Monday, April 02, 2007

Drexciya 'Rough Guide'

I felt it was about time I archived this entry for Drexciya from the long out of print 'Rough Guide to Techno' book by Tim Barr. Which even though published in 2000 was obviously written previous to or without the authors knowledge of the return of Drexciya in 1999 with 'Neptune's Lair'. Which I think makes this period piece all the more interesting as a result, illustrating how highly they were regarded at what we know consider to have been the mid-point in their career. After having released so few 12” singles and a compilation by this point and to be regarded so highly was quite an achievement. It also contains a few new quotes which are worth collecting here as well. On this point, if anyone has any more early interviews let me know. As well I like Tim’s interpretation of their underwater world as being a ‘wide open dream-terrain, free from the prejudice, preconceptions and pre-programming of modern America.’
It’s a great book by the way which also has an entry for Dopplereffekt, I’m sure you’ll be able to find it used at the usual online places.


One of the most revered and mysterious of Detroit's underground outfits, Drexciya steered a militant and uncompromising course through Techno's uncharted waters, amassing a significant cult following despite a relatively small number of releases and the veil of almost impenetrable secrecy which surrounded their activities. Between their inception in the mid 80's and their final release, The Quest (1997), they agreed to be interviewed only a handful of times - though even on those occasions the duo refused to reveal their identities, preferring to operate under cover of anonymity.

Though they didn't release a record until 1991, the pair had been together since the mid-80's, spending the years between the demise of Detroit's progressive scene and the eventual appearance of their debut single, 'Deep Sea Dweller', experimenting and perfecting their sound. "There was a long thought process behind this group, a lot of different concepts and principles,” they reported. “Before we even started putting stuff together we used to spend night after night talking about all kings of deep concepts. That’s where the energy comes from.”

Drawing on a nexus of influences that stretched from George Clinton’s P-Funk to Jimi Hendrix, Drexciya’s sound was based on a single fundamental principle: experiment at all costs. Following the hardcore electronic futurism of ‘Deep Sea Dweller’ their renegade transmissions adopted an increasing sonic urgency. The speaker shredding grooves of ‘Bubble Metropolis’ or the 'Molecular Enhancement' EP, for example, employed street-level, low frequency Techno to deliver a fast rollercoaster ride through the dancefloor's final frontiers. Instead of the spaced-out Afronaunt metaphors employed by other Detroit Techno producers, however, Drexciya's shorthand for the realm of the imagination was a post-Atlantis underwater world peopled by different races. References to Drexciyans, Lardossens and Darthhouven Fish Men flood their brief catalogue. It's in these undiscovered precincts that Drexciya - in a logical parallel to Underground Resistance's "space is the place" codes - located their counter-culture images of a wide open dream-terrain, free from prejudice, preconceptions and pre-programming of modern America.

Despite huge success in Europe, Drexciya remained consistently faithful to the sound of inner city Detroit. Their records combined the hard rush of 4am techno with deep, sub-oceanic bass and tough speed-thrill funk. But tracks like ‘Aquabahn’ (from the ‘Unknown Aquazone’ EP) or ‘The Countdown Has Begun' (from the ‘Aquatic Invasion’ EP) also flirted with the quirky crowd-pleasing shifts of classic electro. Like Underground Resistance and Aux 88, their allegiance lay with the wild fusion of these elements which provided the Motor City's main soundtrack since the days when Electrifying Mojo and The Wizard ruled the airwaves.

Periodically disappearing from view as a away of excluding the outside world and focusing on new ideas and concepts - "We don't want to pick up on anybody else's vibe so we cut off all communications" - Drexciya's career was punctuated by the kind of lengthy hiatus which, in the accelerated timeframes of dance music, has proven fatal for many artists. Yet, despite having released only a handful of heavily influential 12"s, they seemed to resurface after every self-imposed isolation re-energised and recharged. In 1996, they returned triumphantly from one such break with 'The Return of Drexciya' , a masterpiece of twisting, bumping grooves and brooding, kinetic energy before disconnecting once more.

In the Summer of 1997, however , they announced it was all over. Their swansong was The Quest, a 28 track double album which included previously unreleased cuts alongside some of their most classic moments.

Tim Barr


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