Scroll down for articles on...
DEEP SEA DWELLER
THE UNKNOWN AQUAZONE
THE JOURNEY HOME
THE RETURN OF DREXCIYA
Deep Sea Dweller
The first release as Drexciya was 'Deep Sea Dweller' which came out in 1993 on Shockwave Records. At the time this now defunct label worked out of the same infamous building as Submerge at 2030 Grand River along with UR and the appointment only Somewhere in Detroit shop. I know that the first 'Acid Rain' release by Underground Resistance is on Shockwave, so I suppose this was a UR sub-label of the time. Drexciya's beginnings are therefore placed right at the epicentre of 90's Detroit techno. Of course they have always disavowed any musical influence from the city but they certainly benefited from its blossoming facilities and growing popularity.
Following on from this release would be the 12”’s known as Drexciya 2 - 5. This has to make this number 1, even though it doesn’t state it on the label it wouldn’t strictly be necessary if it was the first.
This came out a year after the false start of the L.A.M. 12" 'Balance of Terror' and surprisingly the first two tracks here on side A could easily fit that mould. 'Sea Quake' and 'Nautilus 12' are both extremely fast paced and would suite any dance floor that liked it hard. They are good tracks certainly but not the brave new start you might imagine. However, the two tracks on the other side are the brave new start. The vinyl on this side, perhaps significantly, runs from the inside out and it’s two tracks display the soon to become recognisable Drexciya sound or template. ‘Depressurisation’ and ‘Sea Snake’ are both more medium paced numbers which show off an already mature production technique. Quite why we have such a jarring mix of music on each side of this record might be a sign of wanting to give some variety or possibly an uncertainly over the latter two tracks appeal. The source of this uncertainly might of course lie with the label. It’s no wonder that latterly both of these more recognisably Drexciya sounding tracks were included on ‘The Quest’ compilation, although to be fair ‘Sea Quake’ is on there too. The fact that the vinyl runs from the inside out on side B might be a neat way to symbolise how different this new sound is to their old, effectively turning it completely on it’s head/backwards. It's strange that the title of the first and last track of the EP are so similar. Again this might be to underline the differing nature(Quake/Snake) of the music while coming from the same source(Sea). National Sound Corporation(NSC) cut the vinyl like they did for UR and a whole host of other Detroit labels. At this early stage the engineers there were a big part of Detroit electronic music, having already turned Jeff Mills on to the possibilities of locked grooves and were working closely with UR on unique vinyl design, check UR’s ‘Rings of Saturn’ 12”, which also runs from inside out.
Thankfully for us Drexciya started as they meant to go on by giving us a separate title for this EP, not just using one of it’s key tracks. So we get an album type theme for how they envision this release. ‘Deep Sea Dweller’ and the two run out groove etchings, ‘Techno from the Deep’ and ‘Deep H20’ gives this release its keyword, deep. This word is even underlined three times on the ‘Deep H20’ run out etching. Of course this is all from before they started to detail, populate and story tell about their undersea world, all we have here at the beginning is a hint of what is to come. If anything it’s just an initial location of where we are going with introductions to follow later. All the titles refer to the sea, notably none of the L.A.M. titles are remotely aquatic. This all might seem a little thin as far as a theme goes, although an EP can only go so far, but Stinson himself spoke of how water alone contains everything, “...the reason I adopted the whole background and whole theme of water was for it’s longevity. Water was here at the beginning before we existed and water will be here when we go away. It’s beautiful.”
It might seem surprising that Drexciya seem so happy to label themselves as techno, but this is not so straight forward for this is ‘techno from the deep’. They are here already letting us know they are not going to be a conventional Detroit act, on the surface yes, but look deeper and you will know. It’s always struck me as a nice coincidence that they should work so closely with a company called Submerge too.
The image used on the label, shown in negative on the reverse, looks like someone with very long arms outstretched or at a glance the observation deck of a submarine, certainly more down going themed stuff.
The credits read simply ‘written, mixed and produced by Drexciya’, which could be read as a clear and proud declaration of independence on their behalf.
If we try to date the recordings themselves the best guess would be to put the L.A.M. style tracks around late 1992 and the other two towards the beginnings of 1993. This in between period might be the real musical breakthrough point for Drexciya, while the whole philosophical side had been gestating since as early as 1989.
Following James Stinson’s death ‘Deep Sea Dweller’ was re-released, along with a number of their 12” from the 90’s, in 2003 by UR. It was great to see Drexciya’s legacy being recognised in this way and the fact that the music could stand up so well ten years later spoke that this was more about the music than someone having died.
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.
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.
The Unknown Aquazone
The opening 'Intro' track on side one informs us in a very slowed down male voice that we are "Welcome to the fusion zone". This short piece begins and ends with the famous helicopter rotor blade sample from the beginning of 'Apocalypse Now' along with an array of weird sound effects with no musical structure. The main opener, ‘Living on the Edge’, is musically shuffle-tastic, I go into the detail of it’s meaning later but it's vocal has something to tell us. Outside the repeated title we hear these phrases, "No friends, no cold, no light, no love, no wife, no patience, no race relations, one man will stand." Obviously in their view these circumstances bear some of the conditions necessary for 'Living on the Edge', but some of those words might be misheard.
Living on the Edge could be taken as the Drexciya credo as this quote elaborates, "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." An instrumental version which ends slightly differently is included on The Quest.
‘Aqua Jujidsu’, spelt wrong by the way, is a bit of fun with what sounds like the classic vocalisations that go with those moves echoing round the track, which does make it sound like it’s taking place underwater. To show how open this process of interpretation is only limited to your imagination I could write some stuff about how maybe the discipline involved in jujitsu or it’s related martial arts might be a way towards enlightenment and could fit that in quite well to my thesis but in this case I think that would be going too far, but who knows. For now I’ll stick with what seems obvious, to me anyway.
‘Aquabahn’ is another fun track that would not sound out of place as a Japanese Telecom track. It also features what sounds like Gerald Donald saying “The Aquabahn” as it’s vocal element. The track itself is adventurous enough with plenty of spin back production action. Obviously the title is a tongue in cheek reference to their forefathers Kraftwerk, respect. ‘Mantaray’ has a nice groove(I know I’ve used that phrase before, but it is a nice groove!). Beyond the also obvious aquatic reference this short track doesn’t tell us much. ‘Lardossen Funk’ also sounds a bit touched by the hand of Gerald Donald in his Japanese Telecom guise and similar to the short tracks you find there this also sounds a bit incomplete. No vocals so no more information to consider beyond the title. This is our second reference to a place called Lardossa and bears out my belief that this EP is all about exploring this underwater place, so far we have been finding Aquabahn’s, seeing other sea creatures and now visiting Lardossa and sampling it’s funk.
‘Take Your Mind’ is a revealing track with what again sounds like a Donald vocal. “Take your mind to another level, feel the power of the...” The fact that we don’t get a conclusion is a tease, making us want to hear more. But we have enough information to wonder anyway. Take your mind to another level, when you get there feel the power of the...? Of the what, that is the eternal question with Drexciya and I can only here give you what I think it is.
Record one and two are broken into Fusion and Basalt Zone’s with degree locations attached either side of the label. I can’t see any reason for this beyond it being a way of identifying each record as separate entities, but what the words fusion and basalt mean in this context remains unclear. Also worth knowing but I can’t conclude much from is the ‘Defcon5 Productions’ credit which never appears again on any Drexciya release. Maybe this was an early attempt to set up a production company that would eventually arrive as the conceptually fully formed ‘Dimensional Waves’ for the Strom series.
The short ‘Intro’ track on records twos side one has a vocal that sets an ominous tone right from the off, “This species is socially and scientifically advanced and they will conquer the entire universe. Year 1994 beware.” The vocal is delivered in a slow old school Stephen Hawking voice, you know the one. They certainly couldn’t put their view any clearer than this anyway. Lets look at this more closely. The Drexciyans are both socially and scientifically more advanced than not only humans but whatever else lurks in our universe and will, in time, conquer this same universe. 1994 now becoming the year we are warned of this. Of course this is a taste of things to come and maybe this reaches a conclusion, of sorts, when Drexciya is revealed as Utopia on Grava 4. This would make their conquering of the universe a mental one with no force needed, slow yes but also sure and effective, it’s time still at hand, ready whenever we want to accept it. But time may be of the essence in making this decision, it strikes me that how close we are might be answered in the title of ‘Living on the Edge’. Time is obviously short and I guess you only have to consider our planet on the environmental level to understand how human life is under more threat than ever before. This also reminds me of their Message to the World on L.I.F.E. ‘Life is fast ending, so live.” I have gone back and included an expanded paragraph on this line in the L.I.F.E. piece but will repeat the essence of what I say there again as it does tie in well with this concept. We may be meant to read this as, life as we live/know it is fast ending for us if we have so far followed the evolutionary progress of the Storm series to this point(L.I.F.E.) so now is the time to really live anew in this knowledge. Don’t be afraid of evolution indeed.
The following mysteriously named ‘Aquarazorda’ is a suitably dark number after this declaration with a phat bass line and plenty of Drexciya signatures. Maybe my favourite on the EP. ‘Bubble Chamber’ is a bit throwaway as a track but it’s title is the second reference to bubbles, ‘Bubble Metropolis’ of course being the first, an essential element for survival here? I’ve wondered whether Drexciyans are able to breath unaided underwater or not, the forthcoming ‘The Mutant Gillmen’(an experiment gone wrong) makes me think not. This is an issue really at the core of the physical nature of Drexciyans. I would say that the original outer space species which settled underwater need some kind of aid to breath in water, unless this is their natural habitat, and even the offspring of the pregnant African slaves would also need the same aid, perhaps being slightly better adapted, like water birthed babies of the surface world. So a Bubble Chamber and a Bubble protected city might well be a convenient way to breath normally.
‘Water Walker’ as a name sounds like their contribution to the Red Planet series, this being a common title theme within the UR camp, but in reality it’s a face paced number that does all the right things to keep an adventurous dance-floor happy. It’s suitably aquatically titled anyway. The closer is ‘Red Hills of Lardossa’ which makes this double pack Lardossa central. Hills underwater, why not? This may be a massive red tinged coral reef. It’s another good track as well, in fact classic Drexciya, quite unlike anyone else. Luckily James Stinson did speak to Andrew Duke about Lardossa in 1999 and had this to say about it, "Lardossa is just another city that's on the other side of Drexciya. There's many different cities around there, and as time goes on we'll bring them forth or whatnot. It's a place on the other side of the Red Hills, it's a very calm tranquil place where things are very easy-going, there's not really that hustle and bustle and it's more or less carefree and mellow, like you're in a trance."
This EP was briefly available again in 2003 when reissued on coloured vinyl by UR and is fairly well represented on The Quest with 5 tracks. It strikes me that it deserves a CD reissue too, being of album length it would be well justified. Does it work as an album, maybe not but it’s still better than most.
Image and subtitle wise the EP is all over the place. We get abstract images on each label, including an Olmec stone head, two views of surface of water and possibly underwater heat plumes. Side 3 has it’s own message, ‘Research must continue at all costs, even if it means death.’ This of course will appear again in the artwork for ‘Neptune’s Lair’, five years later. The most interesting of these is the Olmec head which is from a mysterious ancient tribe from South America which show features of a man unquestionably of African origin.
The thank you list is interesting in that it identifies the term that Drexciya, at this point, use to define their fans, ‘to all the Aquatic Troopers around the World.” Another new Drexciya term appears with ‘the Drexciya Death Squad’, another mystery grouping for us to ponder. One name from this list is that of Helen Stinson who we would learn, after James Stinson’s death, to be his mother. Respect is also given to Aphex Twin, whose label had put out their preceding release but this kudos must have been slightly tempered for the Cornish maestro when he was misspelled as Apex Twin.
It would appear not only from the Submerge catalogue number and dates on Discogs that this came out before Drexciya 3 did, why this happened I don’t know, but I guess it makes more sense for my purposes to follow the numbers than the release dates.‘The Unknown Aquazone’ is undoubtedly a key release, it’s the first time we really get a good look at Drexciya and get to move around in it’s environment.
The Journey Home
From quite populace roots in rave, Warp went on to usher in a new school of ‘intelligent’ electronic music during the 1990’s and continue to do so right up to today. Working with Drexciya at this point certainly put them ahead of the times. While still a very unknown and underground act at this stage, Warp were hardly seeing dollar signs with this 3 EP project, which all shared similar artwork and were marketed as a package. No, this was about getting to work with some of the most exciting producers around at that time. I'd like to know if Drexciya’s stuff was being widely used in clubs at this point or if it was selling more for home listening purposes.
Musically I'll just fly through the four numbers we have to consider here. 'Black Sea' starts out sounding very suitably titled, dark and bassy, with only a few lighter touches appearing as the tempo builds and it evolves into a fully formed Drexciya stomper. 'Darthhouven Fish Men' reminds me of some of the shorter tracks on Neptune's Lair, it's pretty full on with hard beats plus an unexpected ending. 'Hydro Theory' builds slowly and is the key track here with lots of great sounds floating through the mix. Another track that could move a dance-floor, but as ever, an open-minded one. For my money I also get a real Neptune's Lair feel, but more fully realised, from the final track here, 'The Journey Home'. Quite an efficient number, no slack here, good bass lines, weirdly perfect. As I said I think this track signals a new template for the band, a foretaste of things to come.
Conceptually what is this all about? Well, the question is where is home? Does it mean the journey back to our, the listeners home, back to dry land where we began from on Drexciya 1 'Deep Sea Dweller' or does it mean the home of the Drexciyan's. Well so far, as I have been reading it, we have been following a journey designed for the listeners/strangers perspective. We have been visitors in Drexciya up to this point, this reference to home must refer to our own, whether we are familiar with it or not.
Lets consider the clues, such as they are, the title’s being the most we can go on. Although there is a little message to us in the text which includes '...We're Going Deep', which does suggest this journey is bringing us further rather than back. The artwork image of a squid looks to me like it came from the label, but I might be wrong, either way it only serves to push the aquatic angle and doesn’t reveal much else. 'Black Sea' is unlikely to be a reference to our own Black Sea, that mysterious landlocked region which borders some of the most volatile countries in the world. I've always seen this sea as a country in itself and can imagine that smuggling and various illegitimate traffic between these countries must be endemic there. So much so that whole outlaw families may be born and raised here, completely stateless. While this does parallel the world of Drexciya to some extent I think it unlikely that they were on this track. In the context of exploring Drexciya, as we have been doing all through the 4 preceding EP’s, maybe reaching this ‘Black Sea’ area means that we have now arrived at a point where we can begin our journey home, the nature of which I’ll get to. It strikes me that if the water is black then we are at a place where the normal laws of nature and physics do not apply.
There are no tracks from this on The Quest, the music for a change not being licensed from UR or Submerge, although they and God do get a thank you credit in the text. It will be interesting to see if and when Warp might ever make this available again, probably never. But it is available to buy as a download from Bleep.
That brings the Drexciya 1 -5 12” series to a close and leaves us starting out on another journey whose destination we are reassured is home. Before we get to 1999 and Neptune’s Lair there will be plenty of bumps in the road and nothing will be as clearly defined conceptually as what we have so far considered. Never the less, confusion is good also, it would be another 7 years before Drexciya themselves arrived at where they were going and in that time they would cease working, make a triumphant return and splinter into a myriad of aliases. The next releases up to The Quest do continue this story but not as clearly as before.
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?