Rupert J. Rosinthrope in a search engine when the album first came out and came up with zilch outside references to the album. So we know the name is their creation at least. These memoirs are not of course an account of an everyday existence either, for these are cosmic memoirs. I would say that this man represents mankind and this is the entire history of man being recounted one last time. The ‘Late Great’ phrase certainly hints at something bigger than this being just about an ordinary man. There was a huge bestseller, in the 1970’s I think, about the possibly factual end of the world according to the book of Revelations. It was called the Late Great Planet Earth which they might have been thinking of to signify how big this evolutionary step could be. I’m not saying there is any Revelations type element in the Storm series, just that that phrase could signify the World.

While I’m on this subject I might as well elaborate on a possible meaning of the phrase ‘Cosmic Memoirs’. I had come across a similar phrase to this before when reading about Rudolf Steiner. Steiner died in 1925 and wrote about higher states of human consciousness. He called it the Cosmic Chronicle or Akhasic Record and what he described this as being was an uninterrupted view/experience of the entire history of man, right from the beginning of time. I wanted to mention this character before in relation to being a possible influence on the evolution of the consciousness element of the Storm series(the ability to view the cosmic chronicle was one of his final steps) but thought I’d hold back on him till now. We’ll never know for sure what sort of reading Stinson and Gerald got up to but while Steiner may seem obscure to most people, he would be well enough known to those interested in the subject. Cosmic Memoirs is the only direct reference to Steiner and that is why I only mention him now but if you delve a little deeper into his idea’s you may be surprised at how much resonates, again this could just be coincidence.

My last point in this vein would be to point out another connected philosophical viewpoint. If you accept the existence of a type of universal/folk memory then would it not follow that there be a common consciousness? Ludwig Wittgenstein theorised about just such a possibility in his ‘no ownership of mind’ theory. If you choose to follow up this line of inquiry prepare yourself for mind scrambling scenarios where amnesiac’s wake up in hospitals screaming, “Someone is in pain, I don’t know who!”. This might even shed light on that enigmatic Stinson quote where he’s asked for some last thoughts in the Beere interview, “Look in the mirror, do you see you or do you see me?".

Musically Shifted Phases is way up my list, there is a varied palette of sounds to be found here. In particular, the piano on ‘Lonely Journey of the Comet Bopp’ really makes you feel like your watching it move through space. There are so many standout tracks here I would only end up listing the bulk of the album, lets just say it’s another triumph then. Of course there is a ‘Production by Dimensional Waves’ credit, but no other information relevant to figuring out what its all about. Although on the CD there is the line 'In memory of James Marcel Stinson who died in September 2002'. Luckily the titles give us all we need to know. To follow the CD track-list in order, as we also did with it’s opposing bookend, Harnessed The Storm, made the most sense to me.

The first thing which might surprise you in space travel is that there is a ‘Solar Wind’, you would also need to be wary of running into the path of radioactive solar flares but that's beside the point. A ‘White Dwarf’ star would be a phenomena you could encounter on your way, maybe in this context it could even be used as an ‘Astronomical Guidepost’ for our journey (also the name of a track on Grava 4). ‘Waveform Cascades’ could mean a lot of things but ‘Dance of the Celestial Druids’ sounds like another astronomical phenomenon. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a druid like figure in the constellation chart alongside Leo etc, another guidepost in our journey? ‘The Freak Show’ again sounds like an astral happening which now makes three possible astronomical guideposts we have encountered. ‘Implosive Regions’ sounds like we are now leaving our own galaxy and navigating the asteroid belt, a dangerous region indeed. It should come as no surprise then that we should now encounter at this furthest point the 'Lonely Journey of the Comet Bopp’. We now cross into some ‘Neptune’s Lair’ type imagery because everything beyond this point is the unknown. We know that James Stinson was a jazz fan and having talked of possible philosophical influences earlier, we have on ‘Crossing of the Sun-Ra Nebula’ an acknowledgement of a definite influence. You need go no further back than Sun Ra to find in him the forefather of musicians creating imaginary worlds to go with their music. Once we cross this nebula we encounter ‘Scattering Pulsars’. The following ‘Alien Vessel Distress Call’ again makes me think of classic ‘Neptune’s Lair’ type scenarios. Who exactly the alien craft belongs to could be either us, as we would be the aliens in this universe or them. The final track is ‘Flux’ which of course means fluctuation or change. If we have followed the instructions so far we will have experienced both a change of consciousness and now a change of place to fit that consciousness.

In many ways I feel like the journey ended for me with L.I.F.E., you should read my last paragraph there again if you want a neat summary of and praise for the Storm series. Mind you, Shifted Phases may only be about a physical journey but it is one we could not have even conceptualised about taking before understanding the previous Storms. It only seemed easier to figure out in comparison to what had gone before.

It's worth noting that the Storm series follows an ancient tradition in story telling known as the mono-myth, as identified by Joseph Campbell. He boiled this down to any account of growing up, leaving home, a search, a trail, a gift and a return. It is a process of meeting and integrating the shadow or a lost or unrecognised part of the self. Where the shadow is not integrated this archetype remains potent and unfulfilled. The persona longs for its journey of symbolic death and the awakening to the authentic self.

As Drexciya, James Stinson and Gerald Donald gave us great music, but by not explaining themselves and creating a mystery they gave us the use of our imagination. This is only my interpretation, to have your own is more important.

This is not the end, Grava 4 is next.


Friday, September 02, 2005


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.