Saturday, August 27, 2005

Lab Rat XL

Storm #5: Initially I took the sleeve notes on the Lab Rat XL album Mice or Cyborg, ‘This album is the 7th and last storm from Drexciya’ to mean Storm #7, end of story. Strictly speaking Clone were correct to state that this is the ‘7th and last storm’ because it was the last storm to be released but that does not necessarily make it Storm #7. After studying the series and where it seems to be going, it doesn’t fit in as any conclusion.

While there doesn't seem on the face of it to be much additional information on the album a key piece towards understanding it can be found in a press blurb written by Clone, some of the specifics of which presumably must have come from Drexciya. It read, “Clone will be releasing the last storm in the series entitled Lab Rat XL and produced in accordance with the Drexciyan R.E.S.T. principle (Research, Experimentation, Science, Technology). Because of the tragic loss of one of the Drexciya members this is also (as far as we can tell) the last ever Drexciya production. This last storm consists of 6 stages of experimentation. The loss of James Stinson before the final track titles were decided upon has meant that the tracks are recognised by the production code “Lab Rat” and a number from 1 to 6.” First of all lets tackle what else was never sent or decided upon before James Stinson's death. Well there is no artwork most obviously and no covering text for the record. So no Dimensional Waves production credit or any lines or subtitles that would previously have come directly from the band. What we do have is a good intentioned ‘R.I.P. James Stinson’ and ‘All tracks written and produced by Drexciya’, and the already mentioned ’7th and last storm’ which is misleading. I severely doubt James Stinson imagined his last record would also betray his identity. Having his name splashed all over the internet and media after his death is one thing but he had always managed to keep his records separate from all that and I would imagine his wishes would have been for that to continue for his final record. Clone undoubtedly meant well and maybe it's no big deal, the main thing is that they carried out his wish to put out the album.

The quoted press piece for the album them gives us the only clues as to what this album was about. I believe the theme and subject of this Storm was to have been about biological experimentation. The few keywords we have to go on like lab rat and mice make it sound like the experiments concern animals or are we the animals, full size lab rats, humans XL? But experiments towards what end? This Storm seems to follow on in the same tradition of the others in preparing us for an evolutionary mental jump. In this case there is a series of 6 experiments to be carried out towards becoming, to some degree, a cyborg or hybrid human. Perhaps there was to be an explanation on this album how we were to embrace/utilise technology in this evolutionary jump. Whatever the nature of these experiments we will never know for sure. I think that it could be said that the whole series is a huge all encompassing brain storm towards this mental jump.

We do know, according to the press blurb, the nature of the tracks musical production was done in accordance with the Drexciyan R.E.S.T. principle of Research, Experimentation, Science and Technology. This is the name of a track from Grava 4 which was already released at this stage. Does this mean then that before they began to produce this music they did some research into a topic, experimented with lots of styles and sounds before they settled on a template, then applied their highly developed, scientific even, insight for production detail and finally rendered it with the technology of their studio. I guess this is how they may have always worked, but this time maybe they were more conscious of all aspects of this approach.

Each track is musically quite different from each other, but I wouldn’t go so far to say that there was anything so different to be unlike Drexciya though. Maybe this is the most varied Storm so far, but it does sound quite cohesive in spite of all that, which is quite an achievement. The order of the tracks which were sent to Clone may have been in numerological order but for the album they were sequenced as Lab Rat 1, 6, 5, 3, 2 and 4. It might have been done like this to pair certain tracks of convenient lengths together for the vinyl or I am wrong and this is the order Drexciya wanted. But if you listen to it the other way, easier with a CD copy, the album doesn't particularly improve or disprove it. It seems important that at least the first track on the album does correspond. There is a vocal to consider on this first track as well but it is too hard to decipher. On 'Lab Rat 2' a male vocal seems to be saying "If we get together. Life is like a shadow". Not exactly the biological science subject I'd expected but it does propose understanding among humans and is a necessary step towards the goal of the Storm series.

Stinson spoke of recording the entire series in one year. Presuming that the recordings were more or less completed by the time the first Storm was released in 2001 or as late as when he began doing the first interviews where he spoke of them being finished, we can guess that 2000 give or take 6 months was the critical time period of their creation. Knowing this, perhaps the general millennium fever of the time was the catalyst to their decision to not waste anymore time and to go all out with this burst of creativity or his health concerns. With this time-frame in mind it's strange to consider that by the time the first Storms were being released into the world a very real storm was about to hit with the attacks of September 11th and their bloody and continuing aftermath. Stinson himself would be dead just days shy of the first anniversary of 9/11 and as we know would not even get to see his Storm series completed.

This Storm will always be the most mysterious due to the untitled tracks and what might have beens but it's also sort of nice that there are still some things which we can never get to the bottom of. This whole exercise of mine is by no means definitive, only being a personal interpretation which grew out of a desire to figure out what the Storm series might mean, if anything. I have already discovered far more than I first imagined when I simply played the records for the pleasure of listening to the music. That same feeling is still there for me even after so much analysis, but also a deeper wonder and respect at what Drexciya created.

Transllusion L.I.F.E. is next.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Abstract Thought

Storm #4: The Abstract Thought album Hypothetical Situations is number four in the Storm series and significantly or not is the only Storm to have its number included in the sleeve notes.

There was a huge gap of up to at least 3 months between the vinyl promo's of this going out and the record finally hitting the shops, a friend of mine had it for this long at least. Maybe part of the reason for it being numbered is because it would have seemed to most people counting as the final Storm in the series as they would have included the already released Grava 4. Just a way to let people know there’s more to come and more than meets the eye about the whole thing. I don't know whether this Storm is any more significant than the others, it being the eye of the storm. I guess you could say that it is calm in its theme of thought/mental development, but the music certainly doesn't reflect this.

Before we get into the music and titles the most different thing between this Storm and the others to date is that the artwork appears to be by wholly by Drexciya. We’ll never know if James Stinson or Gerald Donald themselves actually sat down and designed this or just worked closely with a designer friend but we can be sure that it is the first artwork so far that most closely relates to what they wanted as the credit reads 'Imaging by Dimensional Waves Imaging and Oblivion Visual Concepts'. The second part of this name is interesting. Oblivion Visual Concepts, to interpret the phrase literally might mean, visual ideas which lead to nothingness, the void. Well if that's the case, the void or the end of life/reality as we know it is exactly where we are going. I’d like to say I can see a specific message or symbol here but its quite the opposite in its vagueness. A cross of fire perhaps, it’s four lengths connecting inside what might represent a brain or some centre of consciousness symbol. Like all good artwork it is open to many interpretations so may not be of that much help but the name of the company and its goal is clear and I believe this tells us what we need to know.

This album is all about thought, deep abstract though to be precise. The email address includes this wording and the key word here is deep. In many ways this album is a balance to the previous emotion centred Lifestyles. This is where we continue our mental journey as set out on The Opening of the Cerebral Gate. But why is deep abstract thought so important? Well, if we have been following the instructions of the Storms so far we should now be more able to think deeply in this mental space as our thoughts are no longer confined to the everyday and have no limitations. But if anything this album seems to be more about preparatory work before the final ascent of evolution we are being lead to. What better way to practice this thought process than by imagining various, often humorous hypothetical situations?

There is a question after every track title in the artwork. ‘Bermuda Triangle’ - “What if the triangle pivoted over the island of Jamaica, what would become of the population?” I suppose this is implying that the population would disappear, but to where? We can take this as a good example of a question that leads to infinite possibilities and is therefore unknowable. In short, good material for practicing deep thought and in this case relevant to the Storm idea. The next track is also relevant to this subject. 'Synchronised Dimensions’ - “What if we existed within three planes of reality simultaneously?” Again another question of a similar type to get us thinking on those infinite and unknowable lines.‘Me Want Woman’s Punani’ - “What if for one week, male sex organs became petrified. How much punani could the average man consume?’ This is quite a strange image to get from Drexciya, it’s a subject we might more quickly connect with Gerald Donald and early Dopplereffekt though. Another healthy sign of a sense of humour in close proximity to the seriousness. ‘Consequences of Cloning’ -"What if they cloned the perfect human specimen, but did they clone the perfect god given spirit for this specimen?” This isn’t the first time clones have been mentioned during the Storm, ‘War of the Clones’ is a track on the first Transllusion album and later the subject is referenced on the Mice or Cyborg album by Lab Rat XL. I think from the evidence so far that Drexciya’s attitude to cloning would be to use caution if not outright disagreement. ‘Solar Pulse’ - “What if a solar flare ten thousand times larger than the average flare were emitted. How would this electromagnetic wave effect electrical and communications systems on Earth?” Well if we weren’t all vaporised we might have just a few difficulties with our appliances! ‘Galactic Rotation’ - “What if the galaxy were thrown off its normal cycle due to dark energy emissions from a black hole?” I guess chaos and possible destruction of the Earth would be the outcome. I suppose all the six questions cover a broad enough range of topics and all good subjects for deep thought practice.

The production credit this time reads, 'Beamed through Dimensional Waves by Abstract Thought'. I like the idea that the music is coming directly from a consciousness, which is the true nature of music in a way.
A new email address appears on this release as already mentioned. is the final email in the series and joins and from previous albums in the series so far. By the way no email addresses are found on Grava 4 or mention of Dimensional Waves. All of the addresses are now not operational now, I wish I had emailed them at the time now though. It seems strange that Drexciya put so much emphasis on these emails as they certainly aren’t the kind of band you expect to write you back or agree to do a show. So there must have been some good reason for them to make these addresses available. If anyone did email them and got any kind of response please let me know. It struck me lately that the phrase 'Ride Dimensional Waves' itself may mean to travel through each element of the seven storms, to be a dimensional wave jumper. In this context it might mean to move between each dimension with the ease of the adept, the goal, to glide between dimensions as learnt from 'Dimensional Glide' from Opening of the Cerebral Gate.

The music is outstanding, with some real dance floor friendly moments. There are only six tracks but they are all quite substantial. The album came out on The Advents Kombination Research label. There is a previous connection to The Advent which dates from about 1997 when two Dopplereffekt tracks were licensed by them for a compilation on the label, Kombination Phunk. A relationship was probably established at this point that remained active.

The next Storm is Mice or Cyborg by Lab Rat XL.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Other People Place

Although The Other People Place album, Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe (2001), is Storm number 3 in my opinion, it was I think, the first Storm to be released. James Stinson had yet to give any interviews to my knowledge about the Storm Series and I suppose it was just treated as simply a Drexciya offshoot at the time. Of course it does contain the line, ‘This was a dimensional waves transmission', in its minimal sleeve-notes, but this hardly informs us of more to come, so it would have appeared as just another pseudonym at the time. Although I would be interested to read any press stuff that Warp sent out with it, in case any other clues to the groups identity or of the coming Storm were slipped out at this early stage.

At first I thought The Other People Place has to be a dimensional reference, but where exactly would its location be? Where 'The Other People' are I guess. The first question then is who are these other people (and where are they)? I’d like to give you a better answer than, the people in the other dimension, but for now that’s were I’ll leave it. Lets tackle this from another angle, the artwork. Surely The Designers Republic had some sort of brief for the striking images they produced. Let us presume they got some pointers from Drexciya about the nature of the name of the project and the title of the album. Now a lesser design company might have just stuck a steaming coffee cup next to a laptop and left it at that but luckily they are not the average design company and they came up with an image that I think hints at the true meaning of the album. They made nature a strong dual image alongside current modern technology. The cover image itself could be read to mean that technology, in this case an Apple Powerbook, is the link between our natural state and virtual reality, a glimpse of which we get on the laptop screen, just another jpeg that looks convincing but only really exists as lights on a screen. Significantly it appears as the corner of a room some place indoors, the opposite of the great outdoors environment the laptop sits in. 'The Other People Place' may simply be us in virtual reality, which technology has hastened to the point we are now at, in today's laptop cafe culture and everything that has brought us (we are of course a lot further into this kind of life since this album was released thanks to things like 4G and Smartphones etc) .

The themes which the tracks on the album tackle are all basic human nature stuff, namely love and meaning. The ultimate message here may be to not lose focus on human nature in our rush to embrace more technology. The Storm analogy could be used here quite easily as we fight to retain our humanity as more unnatural/technological behaviour is expected of us. How face to face conversation happens less and less as email, text messaging and social media become the norm or the growing potential of human cloning replacing human sexual reproduction at some future date would be the most basic general examples I can think of. Not that Drexciya are necessarily taking a Luddite stance here, but I think they can see a conflict, in that not everyone can as easily adapt and that maybe we have gone too far.

There are 8 gorgeous slow paced tracks on this album, six with vocals. Due to the lyrics this is the most direct Storm yet, with the least confusion about the sentiments of the tracks. Love and possibly lust/desire are what makes this record tick. The only exception being ‘Let Me Be Me’ which appears more broadly philosophical in nature with the repeated vocal loop of ‘Let me be what I want to be.’ I think this is also my favourite track, such a simple statement which could be directed at parents, lovers, anyone in authority over us. I think it may also be the central piece of the album which connects to the previous storm as it echos similar sentiments on Transllusion's, The Opening of the Cerebral Gate, album about finding your true self.

The longest vocal is on the opener ‘Eye Contact’, “What do we have here? Wow! Somethings happening to my transmitters, starting to overload., sitting here in this cafe drinking my latte. Somethings happening to me. What do I see on the other side of the room? My my, hmm that's what, my, she’s gorgeous. So let me slide over, transmission, communication sent.” It sounds like he might have sent her a wireless message or did he really slide over and talk? The following track, ‘It’s Your Love’, has a vocal loop which sounds like “It’s your love that's keeping me sorry” which gives some emotional balance. ‘Moonlight Rendezvous’ is instrumental but the title references the lyrics of 'Running From Love’, “ I’m a fugitive in the moonlight just running from your love”. Perhaps the instrumental soundtracks what happens when he stops running? The idea of running from love might be to ask why at times we are afraid or unwilling to give in to those emotions. It could be another reference to how modern society is growing ever more complicated, so much so that we would prefer to resist something as precious but complicated as love. Although love can still break your heart without any interference from outside of course.

The first appearance of what seems like a female vocal appears on ‘You Said You Want Me’. The woman asks that question to be answered by the male “You know I do.” There is an obvious question here about the male vocalist. Is this Stinson or Donald, if either. I would plum for it being Stinson, only because it just doesn’t sound like Donald but we’ll never know unless we’re told. This album has also gotten described as a Stinson solo project as well but this has never been confirmed although I'd be willing to go along with this. Another androgynous sounding vocal is on the closing ‘Sunrays’. Another stand-out track on an album full of them. The lyrics loop the phrase “Relax your mind, slowly unwind, catch some rays of the sunshine.” Sublime and so simple. Not a love song, more a chill out/simplify message which does chime in with the whole getting back to nature concept.

‘Lifestyles of the Casual’ is another instrumental and a bit of a mystery. I guess as it’s so close to the album title it may mean we can refer to the inhabitants of The Other People Place as 'Casuals', but this might be taking it too literally. It could mean the lifestyle of accepting casual occurrences also, but that is really just another literal interpretation. Most of all from this album we get the impression of love and the awakening of an inner life, which could certainly be described as a storm and fits in well with the concept so far.

There is one other release by The Other People Place that I want to consider, even though it came out a year later and on a different label. Sometime in 2002 Clone released the 12" Sunday Night Live at the Laptop Cafe. This was the first time Clone hooked up with Drexciya and they went on to build a strong relationship with the band culminating with their Grava 4 swansong and continuing into today with the work of Heinrich Mueller. Of course to add more confusion this is actually The Other People Place featuring Mystic Tribe a.i. First of all the producer of Mystic Tribe is Sherard Ingram who is a respected producer in his own right. He must have been a close friend of Drexciya as he was also their Drexciyen DJ Stingray.

The mesmerising and very Lifestyles sounding ‘Sorrow and a Cup of Joe’ is credited to TOPP while ‘Telepathic Seduction’ is down as written and produced by Mystic Tribe a.i. The artwork presents a mock handwritten poster on the window of what looks suspiciously like the Clone record shop. It reads, ‘performing at midnight The Other People Place’ and ‘special guest Mystic Tribe A.I. will be performing at 2am’. Maybe this release is more oddity than anything, only linked to the 3rd Storm by its titles. But as Stinson himself said of the Storms, they can be pretty chaotic, a piece of debris like this flying off should come as no surprise in this context. I suppose to sum up in very broad strokes where we have got to with the interpretation of the series would be wise at this point.

Harnessed The Storm is the violent scene setter that tells us all is not well but ends on a note of hope of a new kind of life and a physical and mental journey of rediscovery about to begin.

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. We learn to look within and explore our mental dimensions.

Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe tells us to continue this process of finding our true selves but also to develop/retain basic human emotions, especially love and not to become a victim of the coldness of technology/modern society.

Next up is the eye of the storm itself, Abstract Thought Hypothetical Situations.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Storm #2: Storm number 2 in my opinion is the first Transllusion album, The Opening of the Cerebral Gate. If I had to pick my favourite of the series this might be it, it took a while for me to get into it but once I did I never tire of it. First of all it’s worth considering the name of the project. The closest word it resembles is translucent, which means transparent or see-through. Therefore we can take it as more than likely that Transllusion means to ‘become transparent’, which will make increasing sense as I probe this album for meaning.

It proved fruitful with Harnessed the Storm to follow the running order of the tracks but here we’re in more uncertain territory. Mind you, you could take the opener ‘Transmission of Life’ to be a reference to ‘Birth of New Life’, the last track on Harnessed but there, save the last track, the sequence ceases to be of much help. The literal meaning of ‘Transmission of Life’ would be to broadcast or spread life. It seems obvious to me that this would be the "new life" referred to already. So what would be the nature of this new life? I believe this is what The Opening of the Cerebral Gate makes clear. The new life is not about a new species just the rebirth of an old one, us, the rebirth is mental in nature, and this album marks those beginnings.

The place to begin this change is always within, there’s no point in changing your surroundings in the hope of becoming another person. The title ‘Look Within’ in this context means to become fully aware of yourself, make this your starting point of change. This storm is also when the ’Dimensional Waves’ phrase starts to reveal its true meaning. This is the production company name that Drexciya used for the series, revealingly it doesn't appear on the post-storm Grava 4. So are we to take it that each storm is from another dimension? Possibly so, but a dimension of what? I would say it's a dimension of thought, of the mind. In this context ‘Dimensional Glide’ could be a reference to the ease with which they are moving from one dimension of thought to another during this intensive year of production.

To re-cap, the Storms are cloaking spheres which are hiding something. On Grava 4 we learn that they are hiding the Drexciya home planet, but this of course is only the surface meaning, a metaphor. There is a revelation waiting for us if we can figure it out and each storm is a puzzle in itself to be understood before we can see the last crucial piece for what it really is.

To open the cerebral gate is to allow this album right into your mental experience, which is the mental dimension, one that is inside us all. Another way of saying this could be the same as the track title ‘Crossing Into The Mental Astroplane’. ‘Negative Flash’ might be acknowledgement that the way is not without difficulties, but at least it's only a temporary feeling. ‘Walking With Clouds’ might not be the most amazing title in the world but it probably describes another aspect of the feeling of oneness which this inner flight brings. ‘Unordinary Realities’ is quite an awkward phrase to use but again its meaning is quite clear as you start to see things differently. ‘Cerebral Cortex Malfunction’ sounds like something else negative, but maybe in this context it is the point where we are set free from the brains normal functioning. Maybe this is a necessary step towards where we are going, an evolutionary step. Evolution will become important as the storm continues.

‘War of the Clones’ is a bit of a puzzler, again quite a negative image, although this could make more sense as the storm continues. I think that ‘Cluben in Guyana’ is a sort of day dream title which reminds me of when James Stinson talked about playing unannounced live shows in Japan. I'm sure they, like most musicians, were amazed at how far their music had travelled and all the different scenarios and places it might now appear.

The final track is the perfect link to the following 'The Other People Place' storm. Here we finally have a vocal, which TOPP is full of, and the question, ‘Do you want to get down?’ If your on the same journey as me then the only answer is yes.

This is the album then where things start to become clear, we are on the first real step of the journey towards truly finding ourselves, the gate into our mental life has been opened. The significance of there being a second Transllusion album plus a 12" of exclusive tracks later in the series should not be overlooked. I also wouldn't underestimate one or both of their beliefs in God, he gets a ‘special thanks’ in the credits and this is not the first time he has either. Whether they believe in the Christian interpretation or not doesn't matter as it all comes from the same impulse to believe in a creator/controlling intelligence. Anyone who truly believes in a God is a moral person and I believe the intent of this series is extremely just in this regard.

Preceding this was the rare at the time 12" EP Mind Over Positive and Negative Dimensional Matter. If you have the CD version of the album you will already have one of its tracks, 'Do You Want To Get Down?' with even a bonus vocal de void mix of this same track as well. The names of the other two tracks on the EP are 'Power of the 3rd Brain' and 'Disrupted Neutral Gateway'. Taking all we know about this EP we could read its title to mean that to find the way to use the power of your third brain/mind over positive and negative dimensional matter would be to disrupt the normally neutral gateway receiver of your mind. This sounds nothing less than becoming a time traveller or something very similar. The meaning of the name Transllusion here becomes interesting as if you did find a way to move faster than light and caught up on yourself, you would indeed become transparent to some degree.

The label these came out on is Supremat, a short-lived Tresor imprint. Drexciya took their image as seriously as their music and both aspects influenced the other. That’s what makes their canon stand up so well today as their work continues to reveal itself with time and inquiry. They managed to strike a balance of giving us just enough information that we were left wanting more, that we would have to use our imagination to fill in the blanks. It might well be true that only the odd title or clue exists to link each Storm and everything else is down to that curious human ability to find meaning and patterns in everything. Certainly a percentage of this exists only in our own mind, like so much we imagine about the arts in general, it is a personal thing, but all great art leaves us that option.

James Stinson said to Tim Pratt, “There are small itty-bitty links between them all - and that's the fun part. You have to see what the pattern is to figure it out. It might just be one song but there's a lot going on." In the same interview he elaborated more, "After the music is created, we're building a concept around it: moods, emotions and feelings from the music helps build the concept. Basically, what we do is listen to the record and then your mind starts to wander and images come to your mind. Hopefully, people that buy the record feel the same thing. When you listen to the music and read the title, you basically have to run with it. The images have to go also with the themes.” On reading this I'd be surprised if they had planned out the concept of the storm series in advance, but it seems like they might have had a broad idea which they more or less stuck to for the Storm series and up to Grava 4. That's not to say they didn't go into it blindly either and just worked it all out as they went along as this Stinson quote more forcibly attests, "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."

In interpreting their work we do have some advantage as we can take a more objective viewpoint and look back at the work as a whole and in this way we may notice things that their originators did not, things that only their subconscious may have been aware of. Of course some people will prove quite immune to their music and world, but to those that know and care about such things it is the entry point to good times and wider possibilities.

The Other People Place will be discussed next but I'll leave the last word to James Stinson who obviously knew people were already intrigued by mystery itself, "We're humans and humans love mystery - we're very curious creatures. If you don't challenge the intellect of people, they're going to be bored."

Monday, August 01, 2005

Harnessed The Storm

Storm #1: The first album in the Drexciya Storm series, Harnessed The Storm (Tresor 2002), in my opinion gives the most clues to what the series is all about and where it may be leading us. It seems odd that the first Storm should come out after The Other People Place and first Transllusion albums, but James Stinson himself said, "There’s no particular order that they’re going to be released in. The records are already done." It does at least seem right and proper that this first storm is the sole record credited to Drexciya in the series.

Looking at the music content first we begin as the title of the first track suggests, just as a storm is brewing. But this is not a storm of the land for these are ‘Under Sea Disturbances’. Once this track kicks in though it's business as usual, classic dance-floor Drexciya. 'Digital Tsunami' is cut from a similar cloth and of course the title brings to mind further aquatic storm conditions albeit of a worsening variety. The digital reference could only mean music, so this is another way of saying musical storm I guess. 'Soul of the Sea' is more contemplative, the first breath for air from the unbroken fast tempo so far.
It's also worth considering this quote by John Philip Cohane in his book The Key (1969), "Saiwala is the oldest recorded form of the word soul. The word saiwala, or soul, is closely related to the word sea." Sea as soul and soul as sea. The pace picks up slightly on 'Song of the Green Whale', you could dance to this although it tends to intentionally break down in places as it nears the close. This track is good to illustrate how Drexciya use a live approach in recording as opposed to sequencing. I've no idea how many versions they might have to jam through before they get to the definitive version but certainly this approach allows the odd tell-tale mistake to creep in, but nothing more than the odd split second release of a track in the wrong place or an effect being held for a bar too many. This approach might even be one of the secrets of the music's success; giving it a raw dangerous element of surprise.

'Dr Blowfins' Black Storm Stabilizing Spheres' is much more threatening sounding with lots of sharp angles as it rattles along. This track also introduces us to an early character of Drexciyan yore and also contains a reference to a storm. On the Grava 4 sleeve-notes it states that Dr Blowfin was given the orders to initiate the seven dimensional cloaking spheres to hide the other three planets from Earths view as an Earth scientist has just discovered the Drexciya home planet. The most obvious thing here is the seven spheres reference which has to mean the seven Storms. The reference to black storms might mean that the space would now appear to Earth as black and empty. The Storms themselves which do not us the name Drexciya also effectively hide the identity of their creators on all but this first one which maybe makes sense as this is the moment when all the storms are harnessed together and everything proceeding one will be a mystery. Going further, seeing as Earth has already discovered the planet Drexciya then it's ok to give that name away at the beginning as it's no mystery anymore but if they want to find it again they will have a problem locating it. Artistically it was also a very practical way for them to use the freedom that these pseudonyms provide when releasing so many albums that cover such a variety of styles.

'The Plankton Organization' is very fast paced, on the attack. The title might refer to a group in authority, more on this later. 'Mission to Ociya Syndor and Back' again made sense when Grava 4 came out. Not only was there a track called 'Ociya Syndor' but on the map of the Drexciya home universe there is a planet called by the same name. Musically it might be the most adventurous here, stop-starting and experimental. 'Aquatic Cataclysm' does not sound like things are getting better, this is a violent storm and it’s reflected in the majority of the music here. 'Lake Haze' sounds more old school Drexciya than anything else on the album and is firmly designed for the dance-floor. The positively titled 'Birth of New Life' is my favourite, very laid back, and could easily fit the template of Storm number 3 by The Other People Place. I will tackle this Storm later and only say now that it is very much the love/philosophy album of the seven. Which makes this the violent scene-setter of the series.

In the Pratt interview James Stinson said this directly about the album, "For me and my partner, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of personal things in my world being turned upside down. 'Harnessed' has a lot of personal memories. It's melancholy and very well-rounded. There's a lot of different emotions: laid-back, mad, frustrated, happy . . . it has it all.” This certainly sounds like they were creating a world that reflected their own at the time. Speaking of the title of the album he said in the Beere interview, "It relates to this whole situation directly with the seven storms that are brewing. It took a whole year to put together these seven albums. It was very, very violent and very chaotic in a lot of different ways. Ups and downs. If you're in the middle of a storm, you have your ups and downs. You have all the elements that there are on this planet that exist in a storm, from water to air, fire, electricity. You might have a cow or a truck mixed up in there too. Those are the images that we perceived when we made the music and that's how the concepts come about. To answer your question, it had a lot to do with the album and everything going on around us was very turbulent.” Knowing this it seems likely that each album was approached separately during this turbulent year, but something like The Other People Place album is quite different in that it sounds like it was completed in one mood, while Harnessed sounds like it was done over a period where many different moods held sway with its creators, but it won't be the only one like that in the series.

I would sum up the story being told in this opening Storm as follows. 'Under Sea Disturbances' is obviously the beginning of major problems in Drexciya's underwater world. This culminates in a tsunami so violent that it effects the very soul of its civilisation, throwing its inhabitants out of its own home, in every sense this is very much a paradise lost. There are a few lines about the Pythagorean concept of the music of the spheres which Robert Fludd wrote that resonate with this idea, "Earthly music is only the faint tradition of the angelic state, it remains in the mind of man as a dream of, and the sorrow for, the lost paradise. (The music) produced from the impact upon the paths of the planets, which stand as chords or strings, by the cross travel of the sun from note to note, as from planet to planet." Perhaps the 'Song of the Green Whale' is composed to mark this momentous event so people do not forget.

The scene now changes to the Drexciya Home Universe where perhaps acting under orders from 'The Plankton Organisation' which might be what passes for the government/rulers of this place. Dr Blowfin decisively acts and sets in motion the seven black storm stabilising spheres. As I have already stated on the surface we learn in the Grava 4 sleeve notes that these are to hide the remaining planets of the Drexciya Home Universe from the prying eyes of Earth but this is also I believe a metaphor for a puzzle which needs to be figured out before we can ever hope to regain paradise (this is the central theme of my interpretation of the Storm series). Back in the fictional world of the album and the track, 'Mission To Ociya Syndor and Back', on Earth there is now a mission undertaken to go back to visit this home universe and then to return (with the information/things they would need to rebuild again I presume). However the idea of the seven spheres or storms has been introduced and it is possible I believe that if we understand these we can attain the same goal as returning to the planet. In many ways this journey can from now on also be read as metaphor, although Drexciya will continue to use the physical journey as a device to tell the story. The most important part of this journey will be the return, this is the key/end point to the whole series. But returning to what, a memory of themselves I would say.

The full impact of what has happened their underwater world really hits as the mission begins it’s journey and the event becomes known as the ‘Aquatic Cataclysm’. ‘Lake Haze’ may stand for how they are already forgetting their previous existence. The lake here implies that they don’t even remember that it was once the ocean itself that was their domain, the haze is now the fog of memory. ‘Birth of New Life’ can only mean hope. The following Storms begin the real process of making them become what they once were and this first one is the very beginning of that process, learning the facts of what has gone before and this kindling a hope within us of new life, a return. This album and the final Storm could both be looked at as scene setting bookends to the series.

Sadly there were no extra tracks on the Digital Tsunami 12” or its artwork (just standard label text) to gleam for clues. However the artwork of the album is intriguing to say the least. Perhaps the swirl image is the storm and the 8 translucent spheres surrounding a pulsating white one which are all backed by a larger sphere (a planet?) ties into all of this in that the 8 spheres are all of the 8 albums (including Grava 4) which will make up the one story of the return to Ociya Syndor? This might be an assumption too far but your guess is as good as mine.

Next up will be The Opening of the Cerebral Gate by Transllusion.