Monday, April 10, 2006

Glass Domain

I wasn't sure initially how I should tackle the prodigious production output of the other half of Drexciya, mister Gerald Donald. I've already done two articles that I see now only really scrap the surface of this subject. To do his work justice and most fully understand the development of his production techniques, aesthetics and concept, not to mention his myriad alias and personas I feel a more methodical approach to his discography is what is required. So I will for the future be tackling all his work in order, beginning with the Glass Domain 12" of 1991.

Glass Domain turned out to be a one-off project by Gerald Donald that released just the one 12” in 1991 on his own label, Pornophonic Sound Disc, in an edition of 300 on both clear, transparent blue and even plain old black vinyl. When in 2003 Clone reissued it as a clear vinyl 12” it was credited to Heinrich Muller, an alias of his not used previous to 1999 when it began to appear on his releases as Der Zyklus. For now we'll just treat it as being anonymous beyond the artist name Glass Domain. But on the original edition the credit reads ‘English and Music by Glassware’.
While Donalds main group Drexciya would go on to make their own vinyl debut in 1992, he and James Stinson are said to have been working together since 1989. The Glass Domain release must also have come out very close to Stinsons Clarence G 12”(see AKA article), which also turned out to be a one-off. Certainly a lot of releasable music could potentially have been made at this time both together and solo as they experimented in the studio and searched for their own sound. The temptation to put some of this stuff out, especially under a different name, would be great for anyone. They also would have got to learn the basics of record manufacture and the practical side of the distribution of the records for themselves which is an immensely valuable lesson, better to learn from your mistakes early on. It's also a great way to put yourself on the map so to speak, better than any demo tape. Maybe this is how Detroits Hardwax label became aware of them before they released their 12” as L.A.M. in 1992, another one-off, the final pre-Drexciya project.
Whether this or any of the other pre-Drexciya projects already mentioned are truly solo or not will never be known without confirmation from those involved, it's quite likely that at the very least they would have given each other feedback on what they thought of the others work and if they were sharing the same studio it would be hard to work in complete isolation. Basically these pre-Drexciya releases had to have been when they were in the learning process stage of making music and we should be grateful that it’s possible to hear it.
So how does it sound? Of the four tracks here there is one, 'Interlock', that is as accomplished as Dopplereffekt would be a few years later, the rest all have their own charm and certainly work for me but are quite primitive on the production side.'Shatter Prone' kicks things off and boasts a pretty insistent and severe locked groove with a playful stop-start ending. It reminds me of something off the more hard edged L.A.M. release. 'Hiccups' is a riot of weird sounds with a youthful sounding vocal, but still I feel it is more than likely by Donald(the identity of whoever does the vocals throughout the EP is up for debate), which goes, "I've got the hiccups, can I have a glass of water?" Real hiccups get used as percussion and a variety of vocalisations are all added to the mix. The beats are spare as is the bass line but it's a more fun track compared to the opener. Musically side two is the most interesting. The first track here is 'Fairy' which again has a vocal that Donald obviously had a lot of fun triggering at varying settings, "Guess what, I came out of the closet". A kind of descending melody carries the track. I read somewhere that this was a reference to an unnamed Detroit producer that had himself come out of the closet around this time. I'm not sure of the veracity of this claim but I repeat it here only as a possible explanation for the subject matter. I'd like to think no harm was meant by it, but to be fair, calling a track 'Fairy' which has that topic is to court controversy. Maybe Donald wished to simply wind people up with it, to get a reaction or over-reaction as the case may be but we could take this as the first minor signal of things to come as Donald would soon progress to flirting with Nazi imagery and more.
The best track reveals itself to be the final one, 'Interlock'. With programming of a quality that would later appear in Drexciya this is a well judged mid tempo track that glides along in near perfection. The vocal is about building with Lego and goes more or less, "Snap the pieces together, all shapes and sizes, you can create your imagination, you can build automobiles" with "Lego Blocks" as a chorus.The run out groove on the original pressing contains quite a bit of revealing information. On side A we get, 'The power of Scientific Application.' which shows the germination of his science theme to be followed up by Dopplereffekt and right up till today. The second side is total Dopplereffekt in full 'Plasiphilia/Pornoactress’ mode with 'Nymphocaust will free the world of consecrated holy minded fools, The pentagram will grace the forehead of the beautiful nymph.’ This word play on Holocaust also betrays his soon to be revealed interest in Nazism not to mention an anti-clerical stance he has yet to fully explore! Also the name of his label puts this side of Dopplereffekt in mind. Certainly on this evidence the EP is bursting with idea’s and future conceptual directions, even if some are quite juvenile on the surface.The title Glass Domain is suitably abstract and coldly European sounding to fit with someone who would soon go on to prove to have a fascination with both Kraftwerk and Germany. Or it could just be a neat play on his G. D. initials. There isn't however a whole lot for him to work with from this name concept-wise so that might be why it was overtaken by the Dopplereffekt project.
Influence wise on this EP the Kraftwerk thing is not so obvious, perhaps you could say it owes something more to Juan Atkins Cybertron, although by now that would have been 10 years ago. I guess its the sound of what it is, a novice making electronic music in the early nineties, technology by then as now having made it possible that it could have come from anywhere, regional sounds quickly becoming obsolete as the rest of the world caught up, sound more dependent on someone’s diet of music and imagination. Harder to be original and stay original for sure, but somehow Donald would manage this feat in Drexciya and did so again I believe in his own work.

Dopplereffekt’s ‘Fascist State' 12" is next.


Blogger Alex Noriega said...

Oh my god! finally a serious study on Drexciya. I´ve been a fan for years now. But due the lack of information out there, it's been hard to keep track of everything. Will you talk about "collateral" projects like "the other people place"? I especially enjoyed that album. Keep it up!

12:24 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Thanks, check out Nov 2005 post for article on The Other People Place.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

drexciya for L.I.F.E.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article as for me. It would be great to read something more concerning this topic. Thnx for posting this material.
Joan Stepsen
Tech gadgets

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Glass Domain was released in 1991,composed,produced and even released on his own record label by the Detroit producer Gerald Carroll Donald, it is goddamn pretty remarkable achievement for a guy who is listed to be born in 1980! Doing this, on the working class east side of Detroit, at the age of 11? He was like 9 when he started the abstract,conceptual and mythological pre work of Drexciya? Debuted with Drexciya at the age of 12? The same year as he also took part of the LAM-release? Another case of a child prodigy in the weight of Mozart or Sun Ra OR is this HIGHLY suspicious?

7:09 AM  

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