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.