Monday, January 09, 2006

Aquatic Invasion

'Aquatic Invasion' came out as a 3 track 12" on UR in 1995. If for nothing else the lead track of the EP, 'Wave Jumper', has become something of a Drexciya standard. From this release I prefer 'Sighting in the Abyss' myself, but I'll get to the musical details later. The artwork and general vibe of the EP is very UR and it appears to have come out of a specific commission from that label. The following text from the artwork expands this mission further. "On February First Nineteen Hundred And Ninety Five the Drexciyan Tactical Seaforces received orders from UR Strikeforce Command, for one final mission. The dreaded Drexciya stingray and barracuda battalions were dispatched from the Bermuda Triangle. Their search and destroy mission to be carried out during the Winter Equinox of 1995 against the programmer strongholds. During their return journey home to the invisible city one final mighty blow will be dealt to the programmers. Aquatic knowledge for those who know." This is signed by The Unknown Writer. Crucially this is not Drexciya speaking here, even though I’m sure they would no doubt have discussed and o.k. 'ed the text with him. The Unknown Writer is part of the UR family and is one of its chief theorists and has had his words emblazoned on many of their releases. This theme of attacking 'the programmers' is still a constant for UR right up to today. It's quite obvious Drexciya had some sympathy with this viewpoint and were happy to be a part of it but it's worth stressing that on the surface this is very much a UR trip. In spite of this I’ll show how Drexciya still manage to include their own unique points undercover of the broader context of the EP.
Some interesting and revealing vocals are found on ‘Wave Jumper’. We hear “You must face the power of the black wave of Lardossa before you become a Drexciyan wave jumper.”, “There are only two wave jumpers in existence today." and finally “Wave jumpers, catch a wave.”, all delivered in an old man type voice. So what does this all mean? If I’m right about what the ‘Black Sea’ of The Journey Home stands for then this black wave might be the same thing that we have to face/go through/overcome before we can begin our journey home, in this case worded as becoming a Drexciyan Wave Jumper. I suppose in their world to become an adept in wave jumping would be the final step of evolution, the end point, home. Of course this EP is historic in that it also marks the beginning of the wave jumping concept which at this stage would have been unclear as to what exactly this meant but would by the Storm series have come to mean dimensional wave jumping. The fact that the Unknown Writers text even mentions a ‘journey home’ could give credence to this. When speaking to Derek Beere in 2002 James Stinson himself saw the 'Wave Jumper' concept in terms of how Drexciya do business/interact with the public. "If you go back to the record "Wave Jumper", what that really was is how we do business with Dimensional Waves, which is we pop up in different spots in around the world and do releases. That’s the true definition of what a wave jumper is. We just pop up somewhere and there it is. We’re here for a second and then we're gone."
But what else can we learn about this line of enquiry from the other tracks? Not a lot maybe, ‘The Countdown Has Begun’ tells us only that this process has started, a continuation of the previous ‘Living on the Edge’, ‘the time is now’ type insistency. ‘Sighting in the Abyss’ perhaps hinting at what is coming next as we emerge from the Black Sea/Dark Wave abyss.
Why the old man voice, would this simply signify wisdom, someone we should listen to and trust? Again with the Lardossa references, truly this is a special place in Drexciya.
The 'two wave jumpers' are of course Stinson and Donald but they are keen not to be the only ones as they beckon us to 'catch a wave'. It’s interesting to me that so much information has been lying latent in this music for so long now, even I never noticed it right away. I see it now as designed like a musical pyramid, it’s secrets hidden behind a beautiful facade, revealed only to the curious or those who know. I have shied away from using the over used and increasingly empty word genius regarding James Stinson and Gerald Donald but really they achieved something rare indeed with Drexciya and truly deserve our highest accolades.
Musically ‘Wave Jumper’ is pretty funky, all sharp angles with the already mentioned strange sounding vocal interjections peppered throughout. 'The Countdown Has Begun' is much more slinky with a deep voice repeating the title throughout over some of their most darkly atmospheric sounds to date with a deep deep bass sound. Most surprisingly the track ‘Data Transfer’ from the fabled James Stinson solo project Clarence G’s ‘Hyperspace Sound Lab’ 12” bears a very close resemblance to ‘The Countdown Has Begun‘. I say most surprising because this came out in 1991! While Stinson might have had an uncertain start launching his music his production skills were there from the beginning. An updated AKA posting on this project is there now. 'Sighting in the Abyss' sounds much more like something from 'Neptune's Lair', in fact it also has an element of a Gerald Donald production feel, the bass line being very him but the rest is pure Drexciya. On the downside it's a bit short, sounding incomplete. In describing music I’m always reminded of the Frank Zappa quote that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Really it’s a personal thing, we can’t help but hear, interpret and value things so differently from each other, so just take my view as a rough guide.
While I'm covering what information we can gleam from the artwork etc we learn that it was recorded at '...Black Planet Studios on a Tascam 4 Trk'. Couple this with the date of 1st February and we have, for what it’s worth, a possible date and location for the ‘Aquatic Invasion’ session. Although not all the tracks might have come from then, as I explained above I would guess that ‘Sighting in the Abyss’ came from their own studio. I presume that while a 4 track is undoubtedly primitive, but effective, they mean a reel to reel machine and not the Tascam audio cassette 4 track model, although this is also an effective machine. I suppose giving us this detail could be UR showing us that they are more concerned with creativity than technology.
The artwork comes from a regular UR contributor but is also historic in that it is the first artwork used so far that depicts Drexciyans. What we get is some nice renderings of two ‘Drexciyan Commandos’ jumping from a helicopter into the sea ‘somewhere in the Atlantic’. The other side is of a close up of one of the commandos masked faces with breathing apparatus evident.
Only ‘Wave Jumper’ was selected for The Quest compilation and I presume this EP was also briefly reissued in 2003 by UR, although its Discogs listing does not mention it. Certainly there is plenty of scope for a good quality second volume of The Quest someday.
You might be thinking that I’m underplaying the whole ‘Aquatic Invasion’ aspect here, putting it down to being more of a UR thing, but really there is still a strong parallel going on between both concepts. What better way to attack the programmers, the mainstream media, than with this slow fused message. Not long after this Drexciya would do their only remix for UR’s ‘Electronic Warfare’ release which itself was an extension of this theme. The communication war has begun, our minds invaded by both sides, will we recognise the truth from the lies?

So that’s Drexciya’s 6th release covered, ‘The Return of Drexciya’ is next. Don't despair if there are some lengthy gaps between these postings, I won't bore you with my other pre-occupations, it will be done; I also would rather take the time to make sure the piece does justice to its subject. On the topic of why present this as a Blog, to be honest I'm not particularly a fan of the typical diary style blogs and just see it as an effective way to generate feedback, plus it serves it's purpose well enough. The only thing to remember being that if your a new reader it makes more sense to start from the beginning.


Blogger Unknown said...

The track from Clarence G's Hyperspace Sound Lab that uses the same drum pattern for The Countdown Has Begun is 'Turbine' and not 'Data Transfer'

2:18 AM  

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