The three key metaphors used by Drexciya were that of water, wave jumping and storms. I¡¯ve written a few general words on my interpretations of each and their possible meanings. As usual this is just to be taken as a jumping off point for further investigations of your own or not as the case may be, just a few musings I pleasantly passed on a stormy day with.
WATER: To place the world of Drexciya in water seems to me the essential step of removing us from our usual physical and mental limitations on dry land, introducing us to this fantasy world which is limited only by their imagination. Through fantasy or science fiction we often find it easier to imagine ways to go beyond our normal limits and through immersing ourselves in these worlds we emerge into a land where we can escape. That word escape is key I believe as this is not just a temporary feeling as long as we play a record or read a book. The potential to escape forever mentally is also there and in Drexciya¡¯s case they brought us further out when they started to explore other dimensions and then even space itself. I¡¯m just saying that like any great art they provided a whole world where the normal rules don¡¯t apply, a Wonderland for Alice to investigate, to learn in, question and grow. It is essentially somewhere to view our own World more objectively which will lead us to improve where we actually find ourselves.
Perhaps Drexciya were also thinking of the ancient Chinese belief of Taoism, the way of Man¡¯s cooperation with the course of the natural world, when they picked water as their main metaphor. Tao itself means the flow of nature and is also known as The Watercourse Way. Even if this was not the case I feel it is a system which may have appealed to Drexciya and it shows that their intuition of linking the metaphor of water with change was not without precedent. I will go no further on this subject than this abbreviated quote from the Taoist Kuan Chung who died in 645 BC. The last paragraph is worth keeping Drexciya, those sages of change, in mind!
¡°Water is the blood of the Earth, and flows through its muscles and veins. Therefore it is said that water is something that has complete faculties. It is accumulated in Heaven and Earth, and stored up in the various things of the World. It comes forth in metal and stone, and is concentrated in living creatures. Therefore it is said that water is something spiritual.
Man is water, and when the producing elements of male and female unite, liquid flows into forms. It congeals to form Man, this is its refined essence. What is it then that has complete faculties? It is water. There is not one of the various things which is not produced through it. It is only he who knows how to rely on its principles who can act correctly.
Hence the solution for the Sage who would transform the World lies in water. Therefore when water is uncontaminated men¡¯s hearts are upright. When water is pure, the people¡¯s hearts are at ease. Men¡¯s hearts being upright, their desires do not become dissolute. The people¡¯s hearts being upright, their conduct is without evil. Hence the Sage, when he rules the world, does not teach men one by one, or house to house, but takes water as his key.¡±
WAVE JUMPING: Riding waves of water and latterly dimensional waves sounds like being in control of your life, staying upright without falling or crashing into the surf. When Drexciya became interested in going beyond their watery home and exploring other dimensions and on into space itself they of course continued to use this metaphor. Certainly they weren¡¯t into floundering, they may have been asking us to follow their lead up to a point but there came a point when we had to ride that wave ourselves towards our own home, our own future. The activity of jumping from wave to wave itself could be read as successfully changing course at the right moment as we continue to grow and change, always moving forward, like a shark, which dies if it stops moving. Learning the knack to stay upright as the storms of change blow around you, which leads us neatly to.
STORM: The storm metaphor they used during the Storm series could stand for the transformation of the landscape it careens over and also, as explained previously, as the obscuring puzzle which keeps it¡¯s real meaning hidden from us until we figure it out. To work out the puzzle would also bring the storm as a whole to an end for yourself, then becoming transformed with this knowledge. But while unsolved these storms continue to rage for many and unpredictably thunder in minds around the world and will excitingly continue to do so.
It¡¯s quite obvious that one or more members of Drexciya were fans of Sun Ra fan or were at the very least admirers of his; there is the Shifted Phases track ¡®Crossing the Sun Ra Nebula¡¯ and Stinson was known to be a jazz fan, not to mention the conceptual parallels between the two acts. I recently came across my copy of the only published account of his life, ¡®Space is the Place - The Life and Times of Sun Ra¡¯, which came out in 1997 during Drexciya¡¯s down period after ¡®The Quest¡¯. It¡¯s very tempting to imagine them reading this book at the time and getting inspired all over again. I would say it¡¯s very likely that they did read it, if not during 1997 itself then at some stage. If so they would have had to confront Sun Ra¡¯s space obsessed concepts anew which was thoroughly explored by the books author John F. Szwed. I would recommend reading the book yourself. I¡®ve said it before but it¡®s worth stating again that if you are interested in precedents to Drexciya¡¯s mythos then Sun Ra is someone to check out, in fact I would have to describe Sun Ra as a man without precedent! Sun Ra wrote a lot of words as well as music and would even lecture his band on his philosophies before live performances. I wish I had the time to research a complete article on this subject but I believe, like a lot of the speculative content of DRL, it¡¯s better if I point people in a certain direction and let them come to their own conclusions. At an unspecified time Sun Ra wrote the following on the topic of evolution, a theme he shares with Drexciya.
¡°Man has to rise above himself...transcend himself. Because the way he is, he can only follow reproductions of idea¡¯s, because he¡¯s just a reproduction himself. He did not come from the creative system, he came from the reproductive system. But if he evolutes himself, he will come up from the creative system. What I¡¯m determined to do is to cause man to create himself by simply rising up out of the reproductive system into the creative system . Darwin didn¡¯t have the complete picture. I¡¯ve been talking about evolution too but I¡¯ve spelt it e-v-e-r.¡±
Sun Ra at Wikipedia
A few days late but through one thing and another I never got to post anything to note the fourth anniversary of James Stinson's death but it's still well worth marking it with something here.
I've no doubt that whatever I and his fans may be feeling at this time about such a talented and loved human being departing this life at such a young age in such a sudden and unresolved fashion it can bear no relation to what his wife, seven children, family and friends must be experiencing, not only at this time but all the time. While life goes on, his absence for them becomes a part of their lives. To channel that sense of loss into something positive can only be done through their memories of him. As he is in their thoughts they are in ours.
With the re-issue of 'Neptune's Lair' this year it seems that at least one more of the labels which worked with Drexciya will not allow their records to go out of press entirely. I'm quite confidant that as long as there is a demand then it will be met by all of them from time to time in one way or another. As his music goes on, so will his memory.
James Stinson 14th September 1969 - 3rd September 2002 R.I.P.
In keeping with the archival side of DRL I thought it about time I included two of appreciations written at the time to mark James Stinson's death. The first is by Tom Magic Feet and the second by Andrew Duke.
James Stinson, founder member of electro-techno outfit Drexciya, died on September 3rd in Newnan, near Atlanta, Georgia, from what have been described as 'heart complications'. Stinson, who was 32, had been ill for some time, even instructing record labels with whom he had deals to go ahead and release his music should he not live. Prior to his death he had been working as a truck driver, a job he said he enjoyed because of the time it gave him to think.
As a youth growing up on Detroit's East Side, James Stinson first encountered electro music through Cybotron's 'Alleys Of Your Mind' and became a regular listener to radio DJ The Electrifyin' Mojo. In 1989 he founded Drexciya (he claimed the idea came to him in a dream) with Gerald Donald, although it was several years before any Drexciya music was released. (The duo's first actual records were released under the names Glass Domain and L.A.M. in the early 90s.)
Drexciya's releases proper began in 1993 with 'Deep Sea Dweller' on Shockwave, which also established the mythological underwater theme which would characterise all their subsequent releases in the '90s through the UR, Warp, Rephlex, S.I.D., Submerge and Tresor labels. 1997's double CD 'best of ' collection, 'The Quest', was heralded as Drexciya's 'farewell release', but 1999's all-new 'Neptune's Lair' LP on Tresor proved that talk of the group's demise had been premature.
By shunning the usual means of promotion - interviews, publicity photos, live performances etc. - and working on a strictly need-to-know basis, Drexciya inadvertently cultivated a mystique that only added to their appeal and they became renowned as one of the classic 'faceless techno' acts. Yet this approach allowed Drexciya a level of artistic freedom - not to mention career longevity - that many would envy.
Instead of media overload, Drexciya created a fantasy world of slaves-turned-fishmen and underwater landscapes around their music, building on Stinson's fascination with the oceans and African-American history and his vivid imagination. Recently, however, his gaze seems to have turned outerwards: the last Drexciya release proper before his death was the 'Grava 4' LP earlier this year on Clone, named after a star Drexciya had 'adopted'.
Although a jazz and hip-hop listener, Stinson also deliberately isolated himself from other electronic music, especially when recording, for the simple reason that he didn't want to be unduly influenced by other peoples' ideas. He was a notorious perfectionist too, and earlier this year told Detroit Free Press writer Tim Pratt, "I'll never reach the point where I can say this is the best I can do." Yet his music was hugely influential. Futuristic, dark, textured and compelling, Drexciya were one of the keys to the resurgence of electro music in the '90s and one of the bedrocks of the Detroit electrobass style.
Although Drexciyan releases throughout the '90s had been few and far between, the last couple of years had witnessed an unprecedented level of activity. Stinson had finally begun to give occasional interviews, speaking of his concept of seven 'storms' - seven albums created in the same year to be released on different labels around the world. The first was Drexciya's 'Harnessed The Storm' album, the second and third were solo releases under the pseudonyms Transllusion and The Other People Place. More material is known to be forthcoming on Tresor and Kombination Research and Rephlex recently released the second Transllusion LP, 'L.I.F.E'. It's as if he was just hitting his stride when he died.
He is survived by his parents, his wife Andrea, a brother and seven children.
James Marcel Stinson, musician, born September 14 1969; died September 3 2002. 'Negative evolution cycle completed. Now in sonic infinitum mode.' - UR
September 3 marks a sad anniversary--the passing of Detroit's James Stinson at the age of 32 from heart complications.
I remember clearly the day I heard the news; I ended up spending the day listening to my Drexciya records over and over. The raw power and passion of "Positron Island" has been not just one of my favourite Drexciya songs, not just one of my favourite electronic music songs, but one of my favourite songs of any genre since the first time I heard it; just as Drexciya remains one of my favourite bands--regardless of genre. Though I have been very lucky and have had the privilege of interviewing many of my electronic music "heroes" over the years, my interview with James stood out to me right after I spoke with him--and continues to resonate even more so since his passing. After hearing the news, I re-listened to the tape of that interview from December 13, 1999 and was reminded of how many plans Stinson had--to tour, to release even more material, to build relationships with those who connected with his music. Stinson's music continues to be released even after his death, such was his level of quality productivity. And we know from the Submerge mail outs that the spawn of Drexciya are hitting vinyl. But what struck me most about my interview with Stinson was that, despite the incredible focus he obviously had on music, more importantly, he was always able to achieve a balance. James told me that music was the *third* most important thing in his life. I asked him what was ahead of music; "My family and God," he replied. I am not a religious person, but I do understand the importance of family, and today, as I did the day I heard the news, I thought of James' family and wished them peace and strength.
We now have only James' music to remember him by. He was only here on earth for 33 years, but he managed to give us so much joy in the time he was here, and we can continue to keep his memory alive by thinking of him whenever we play and enjoy the music of Drexciya in the future. I am sure James is now in that calm and tranquil place he fondly spoke of--somewhere over the Red Hills. Rest in peace, James Stinson. Take care.
In a previous post I brought to your attention and explained why I believed the members of Drexciya had more than likely read ¡®Space is the Place¡¯, a life and times account of Sun Ra by John F. Szwed in and around it¡¯s 1997 publishing date. On rereading it further myself, having probably not picked it up since 1998, I was fairly shocked to discover one of the names I had already mentioned as possible influences on their thinking while conceiving the ¡®Storm Series¡®, namely Rudolf Steiner. I really should also have mentioned Gurdjieff but at the time probably thought that would be going too far but now I wish I had. Luckily for me I can simply quote a chunk of the book for this link to be apparent as otherwise I fear a book would be the only thing to do full justice to the links between the two. I¡¯m just saying that there¡¯s a strong chance they would have followed up on some of these names which were such a strong influence on Sun Ra¡¯s own thinking and philosophy. From this section of the book it¡¯s also tempting to wonder if this would also have been the first time Gerald Donald came across the word gesamtkunstwerk, here mentioned in conjunction with Wagner, someone that an obvious germophile like him no doubt would have more sensitively picked up on.
¡°Through Blavatsky¡¯s writings Sonny(Sun Ra) learned of all the secret societies, real and imagined, that were theosophy¡¯s precursors...In the work of one of her offshoots, Rudolf Steiner, he read of a German who attempted to bridge the everyday and the spirit worlds by means of scientific methods. Even though he was a scientist, more than any other theosophist Steiner knew the arts and treated them as central to his spiritual project. he had studied architecture extensively, extended Goethe¡¯s theory of colour, and drawing from Wagner¡¯s notion of Gesamtkunstwerk - in which all arts would be incorporated into drama - he developed Mystery Plays which traced the spiritual development of characters through the use of music, colour, speech, movement and stage design...he recognised that dance rhythms had been involved in the creation of the cosmos, and saw the need to restore rhythm to modern life as a means of communicating with the spirit world. "
"Then through the Pyotr Demianovitch Ouspensky¡¯s writings Sonny uncovered the strange Greek-Armenian mystic George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. By means of a synthesis of number symbolism, Pythagorian musicology, cabbala, physics, esoteric Christianity, theosophy and an interest in theatre and music, Gurdjieff saw that man lives in habit, that he is asleep and must be wakened from this sleep, that there were other possibilities as yet unthought of in human life. It was necessary to shock people from their sleeping state, and music and dance were means of awakening emotional spontaneity. "
"Sonny was particularly impressed by Ouspensky¡¯s ¡¯A New Model of the Universe¡¯, which took seriously his concern with the limits of scientific reasoning, especially in matters as important as the theory of evolution and the need to reach beyond the limits of what are called objectivity and subjectivity to answer questions which otherwise appear unanswerable. "
"The key ideas he received from his readings in theosophy were those which reinforced what he already held: that the Bible needed to be de-mythologized, decoded and brought in tune with modern life; that it was possible to unify all knowledge; that the universe was organized hierarchically, with forces or spirits which moved between the levels and affected life on earth; and that there were charismatic leaders who had the means to come to know these secrets."
"Now everything flowed towards him, one idea leading to another, connecting unpredictably...strange ideas, bizarre associations. Sometimes only a single word he read had meaning to him, but sooner or later it connected to others, so that everything was eventually related...relativity, synchronicity, telepathy, clairvoyance, levitation...all parts of the whole. After all the years of wandering he had done, all the blind spots and dead ends in which he had wound up, his reading was pointing him to the way; a golden road was opening up before him, leading him through the rubble of life, concentrating his dreams and fantasies, making clear what he must have always known, that there was something greater than Birmingham, than Chicago, greater than the earth itself, and in it he had an ordained role: he was a secret agent of the Creator. With music he would reach across the border of reality into myth; with music he could build a bridge to another dimension, to something better; dance halls, clubs, and theatres could be turned into sacred shrines, the sites of dramas and rituals, and though people would be drawn to hear the music, it was they who would become the instruments on which it would resonate, on which he would create the sound of silhouettes, the images and forecasts of tomorrow...all of it disguised as jazz."
If you substitute the last word for electro/techno then this could have been written about Drexciya. Certainly on reading this last particularly inspiring paragraph they would have recognised that this was what they had already been doing, ¡°With music he would reach across the border of reality into myth.¡°, perhaps now they got a glimpse of the wider possibilities of what their next step could be, ¡°with music he could build a bridge to another dimension.¡± 1999¡¯s ¡®Neptune¡¯s Lair¡¯ is the point where they most fully realised their music in myth and from here there was only one route for them to take without becoming a parody of themselves. This way out could only be dimensional and the wider possibilities of inner and outer space which this opened up for them.
I¡¯ve one more piece almost ready to go which began from another piece of information I gleamed from this same source, but will get back to documenting the work of Gerald Donald soon after that.
John F. SzwedRudolf Steiner at Wikipedia.Gurdjieff at Wikipedia.
Influence on Storm Series?
In the book 'Space is the Place', the life and times account of Sun Ra by John F. Swzed, I came across a possible inspiration for Drexciya's 7 album 'Storm Series' which I would like here to further explore. The relevant lines in the book go thus and are in the context of what was informing the philosophies of Sun Ra. ¡°Theosophy was the force behind Prometheus, ¡°The Poem of Fire,¡± Scriabin¡¯s fifth symphony, with a chorus (and audience) dressed in white, and an organ which played lights and colours; and the source of what the composer planned as his ultimate work, The Mysterium, a week-long piece that would literally destroy the world and raise the human race to a higher plane at its finale.¡±
I did some research about this intriguing individual and came up with the following. The Russian composer Alexander Scriabin¡¯s (1872-1915) final unfinished work was to be called 'Mysterium' or 'Preparation for the Final Mystery' and was to be what we would call today a mixed media presentation to be staged over seven days to culminate he was sure with nothing-less than the transformation of the human race into what he termed "nobler beings." He himself described it as follows. "There will not be a single spectator. All will be participants. The work requires special people, special artists and a completely new culture. The cast of performers includes an orchestra, a large mixed choir, an instrument with visual effects, dancers, a procession, incense, and rhythmic textural articulation. The cathedral in which it will take place will not be of one single type of stone but will continually change with the atmosphere and motion of ¡®The Mysterium¡®. This will be done with the aid of mists and lights, which will modify the architectural contours." The venue he envisaged his masterpiece being performed for what would presumably have been a one-off concert was to be built at the foothills of the Himalayas. One of his commentators elaborates here about some of the more fanciful aspects of the imagined performance, ¡®This seven-day-long mega-work would be performed at the foothills of the Himalayas in India, after which the world would dissolve in bliss. Bells suspended from clouds would summon spectators. Sunrises would be preludes and sunsets codas. Flames would erupt in shafts of light and sheets of fire. Perfumes appropriate to the music would change and pervade the air.¡¯
Perhaps your thinking the only obvious and tenuous link here is the seven day duration but I think the piece¡¯s ultimate aim, the transformation of Man, is what really ties it in. I think it¡¯s only natural when any artist hears of any grand unfinished work in their field to consider how they might realise it today, circumstances and technologies having changed with time etc. The movie director Francis Ford Coppola has spoken of how as a film student he was drawn to bringing Josephs Conrad ¡®Heart of Darkness¡¯ to the screen partly because the same feat had beaten the genius of Orson Welles. This of course turned out to be his own masterpiece, ¡®Apocalypse Now!¡®, which in this case perhaps a combination of better funding and a general change in the times played their role in bringing it to fruition. In a similar way once the members of Drexciya came across this reference to Sciabin's unfinished master-work maybe they too briefly considered how this could be realised today and would they themselves be up to the task. I'm postulating that if indeed any of this occurred then this question might have been the first act of this idea gestating in their minds. If so it would take another 3 years for it to emerge as the 'Storm Series' to the public.
So we have Scriabin's seven days condensed to seven albums and all recorded within a year and his concept of the transformation of man into 'nobler beings' brought into line with their own concept of evolution which they had been using since their earliest days. They first used mutation through nuclear radiation as the starting point to this new evolution in what Stinson himself later described as their ¡®false start¡¯ on 1992¡¯s 12¡± as L.A.M. (Life after Mutation). Whether this idea as a concept would have satisfactorily sustained them for a career is unlikely but when they conceived of a mutated aquatic species originating from the babies of African slave¡¯s they must have instinctively known they now had a far more rich and sophisticated evolutionary concept which would sustain them creatively.
Their use of the storm metaphor, its transforming of the surface nature, might have been their acknowledgement of Scriabin¡¯s desire to combine the elements of nature into his piece. Of course Scriabin did not complete or even outline any explanatory content for this unfinished piece so this must also have appeared as a particularly tempting blank canvas for Drexciya to conceive of how exactly this transformation of Man was to occur.
There¡¯s no doubt that this is how idea's can and do ripple through the mass consciousness, in this case reappearing and becoming realised to some extent almost a 100 years later. Drexciya themselves are responsible for creating these ripples of idea¡¯s or re-stirring old ones which can potentially become waves that can sweep people or whole nations along on their current. It strikes me that an even more appropriate metaphor for this, although it may also be a scientific fact also, would be that of an idea being like a butterfly flapping its wings and eventually this having a climatic effect somewhere else on the other side of the world, maybe even causing a storm! Whatever the metaphor, small actions eventually bear fruit and hopefully Drexciya's idea's are still rippling around the world, with you and DRL itself can play our parts in this process. However they can only go further is we expand and build on them because when something stop growing it dies. But this is work for the individual, I will continue to share my own work on this subject, just keep an open mind, don't get fooled by illusion or sweat the small stuff, life is fast ending, so live.
As far as all this goes regarding Scriabins possible influence, as always make up your own minds. I would just say to be on the look out for any precedents to today like Scriabin and Sun Ra and especially those who failed or went unrecognised in their time. A definition of these type of people are those few who dream of a future in opposition to the many who only regurgitate the past. In many cases it was a future in which we have yet to find ourselves, so we can learn from them, to grow and evolve.
Alexander Scriabin at Wikipedia.
The Seventh Earth Connection
For some time now I have been hoping to bring to your attention how Drexciya/UR was an essential link in a 10 year chain of thought which has culminated in The Seventh Earth by Alan Lambert. In the Origins section of his website for this project he has detailed how he arrived at this ever evolving position but basically he sees our solar system as a timeline, with each planet gradually moving away from the Sun and each having at one time supported life very much like our own. This makes our Earth the seventh so far. If you are thinking or hoping that this is just an artistic exercise on his part a trip to his website will soon discount this. There is a wholly artistic side to how this idea evolved however and this aspect of it does feature the influence of Drexciya and I feel this is worth bringing to your attention to show how at the very least idea¡¯s and concepts influence each other and inspire and help evolve the idea¡¯s of others. I also feel that if you keep an open mind and get into what Alan is saying, particularly in the Origins section on the myth background story of Pangea (you¡¯ll have to read it for yourself to see what I'm talking about) then you may begin to see a lot of parallels between these two, on the surface quite different, parties and might start to reflect on how we are all essentially human beings from the same planet, no matter what number it is, and therefore share the same myths, struggles and aspirations in life.
My side point this time is to say that the signed poster of The Quest Alan mentions as hanging ever present in the various offices the D1 Recordings label have occupied over the past 10 years is the one I have already mentioned in The Quest article. I just updated said piece by the way having been recently in the D1 office and finally took down the exact poster text which differs from the album liner notes. I even got the low down from label head Eamonn Doyle on it as well, James Stinson himself having signed it right in front of him back in the day at the UR HQ. Check it out in the archives.
Jump straight to the Drexciya/UR section of Origins
The Seventh Earth
D1¡¯s annual DEAF festival site
I¡¯ve simplified the end of the Storm Series which links with the Drexciyan rebirth of ¡®Grava 4¡¯, as much for myself as anyone else as no one has requested it. I just think it¡¯s worth restating a few things and explaining more clearly once more how the end of the series joins up with what came after. I¡¯ve also for the first time really begun to understand the messages contained in the Storm Series which I will here also elaborate on. As usual it¡¯s my own interpretation, what you find in it is meant for you.
Drexciya's end of the Storm Series maxim 'Don't be Afraid of Evolution' could be seen on one level as don¡¯t be afraid of the part of life which is death. Certainly if you only examine the themes of the final Transllusion album 'L.I.F.E.' it would appear as very much an album which is about coming to terms with and accepting death. But paradoxically it is also a warning to really live when you still have the chance to. Its ¡®message to the World¡¯, ¡°Life is Fast Ending - So Live!' tells us that clearly enough. Whether this was a part of the process of James Stinson coming to terms with his own mortality in the face of mounting health problems we may never know, he had probably already moved to Atlanta by the time he titled these tracks for that reason, as ¡®Dirty South Strut¡¯ may attest.¡®L.I.F.E.¡¯ then takes it place in the wider Storm Series, as I see it, at the point where they/we become willing and mentally able to transcend the physical, but only when the time is right, more than likely at death. The following journey through outer space which we embark on during the final storm of Shifted Phases which ends in our ¡®Flux¡¯ is the moment when the storm finally leaves us transformed and ready to enter the Drexciyan Utopia revealed in ¡®Grava 4¡¯.
There is another side to this ¡®Don¡¯t Be Afraid of Evolution¡¯ phrase as well which appears to be the hidden message of the series. I¡¯ve boldly called this previously the meaning of life in the DRL FAQ, as they may have come to see it as such, but I¡¯ll get to this later. First we need to ask what is it that makes us afraid. Well being afraid comes from experiencing fear, it's no wonder then that one of the storms, The Other People Place, concentrated on overcoming fear and developing its opposite trait, love. Its track 'Running From Love' could be read as running from life, because that is what we are doing when we live in fear. Additionally their aforementioned ¡®message to the world¡¯ speaks volumes on the nature of the way they see how we should be living our remaining life once we come to this realisation.
So what is causing our fear of truly living life? On the Transllusion 'Third Eye' 12", which importantly first introduced the ¡®Don¡¯t Be Afraid of Evolution¡¯ phrase in its artwork, we may get the answer in the vocal for ¡®Your Holding Me Up¡¯. The main lyric goes ¡°Your holding me up, your holding me back¡±. Where, what or to whom are these sentiments being addressed? I would say they are being aimed towards anything which could be considered a negative influence on our personal being, growth and expression. ¡®Let Me Be Me¡¯ from The Other People Place album also contains these sentiments. Stinson himself said of the Storm series ¡°I suppose we¡¯re trying to say ¡®enjoy life¡¯ with these albums. The world has become a dark place and it¡¯s our job to entertain, make people happy and put the fun back in the music. That¡¯s what Drexciya is about in the first instance and that¡¯s why our concepts have become deeper lately.¡± I would interpret this that they had always been about making dance music and making people happy to some degree but as time went on they could see a deeper need for happiness in people, that there was too much negativity in the world and that people were not really living up to their potential because of this. This realisation made it necessary for them to make their concepts deeper than before. Maybe it was simply that as they had matured they could now understand the reason why people were responding to them and positive music in general and they decided they would concentrate on this aspect more specifically. Having discovered this it is admirable of them that they felt some responsibility to do this.
So we are being told to overcome fear in our lives, great, but how can we be afraid of evolution and what has this to do from my perspective with the meaning of life? Evolution just happens, it doesn¡¯t depend on our fear or love of it. Evolution takes generations, it can not happen over night or even in one lifetime. But yet there it is, that word, evolution, presented as if by letting go of fear we can somehow welcome it automatically into our lives. If on the other hand they are referring simply to mental evolution then this is somewhat more achievable within our own lifetime. It is my understanding of the Storm Series as I have previously outlined in my articles examining its seven albums that evolution in this context simply means life. So to love life itself or to be precise, the continuation of life at all costs and not to confuse it with all the, now revealed as purely illusionary, surface stuff that comes with living in modern day society, which can certainly appear as a very meaningless and ¡®dark place¡¯ indeed at times, is the hidden message, another revealed layer of meaning of this series.I state it again, the meaning of life as it appears to me in the Storm Series is the continuation of life at all costs. So no illusionary man-made goals get revealed here, no ¡®Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy' ¡®42¡¯ or ¡®life is really a dream¡¯ type answers, just life itself, its survival and constant adaptation, only the most important and essential realisation of all. This adaptation of life is what I believe on some level Gerald Donald is currently exploring as he continues to embrace the subjects of science and particularly theoretical physics in his music. He expressed these sentiments on the subject in 2002 which seem to chime with my viewpoint, ¡°Well in this world either you move forward or you perish. Sometimes you have to make harsh choices and ultimate sacrifices to sustain life. These are the laws of nature and natural selection.¡± It will be these things which determine how we live our lives in the future as we continue to evolve, barring a direct comet impact of course! But even then life goes on, just ask the dinosaurs if you could, in fact we can thank that comet for our current dominant place on the Earth.
To briefly recap on the meaning of the individual Storms themselves. The first bookend scene setting beginning of the series (Harnessed the Storm) is when Drexciya get metaphorically kicked out of paradise for forgetting the meaning of life, probably having become too materialistic, think an Atlantis myth type scenario. They go on a journey of rediscovery and experience gradual personal growth as lessons are learned. We can break these lessons roughly down into mental (first Transllusion), emotional (The Other People Place), intellectual (Abstract Thought), physical/biological (Lab Rat XL). The final mental and physical break through of course comes with L.I.F.E. as explained in the first part. The other bookend of the series, Shifted Phases, documents our journey towards our final flux, moment of transformation. Remember the storm, particularly if there¡¯s a few(7?) tornados in there, can be seen as a metaphor for change, transforming as it does the surface over which it travels. Drexciya obviously has US storms in mind and not what we might describe as a storm in Europe. He did say of them, "Much like storms or tornadoes, you don't know where or when they're going to show up..." when speaking with Tim Pratt in 2002 and the same year said the following on the subject of storms to Derek Beere, "It was very, very violent and very chaotic in a lot of different ways. Ups and downs. If you're in the middle of a storm, you have your ups and downs. You have all the elements that there are on this planet that exist in a storm, from water to air, fire, electricity. You might have a cow or a truck mixed up in there too."
So one of the revelations of the Storm Series is the finding of a positive in death. Which as I have said may have come as some comfort to James Stinson, that and the fact that he appears to have really lived, his wife and seven children, not to mention his music at the very least attest to that fact. Perhaps if a few generations follow this lead and see past whatever is ¡®holding them up¡¯ and concentrate on whatever sustains and multiplies life on this planet instead of the opposite we do have a chance to further evolve as a species into at the very least a greater one than we find ourselves belonging to today. This is the answer to the central question of why do we positively accept evolution/every thing that comes with the life process? What do we gain by this bravery that would not have just evolved overtime anyway? We need to change, to break the cycle of mental evolution we are on, the five lessons contained in the Storm, if followed are truly life changing and would lead us as a species towards a higher path than we are on now. One that is more concerned with all human life and what will sustain it than now. Today¡¯s environmental issues alone would make this a worthwhile evolutionary step for the human race to take.
It strikes me, as a side point, that this would mean a population explosion, not that we aren't already experiencing one, but the quality of this life for the majority is not very high. But surely following the meaning of life as the continuation of life at all costs idea, a population explosion would be the desirable outcome for the assured continuation of the evolution of our species? Especially if our colonisation of space was on the agenda, the only frontier left to us outside the sea and of course Drexciya in a way have already explored this solution for us. Maybe this exploration of space was even partly what the final storm and even the final Drexciya album ¡®Grava 4¡¯ was about. I'm not sure about this but it's possible, but these are questions for another era, hopefully a coming one.
Do not live in fear, see death as a part of life, as essential a part of evolution as birth. The continuation of life, the only true meaning we can take from life. And remember if we continue to live in fear we get stuck in our current negative cycle, the 'War on Terror' exhibit A, but if we love life we grow and have the chance to evolve into something better.
Have you understood me? Paradise regained, Utopia awaits.
To balance this article somewhat and bring it all back to Earth again read all about human evolution so far and some possible futures for us at http://www.human-evolution.org/
¡°...there¡¯s going to have to be a great flood again and destroy everything and restart. Somebody has to hit the restart button because, right now, I don¡¯t think so. Somebody¡¯s opened up Pandora s Box and all hell is breaking loose. That's why I¡¯m pushing the gas and I¡¯m putting out more stuff. The kind of images with Drexciya and stuff, I¡¯m taking people away from here. I feel like Noah¡¯s Ark, I¡¯m loading up the Drexciyan-Ark and taking your mind on a trip away from here for a little while.¡±
The above quote was sparked by a question by Derek Beere in 2002 regarding whether James Stinson thought we could ever replicate the underwater world of Drexciya in today's society. Its since struck me that his reference to Noah's Ark matches up very much with the imagery of the opening storm of the series, 'Harnessed The Storm'. Linking up with that albums darkly foreboding opener ¡®Under Sea Disturbances¡¯ (you can of course listen to the storm literally blowing at the start of this track), to the unequivocal in meaning ¡®Aquatic Cataclysm¡¯ and ¡®Digital Tsunami¡¯, even the closer ¡®Birth of New Life¡¯ could stand as the hope of a new beginning as the saved inhabitants of the ark emerge. Read on and you'll see I even managed to find a place for ¡®Dr. Blowfins Black Stabilizing Spheres¡¯ in this scenario! I was just going to write this connection up as a paragraph to be added to the original article on 'Harnessed' but as I did my research I saw there is more to this link in its own right.
To re-cap, the opening storm in the series is in my opinion the scene setter, where Drexciya get kicked out of paradise for taking life for granted and forgetting the meaning of life, which to some point is very much in keeping with the sentiments of the biblical flood story. However if they had used the Garden of Eden tale I will admit that it would tie in better to my view but the flood works as well. I'll also admit that how a flood could really affect an underwater society is questionable, although undersea disturbances and the enormous movement of a tsunami could, but the point is moot as we are of course dealing with flood as metaphor. I¡¯m just saying they may have taken some inspiration from it as a mechanism to set up the background to the proceeding transformational and evolutionary steps of storms #2 - #6 which if followed allow us not only re-entry to paradise but further access towards regions we have heretofore never been. This being the Drexciya Home Universe and the infinities which it potentially contains. Storm #7 is of course another bookend to the story, it being a physical journey through space which on closer inspection might even turn out to contain references to another account of an historic journey, in fact try it yourself, Homer¡¯s Odyssey or The Golden Fleece story most naturally spring to my mind to be worthy of investigation, although judging by it¡¯s title I would expect it to be from the perspective of someone¡¯s memoirs, but this is an article for another day. Back tracking to the potential infinities of the Drexciya Home Universe I mentioned, I continue to wonder if Gerald Donald understands this and is even part way there himself? Ever the scientist, it could be argued that with some of his releases since Drexciya he is endeavouring to guide our understanding through the universal language of mathematics towards this same metaphoric location. A location which he had previously with James Stinson brought us but via a more inward and spiritual route.If I'm correct that they did take a little inspiration from the biblical flood story then Stinson/Drexciya may have taken some of their own advice and went a little deeper with the story of Noah¡¯s Ark. I¡¯m sure if they did start to scratch the surface of the history of this story they would have soon realised that there are well over 500 such tales from different cultures and times around the world, many far older than the biblical one we know so well. One such account and from what I can make out as a layman must be the oldest and therefore root story, or one of them, is found in the famous epic saga of Gilgamesh dating from at least 3000 BC and said to record events which were then already ancient. This account differs from the biblical 40 days and 40 nights of rain and has just 7 days which begins with a storm. It does contain plenty of aquatic references, as you would expect a flood account to, but if you study you¡¯ll see it contains more than a few crossovers with the storm series. The version I am about to quote from comes from the very widely available and much read ¡®Fingerprints of the Gods¡¯ by Graham Hancock, first published 1995, so it¡¯s not as obscure a reference as it first appears, there¡¯s no reason why they might not have read this book at some point or found the Gilgamesh account mentioned in some other book of this type.
The first striking thing about this account which would appeal to anyone with an aquatic interest is the benevolent actions towards mankind of Ea the water God. By the way, they surely wouldn¡¯t have called an album ¡®Neptune¡¯s Lair¡¯ without knowing something of the history of ancient Gods!
I would advise you to read the following quote closely if your confused as to why exactly people might upset the Gods and get kicked out of paradise, assuming this ever happened of course! Also from our perspective take note of its mention of ¡®life¡¯.
Utnapishman speaking, ¡®In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamour. Enlil heard the clamour and he said to the gods in council, ¡°The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel¡±. So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind.¡¯
Ea takes pity on the man Utnapishtim and says to him,
¡°Tear down your house and build a boat, abandon your possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul...Tear down your house I say and build a boat with her dimensions in proportion - her width and length in harmony. Put aboard the seed of all living things into the boat.
Utnapishtim speaking, ¡°I put on board all my kith and kin, put on cattle, wild beasts from open country, all kinds of craftsmen...The time was fulfilled. When the first light of dawn approached a black cloud came up from the base of the sky; (¡®Dr. Blowfins Black Stabilizing Spheres¡¯) it thundered within where Adad, lord of the storm, was riding...A stupor of despair went up to heaven when the god of the storm turned daylight to darkness, when he smashed the land like a cup...On the first day the tempest blew swiftly and brought flood...No man could see his fellow. Nor could then people be distinguished from the sky. Even the gods were afraid of the flood. They withdrew; they went up to the heaven of Anu and crouched in the outskirts. The gods cowered like curs while Ishtar (goddess of war and sexual love) cried, shrieking aloud, ¡®Have I given birth unto these mine own people only to glut with their bodies the sea as though they were fish?¡¯ For six days and nights the wind blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts. When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the flood was stilled. I looked at the face of the world and there was silence. The surface of the sea stretched as flat as a rooftop. All mankind had returned to clay.¡±
The boat ends up grounded on a mountain top and from that point begins life's second chance.
But don¡¯t forget, every great story, in fact, every story, is essentially about moving from the darkness into the light. Perhaps all this is just happening on a subconscious level for them, eg. by the time Stinson spoke of it he could then see the connection with the flood story and so mentioned it. If you want to go along with all this the Storm Series could now be seen as a conceptual ark which can be boarded whenever discovered by the individual and if understood fully could be their saviour and provide passage to a new way of life. I shouldn't need to say it at this stage, we know how deep this goes, but respect is eternally due. Long live Drexciya.
¡®...abandon your possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul...¡¯
¡®Somebody¡¯s opened up Pandora¡¯s Box and all hell is breaking loose...I¡¯m loading up the Drexciyan-Ark and taking your mind on a trip away from here for a little while.¡±
I suppose it's about time I completed a discography of our subjects for archival purposes, but as this is DRL I couldn't simply give you as unimaginative and bare a post as that! So I came across an apt quote from the composer Aaron Copland for you to consider in case you find yourselves marvelling at the 'why¡¯s' this discography might bring up in you.
I will be updating this post as and when new releases appear, if I've missed anything let me know. As you'll see I've designed it as a simple 'at a glance' guide to all their related releases to date, if you want catalogue numbers, personnel details, track listings etc I would recommend going to the relevant entries at Discogs.
"The serious composer when he thinks about his art will sooner or later have occasion to ask himself: why is it so important to my own psyche that I compose music? What makes it seem so absolutely necessary, so that every other daily activity, by comparison, is of lesser significance? And why is the creative impulse never satisfied; why must one always begin anew? To the first question - the need to create - the answer is always the same - self-expression; the basic need to make evident one's deepest feelings about life. But why is the job never done? Why must one always begin again? The reason for the compulsion to renewed creativity, it seems to me, is that each added work brings with it an element of self-discovery. I must create in order to know myself, and since self-knowledge is a never-ending search, each new work is only a part-answer to the question 'Who am I?' and brings with it the need to go on to other and different part-answers."
There I go again ¡®reading too much into it¡¯ as usual but if we are to go beyond our subject the research and thinking must be of this nature. If you want to keep an open mind in the hope of going forward I hope you¡¯ll continue to support my efforts. Those ¡®part-answers¡¯ to date are as follows.
'Hyper Space Sound Lab' 12" (Flurescent Forest 1991)
S/T 12"( Pornophonic Sound Disc 1991/Clone 2003)
'Balance of Terror' 12" (Hardwax 1992/Clone 2003)
'Deep Sea Dweller' 12" (Shockwave 1993/UR 2003)
'Drexciya 2' 12¡± aka ¡®Bubble Metropolis¡® (UR 1993)
¡®Drexciya 3¡¯ 12¡± aka ¡®Molecular Enhancement¡¯ (Rephlex 1994/Submerge 1995)
¡®Drexciya 4¡¯ dbl 12¡± aka ¡®The Unknown Aquazone¡¯ (Submerge 1994)
¡®Drexciya 5¡¯ 12¡± aka ¡®The Journey Home¡¯ (Warp 1995)
¡®Aquatic Invasion¡¯ 12¡± (UR 1995)
'The Return of Drexciya' 12" (UR 1996)
¡®Uncharted¡¯ 12¡± (S.I.D. 1997)
¡®The Quest¡¯ (Submerge 1997)
'Neptune's Lair' (Tresor 1999)
'Hydro Doorways' 12" (Tresor 2000)
'Digital Tsumami' 12"(Tresor 2001)
¡®Harnessed The Storm¡¯ (Tresor 2002)
¡®Drexcyen R.E.S.T. Principle' 12" (Clone 2002)
'Grava 4' (Clone 2002)
Kilohertz 12" (Warp 1995)
Electroworld (Warp 1995)
'Superior Race/Cellular Phone' 7" (Dataphysix 1994)
' Fascist State' 12" (Dataphysix 1994)
'Infophysix' 12" (Dataphysix 1995)
'Sterilization' 12" (Dataphysix 1997)
¡®Scientist¡¯ 10¡± (Gigolo Records 1999)
¡®Gesamtkunstwerk¡¯ (Gigolo Records 1999/Clone Classic Cuts 2007)
¡®Scientist¡¯ 12¡± (Gigolo Records 2001)
'Myon-Neutrino/Z-Boson' 12" (Gigolo Records 2002)
¡®Linear Accelerator' (Gigolo Records 2003)
'Calabi Yau Space' (Rephlex 2007)
'Rotoreliefs' 12" (Planet E 1995)
'Nausicaa' 12" (Planet E 1995)
'Der Zyklus' 12" (Gigolo Rcords 1998)
'Der Zyklus II' 12"(Gigolo Records 2001)
'Biometric ID' 12"(Dub 2004)
'Biometry' (Dub 2004)
'Der Zyklus' 12" (Frustrated Funk 2006)
S/T 12" aka 'Rising Son' (Intuit Solar 1999)
'Virtual Geisha' (Gigolo Records 2001)
¡®Are You Wireless?¡¯ 12" (Record Makers 2002)
¡®Wireless Internet¡¯ (Record Makers 2002)
'Quantum Transposition' (Rephlex 2005)
'Reference Frame' 12" (Record Makers 2006)
'Inertial Frame' (Record Makers 2006)
'Mind Over Positive and Negative Dimensional Matter' 12"(Supremat Records 2001)
¡®The Opening of the Cerebral Gate¡¯ (Supremat 2001)
'Don't Be Afraid of Evolution' 12" (Rephlex 2002)
'L.I.F.E.' (Rephlex 2002)
The Other People Place
'Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe' (Warp 2001)
'Sunday Night Live at the Laptop Cafe' 12" feat Mystic Tribe A.I. (Clone 2002)
'Hypothetical Situations' (Komination Research 2002)
'The Cosmic Memoirs of the Late Great Rupert J Rosinthrope¡¯ (Tresor 2002)
Lab Rat XL
'Mice or Cyborg' (Clone 2002)
Elecktroids - Elektroworld
In 1995 the UK¡¯s Warp Records put out the much loved ¡®Elektroworld¡¯ album by Elecktroids. Today Elecktroids are widely known to have been a side project related to one or both members of Drexciya and possibly two others. At the time however I¡¯m not sure how much was revealed to the press and public about its authorship. There was a press release/statement which restated the albums linear notes under two headings which read, ¡®Background: based in Flint, Michigan, USA, the four young sons of an electrician, known simply as the Elecktroids, have welded together their debut album.¡¯ and ¡®Inspiration: this album, titled 'Elektroworld', is a personal tribute to those well known pioneers of the electro-disco-beat; Kraftwerk.¡¯ From this, outside of knowing we are at least dealing with musicians from the state of Michigan we learn nothing more of the fact that we are actually hearing work from some other musical pioneers more usually associated with its capital, Detroit. These notes are all a bit of fun anyway, in keeping with the pop sensibilities found on the album. Warp had just previous to this released the now infamous and powerful trilogy of 12¡± singles which were united by their artwork and Drexciyan links, these being Drexciya¡¯s ¡®The Journey Home¡¯ aka ¡®Drexciya 5¡¯, the debut Ultradyne release, ¡®E-Coli¡¯ and Elecktroids themselves with ¡®Kilo Hertz¡¯. So it would have been obvious from this to those paying attention who the parties responsible for this album were likely to be. If that were not enough, 4 years later it would become even more apparent when the un-credited bonus track found on the CD version of the album turned up on Drexciya¡¯s ¡®Neptune¡¯s Lair¡¯ as ¡®Triangular Hydrogen Strain'. Today there is still much debate about who exactly was responsible for the album and unfortunately or not I am going to have to add to that by speculating on the specifics myself. I would plumb for ¡®the four sons of an electrician¡¯ being most likely Drexciya¡¯s James Stinson and Gerald Donald and Ultradynes Alex Lugo and Dennis Richardson, there-by creating the link between the two undisputed artists featured on the aforementioned 12¡° series. This is the most obvious and certainly the most likely scenario going by the available information. Unless they just wanted to give the impression of having four members like Kraftwerk, which is a strong possibility. If Ultradyne or even Donald himself would make a comment on the matter this issue would be closed but if they don¡¯t they can only expect people to continue to come to their own conclusions. But of course they won't resolve it, they understand that we secretly and not so secretly love not having all the answers, as providing finality in anything only hastens our interest coming to an end no matter how good the music is and in Elecktroids case mystery is all we have left. Kraftwerk understood this principle as well and it really came into its own for them when they would take their extended breaks, always returning to the increasing anticipation of new and old fans right up to the present day. Just think how long Drexciya have assured their place in history by not fully explaining themselves. So next time you see some latest big thing giving MTV or whoever an 'all access' glance at their working methods or touring operation just think how much more quickly their fans will tire of them and then marvel at how completely they seem to disappear afterward their 15 minutes has passed.
The artwork doesn¡¯t tell us much either as four masked and boiler-suited people pose on a hill side. It¡¯s very effective artwork, hard to put a time and identity of these residents of this electro world. But it¡¯s so anonymous we can¡¯t tell whether the shots were staged by Elecktroids themselves or by some mates of whoever did the artwork. I¡¯m sure someone at Warp or The Designers Republic knows, but of course it¡¯s not important. One thing which does very much link this album with Kraftwerk¡¯s ¡®Computer World¡¯ is the home computer style type faces and even the yellow background colouring. Not to mention the all important four members in the photograph. There is also a 'special thanks to God' credit in the text as well, which is of course a common Drexciya credit. So, the artwork has done its job, what about the music?
Well, first off, going by the production it doesn¡¯t really tell us much about its creators either, there¡¯s certainly no Ultradyne signatures to my ears, it¡¯s a far more Drexciyan sounding affair but is distinct even from them in that you can actually hear more echo¡¯s of their later work than anything they had done up to this point. The vocal of ¡®Midnight Drive' for instance sounds like a close cousin of tracks to be found on 2001¡¯s The Other People Place album. That¡¯s all I will say on this issue except to point out I have previously written in the AKA article that the members of Drexciya worked with Ultradyne on an early version of ¡®Wave Jumper¡¯ which would appear as the track ¡®Crossphaze¡¯ under the name X-Ternal Pulse in 1993 and that I personally doubt they would still have been collaborating with them by the time of the ¡®E-Coli¡¯ EP. Are they present here, I really couldn't say for certain.
Regarding Kraftwerk, the album title most clearly references their 1981 album 'Computer World'. which would also be one of their two albums most generally considered their most obviously influential on electronic music. The other being the 'Man Machine'(1977) and not forgetting their world wide smash hit single 'Tour De France'(1983). Of course each of their albums from 1975 on were an essential stage in the development of electronic music but if you just want to check out the ones displaying the 'electro-disco-beat' them those are the ones. If there's a Kraftwerk track that Elecktroids took as a template then in my opinion it would be 'Home Computer' from 'Computer World'. Really this one has it all, from regimented computer funk drum programming to weird atmospheric sections. Its vocal also concerns the future, '...Beam myself into the future', which is an obvious Elecktroids theme. Also if you listen to those big sad keyboard lines which begin from the one and a half minute mark on 'It's More Fun to Compute' from the same album I think you get a big Drexciya vibe.
The agenda of this album is clearly and unequivocally stated with the continuous looping of a robotic voice saying 'Welcome to the Future' on the opening 'Future Tone'. This after-all is a more than fitting sentiment to express as we enter this 'Electroworld'. How self-contained this concept is we shall see as the album develops. Musically this track is accessible enough and on close inspection does indeed have a continuously rising tone as one of its signatures. The echo on that fairly bare snare is the type of sound that on first listen would give rise to certain people saying things like 'old skool' but there's a lot more going on here than that. It's a solid opener that sets our expectations for the album up fairly well, eg. more vocals. 'Perpetual Motion' sounds quite Drexciyan, somehow aquatic, an instrumental it boasts a number of rhythms lines and is finished with a few textures of synth. Without any strongly recognisable element however it¡¯s a bit of filler really, but at almost the 6 and a half minute mark it just about keeps your attention to the end. ¡®Japanese Elecktronics¡¯ more than makes up for it though. Every track on this one has that something special about it. Great and very memorable bass line, the ¡°Japanese Elecktronics¡± vocal sample itself, loads of lovely touches contained on the keyboards, especially towards the end, I hesitate to be so literal as to call them oriental sounding but yeah hey do. Of course the title of this track does pre-empt Gerald Donald¡¯s interests in Japanese technology which he began to explore more obviously with Japanese Telecom and Arpanet but you could also point to work that was more contemporary with this time period with Flexitone and even Dopplereffekt. Certainly the makers of this track are acknowledging and enthusing Japan¡¯s superior electronics. I wonder how much of their equipment originated in that country?
'Check Mate¡¯ is up next, the production is good on this one and the melody pleasant if a bit throwaway. It¡¯s just a loop, effective of course and maybe perfect for that. Maybe someone with a better ear can decipher the last word of the vocal sample, ¡®Check mate ...?¡¯. If it even says that, it¡¯s very clipped. I guess it¡¯s worth considering that if there really are 4 people at the controls you might expect far less of this fairly ordinary stuff getting through but it can go either way, too many idea¡¯s diluting the consistency you need to sustain an album, to include a bit of everyone¡¯s input to be fair even if better idea¡¯s have to go by the wayside, or the majority over ruling what might have proven to be a better idea if allowed to develop. Of course any true collaboration is just that and if a struggle ensues then that's all part of it and resolving the differing opinions and inputs into a cohesive whole that goes beyond what an individual could have achieved is the ultimate goal. My own gut feeling is that this is simply James Stinson and Gerald Donald working together and in isolation. ¡®Mystery World¡¯ sounds very much like something from ¡®Neptune¡¯s Lair¡¯. It even has that same unfinished abrupt, read short, quality that many of the tracks on that album have. At the one minute mark it has a lovely floating synth sound which is one of the high points on the album for me. About the four minute mark there¡¯s another huge change into what actually sounds like it would fit a David Lynch movie soundtrack. Going by the title I¡¯d nominate ¡®Blue Velvet¡¯. This is an outstanding track, amazing melodies and a really great production with these big surprising changes happening seamlessly. ¡®Silicone Valley¡¯ is out of this world, a timeless piece of music that could in 50 years be used to sell you a futuristic product or something in that context. Don¡¯t forget this is already almost 15 years old as it is. They really managed to find the magical ingredients on this one and no mistake.
The aforementioned ¡¯Midnight Drive¡¯ is another beautiful track for different reasons , a very smooth sounding male vocal which could be singing anything really, ¡°5, 4.30, love?¡±, it¡¯s not that but it could be. I guess it doesn¡¯t really matter as the sentiment is undoubtedly melancholic and highly effective. To date there had been nothing like this from Drexciya and there¡¯s certainly nothing else like it on this album so it¡¯s doubly surprising to find it here. Whenever Drexciya decided to create the Storm Series and knew that they would be covering a number of styles I wouldn¡¯t be surprised if a chance to return and expand upon the template of this orphan was a long cherished project. ¡¯Thermo Science¡¯ gives me more of a Gerald Donald production feel, with even the vocal being one of his interests. It has a sense of fun in its production which also links up with both Glass Domain and even the more absurdist side of early Dopplereffekt. It¡¯s a worthy track, maybe incomplete to some degree, a bit stuck in its own groove. More humour, if you choose to interpret it as that on ¡®Stun Gun¡¯. Love the bass line on this and the double vocal sample, ¡®I got a stun gun¡¯ is a hoot when it gets going. Plenty of arcade game style gun sounds ricochet throughout as well. ¡®Floatation¡¯ is another track which kind of pre-empts the future, all I know is that it sounds like the future to me, it¡¯s at least contemporary with what is going on today. I guess it might have some very minimal Drexciyan elements but basically it¡¯s another attempt at a brave new sound. The final official track, ¡®Time Tunnel¡¯, begins ¡°Logo rhythms, Algo rhythms, multiplication, linear integration.¡± A male vocal, wonder if it¡¯s Donald? A very sparse track which soon develops into a tight little bass-line led number with plenty of snare and echoing beats throughout. It also has a very nice dark ending which is drenched in reverb and just when you think it's over there is one final mysterious male vocal, "When number 9 extends into infinity, in either direction, positive, negative." Thus are we left hanging, unless you have the CD version which has the aforementioned ¡®Triangular Hydrogen Strain' by Drexciya five minutes later which then leaves you hanging for 4 more years.
So to sum the album up in a line, this is a tribute to Kraftwerk which doesn't sound like them musically but does follow their pioneering spirit. Musically there are loads of tracks that sound like they might have appeared on 'Neptune's Lair' in time if this release had not been so it's interesting in that sense. Does the future concept tie together throughout? Sure, basically it's a simple enough idea and can stretch to include a lot.
The ¡®Kilohertz¡¯ 12¡±, long one of the most sought after and therefore most expensive of Drexciya related rarities brought 4 other new Elecktroids tracks to light. The opener, ¡¯Kilohertz¡¯ itself, is an instrumental, as all the other tracks are but does feature what seems to be like a very familiar sample which I believe started off life as a child screaming. Its strongest element is the bass line and more high frequency bleep melody. A few unexpected sounds too but all of the home-computer type variety. My favourite and for me the most distinct sounding track is next. While ¡®Algorithm¡¯ does have a certain flavour of ¡®Neptune¡¯s Lair¡¯ to it in my opinion it also has its own style which sets it apart from anything previous to it and even since. Keyboard driven and with an unexpected breakdown halfway it shuttles along on it own momentum. It could lay claim to one of the few tracks with a slight, very slight Kraftwerk sound but only towards the end. ¡¯Magnetic Field¡¯ is a surprise in that it¡¯s fairly hard and reminds me of material found on their first 12¡± ¡®Deep Sea Dweller¡¯. Still fairly sparse and at just the 2 and a half minute mark it is a bit throwaway, far from their best work. Check out the weird ending though. The wonderfully titled ¡¯Remote Control Hornet¡¯ closes the EP and comes a close second to my favourite track here. Again I can detect a lot of sounds and programming on it that would not have seemed out of place on 1999¡¯s ¡¯Neptune¡¯s Lair¡¯. Quite a dark brooding track but also with a quirky upbeat charm which is really the description of classic Drexciya. All in all a tasty collection and companion to the album. The artwork here does not follow the album and is simply a small square shot of I would guess the famous Hal 9000 computer eye from the Stanley Kubrick film 2001 with red as its primary colour. There may be what appears to be a human figure reflected in it. As mentioned the other two 12¡±¡¯s in the series also had similar artwork.
At the moment all of these tracks are available for download from Warps Bleep site but as indicated by the high prices these items attain on Ebay they have not been pressed for probably over ten years now. Of course it would be great to see them out there in the shops again, it would make sense to at least expand the CD to include the EP tracks as well. At some stage I can see this happening, it was good to see Dopplereffekt¡¯s ¡®Gesamtkunswerk¡¯ getting another outing through Clone¡¯s Classic Cuts. While many DJ¡¯s have moved to laptop set ups, which is fine and undoubtedly a sign of evolution in that art-form, to actually have it back in the shops again and to have fresh clean vinyl versions of this music, the temptation for DJ¡¯s to play it again and for new ones to discover and do likewise is always going to happen. As it would for the Elecktroids material. I¡¯m sure a label like Clone would jump at the chance to put the Elecktroids album out again if Warp agreed to license it to them or more likely whenever the rights return to the creators, whoever they turn out to be. Incidently there was a also a cassette version of the album, guess this is their first time on ferrox odide? Of course if anyone else has more info to add let me know.
By the way if anyone is thinking, have I stopped following Gerald Donald¡¯s production progress, I must reassure you that it has only been a temporary break, I will be travelling that road again soon. In fact I can¡¯t wait to catch up with where he is now but as mentioned before we might find it more rewarding to take this more methodical, scientific even, approach. I¡¯m never 100% sure what is next, so barring the discovery of another Heinrich Mueller MySpace project, live appearances or the announcement of yet another Arpanet/Dopplereffekt/Der Zyklus album, there will be always something more to write about as long as he keeps releasing music. Rest assured there will be more text and images for you here soon.
Ellen Gallagher - Coral Cities
I was very surprised to have a friend point out that Drexciya were the subject of a show entitled 'Coral Cities' ongoing at Dublin's Hugh Lane gallery. I did some research and found that the artist responsible, Ellen Gallagher, has been working on this series, 'Watery Ecstatic', for a number of years and that it has already been exhibited at Tate Liverpool. This is a very welcome and significant development which has no doubt already introduced a whole new audience to Drexciya and their idea¡®s. I found the following texts which had this to say about her and her show...
¡®Ellen Gallagher was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1965, and lives and works in New York and Rotterdam, Holland. Her work first gained international attention at the Whitney Biennial in 1995. She has exhibited widely with recent solo exhibitions at the Freud Museum, London (2005), MoCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2005), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005) and was selected for the Italian Pavilion for the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003.¡¯
¡®Gallagher is best known for her paintings that rework advertisements for hair and skin products from popular magazines such as ¡°Ebony¡±, ¡°Our World¡± and ¡°Sepia¡±, but also creates drawings, sculptures and films that explore issues of race, slavery and identity.¡¯
¡®Her current exhibition at the Liverpool Tate indeed showcases her recent works, and charts her ongoing exploration of the Drexciya Mythos and the Black Atlantis. The idea stems from the suggestion that amphibian descendents of African women and children inhabit the seas between Africa and the Americas, after many jumped overboard and plummeted to their deaths during the gruelling journey of the middle passage, rather than be sold as slaves in America. Gallagher¡¯s interpretation of the amphibious creatures becomes the narrative of her work for this exhibition, and she presents the haunting images by many different means. This disconcerting tale has very much influenced her recent works, making them as haunting as they are beautiful.¡¯
¡®The focal point of the exhibition, ¡®Bird in Hand¡¯ sees the most ambitious artistry of the Watery Ecstatic series, execute through careful use of oil, ink, cut paper, polymer medium, salt and gold leaf on canvas. The results are exceptional on an aesthetic level, and succeed in adding depth and meaning to the narrative and premise behind its creation. Gallagher effectively evokes the sea, and reveals the isolation and desperation of African slaves through a carefully crafted absence of companionship.¡¯
¡®Coral Cities features new and recent works and focuses on her ongoing series collectively entitled Watery Ecstatic, which explores the myth of Drexciya, a myth propagated by an underground Detroit techno outfit of the same name in the 1990s. An Atlantis-like underwater world, Drexciya is populated by a marine species descended from women and children who jumped overboard or were thrown from slave ships during the gruelling journey from West Africa to America. In this series of work their embryonic status is transformed into elaborate mythical figures, half human, half fish, and highly developed underwater species. Carving directly onto paper, elaborating with precise detail, and culling images from the 1930s through to the 1970s from publications such as Ebony and Sepia, Gallagher remixes representations of identity. The exhibition includes the epic painting Bird in Hand, representing a black sailor or pirate from Cape Verde, part tree, part root, whose head spawns a multitude of heads and text. As in other works historically specific cultural references are merged with Gallagher¡¯s own personal biography as a black Irish-American woman. Gallagher revises and revisions the historic and fantastical to create a body of work that layers imageries and creates new cultural mythologies.¡¯
These links have more about her work.
The film maker David Lynch has been on a publicity drive in Europe of late to promote Transcendental Meditation to children. I had heard of this technique of relaxation and development before but went to his website to research his approach further. I was surprised to find that the phrase, ¡®diving within¡¯, is the keyword used in describing what you do when you practise it. I don¡¯t think it¡¯s coincidence that this same phrase is essentially what Drexciya were all about. You¡¯ll understand why I¡¯m reproducing Lynch¡¯s message here if you¡¯ve read and understood my interpretation of the Storm Series or any of the James Stinson quotes such as
¡°...all the records we¡¯ve made give you clues, how to tap into your inner selves. We bring you right to that door and give you the key.¡±
(On Inspiration) ¡°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."
and finally, again on inspiration he said,
"It comes from within our soul, from tapping into our subconscious during meditation.¡±
As ever, you make up your own mind from this information. I¡¯m not saying anything as specific as that the members of Drexciya practiced TM at all, but if you want to go beyond the music and are looking for ways to socially evolve, then the following might provide some idea¡®s for you and if not you should, if you have been reading DRL closely, at least recognise some very familiar sounding concepts about raising consciousness, which in my opinion run very much parallel to Drexciyan thought.
In fact I¡¯ll give you one last quote for the doubters! I have yet to fully transcribe and archive the final interview James Stinson gave, which was to the Detroit radio station, but when asked to describe the Drexciya theme he paused to think and said, ¡°An infinite journey to inner space, within and find out the beauty that¡¯s inside.¡±
¡°In today¡¯s world of fear and uncertainty, every child should have one class period a day to dive within himself and experience the field of silence¡ªbliss¡ªthe enormous reservoir of energy and intelligence that is deep within all of us. This is the way to save the coming generation.¡± These words from the great educator and scientist of consciousness, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, simply and beautifully describe the urgent need in education today.
I have been ¡°diving within¡± through the Transcendental Meditation technique for over 30 years. It has changed my life, my world. I am not alone. Millions of other people of all ages, religions, and walks of life practice the technique and enjoy incredible benefits.
Someday, hopefully very soon, ¡°diving within¡± as a preparation for learning and as a tool for developing the creative potential of the mind will be a standard part of every school¡¯s curriculum. The stresses of today¡¯s world are taking an enormous toll on our children right now. There are hundreds of schools, with thousands of students, who are eager to relieve this stress and bring out the full potential of every student by providing this Consciousness-Based education today.
Our Foundation was established to ensure that any child in America who wants to learn and practice the Transcendental Meditation program can do so. The TM program is the most thoroughly researched and widely practiced program in the world for developing the full creative potential of the brain and mind, improving health, reducing stress, and improving academic outcomes. We provide scholarships for students to learn the technique and to receive the complete follow-up program of instruction throughout their student years to ensure they receive the maximum benefits. We also provide scholarships for students who want to attend the growing number of highly successful schools, colleges, and universities founded on this Consciousness-Based approach to education.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many students who are ¡°diving within¡± and experiencing Consciousness-Based education. These students are all unique individuals, very much themselves. They are amazing, self-sufficient, wide-awake, energetic, blissful, creative, powerfully intelligent and peaceful human beings. Meeting these students, for me, was the proof that Consciousness-Based education is a profoundly good thing for our schools and for our world.
Research and experience document the profound benefits to society as a whole when our children dive within. Individual peace is the unit of world peace. By offering Consciousness-Based education to the coming generation, we can promote a strong foundation for a healthy, harmonious, and peaceful world. For this, the Foundation also supports the establishment of Universities of World Peace that will train the coming generation in a new profession: that of professional peacemaker.
Thank you very much for your interest. And please remember that Consciousness-Based education is not a luxury. For our children who are growing up in a stressful, often frightening, crisis-ridden world, it is a necessity.¡±
High intrigue or something of an early Christmas present for us over at Zwischenwelt¡¯s MySpace. There you¡¯ll find a new track plus a video for 'Segunda Realidad¡¯. The interesting thing is that they have replaced the Spanish lyrics with English ones for the video. Also if you now listen to this tracks regular audio file you can only access this new version.
The new audio track, 'Extrasensory¡¯, has a very minimal electronic backing with a female speaking in German over the top and lasts just over a minute. A black and white picture of a woman identified as being Ingeborg Kramer is attached to it. Whether this is the subject, the person responsible for the vocal or other is up to us to decide. I of course searched her name but came up with nothing obvious. They aren¡¯t making it so simple for us as ¡®Nina Kulagina¡¯ this time. She may well be some other person with extrasensory abilities of that type only far more obscure, but that¡¯s just a slightly educated guess. My German isn¡¯t great but some of the words used in the track are, intuitiveness, theories, pagan, esp experimental technology tests and that key word, evolution. I¡¯m sure one of you could translate it fairly simply and get it to me or we could just wait for the English version to appear! My apologies by the way to my readers who don¡¯t have English as their first language. The words to ¡®Segunda Realidad¡¯ however are more or less as follows.
Our thoughts in silence be
On spider webs of time
Dangling from the universal mind
Dancing toward the 13th hour
Panting, racing gracefully
You would be painting future landscapes
Frequencies transcending matter
Navigating the anatomy of atoms
The video is a combination of stills of Beta Evers, Penelope Martin and Susana Correia previously posted on their site and an animated version of the pictures there listed as depicting ¡®physical reality transformations¡¯. Check it out from here http://www.myspace.com/zwischenwelt
Another new Heinrich Mueller involved MySpace project has come to light. Zerkalo is a project said to be co-produced by Victoria Lukas and Heinrich Mueller. They list their location as being Germany/USA and France. According to their site they have been lurking here since November 2006, although the video they have up right now on YouTube for 'Warning You' was only uploaded in the last few days. They might have had one up before this however but it's not viewable now, but am not sure on this. I think that Victoria Lukas is a member of a group called Weltgeist as well but uses a different name for it, they have a MySpace page, of course, link below. 'Warning You' is an instrumental track which is pretty Muellerish I guess, minimal, atmospheric, dark, but more old school Mueller than new if you know what I mean. This track is also on their audio player plus one more, 'Watch It Burning Again'. This one has a female voiced lyric and is pretty short but very sweet. It's done very much in the vein of Zwischenwelt/Black Replica. They are also actively touring, check the dates on their site for yourselves. I found a link to footage of one of their previous gigs and not surprisingly it appeared to feature only Victoria Lukas. On their site and even in the video which is made up of scenes of Andrei Tarkovsky films they make it clear that they are influenced by this director and the type of images he made his own with his trademark long and lingering shots. They have two pretty desolate looking photos on their site as well, see one below.
I'm just wondering, as you probably are, how many more of these collaborative projects are out there because when I do get up to date with the Heinrich Mueller releases I am planning to go into detail concerning all of his side projects, have to keep myself busy somehow. But in this case I might have an advantage in that I happen to be a bit of a Tarkovsky fan ever since a reviewer in The Wire said of a band I was in at the time called Memory Cells (almost 10 years ago now) that it reminded him of the work of just that director. After that I decided I should probably make it my business to see some of his work. I know that one of the films they used footage from for the video is 'Mirror'(1975), which is said to be one of his more autobiographical works. Also their name, Zerkalo, is the Russian for Mirror and is an alternate title. Not that this is hard to work out in the age of the internet! I guess we should keep an eye on this project as well then.http://www.myspace.com/myopspace
Also a remixed version of the Arpanet album 'Inertial Frame' might be in the offing soon. I was sent a link to a remix from it but I couldn't find any reference to it on web or even on the Record Makers site, so give it a listen as well while you wait. No sign of the Der Zkylus 12¡± being released either, should be anyday.http://www.sendspace.com/file/3d9ydk
Arpanet - Quantum Computing? +
Just in! Dopplereffekt to play 'first live UK show ever' details here. http://www.bangfaceweekender.com/
There is another supposedly unreleased Arpanet
track floating about cyberspace at the moment. This time it is an original called 'Quantum Computing'. Gravitational Lense
remix) is the other one. Not sure if this stuff is meant to be leaking out or not and so far there is no word on a new Arpanet
album, remix or otherwise. (new text)As of 26th
Feb it was brought to my attention that 'Quantum Computing' is more than likely the work of someone else. I just call them like I see 'em but will leave the post as it was from this point on and let you decide for yourselves
what you think. I must say that both tracks, I would also be suspicious
about the remix now, are very good and if the person(s) responsible doesn't have a record deal they should. Whoever titled the remix really knows their stuff as if it is a fake it certainly fooled me. I think it's acceptable that I'll be wrong from time to time when I'm working so much in the dark, I'll always remember how hard it was for me to decide if Black Replica was a hoax or not.
If you have the time and want to go deeper you can read all about the first and only commercially available quantum computer, just launched by D Wave Systems at a link below. A more objective view of this new, possibly quantum computer, can be read at Wikipedia
. If you were wondering what Chwolson Xallarap
is then wonder no more! Well first off a gravitational lense is formed when the light from a very distant, bright source (such as a quasar) is "bent" around a massive object (such as a cluster of galaxies) between the source object and the observer. Orest Danilovich Chwolson
(1852-1934) was a Russian physicist who is most noted for being one of the first people to study the gravitational lens effect. Lastly the Xallarap
effect (an analogy of parallax) is a variation in a gravitational lensing observation caused by the orbital motion of the source.
But it is just as equally about the music as concept and in this case I can report the music is great, see what you think. These 'send space' links usually have a time limit on them I think so best to act quick.
Live footage of Dopplereffekt
in Amsterdam on 23rd Feb 2008 as a duo below.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBg_tTjJrxkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMiI78VV02Ahttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL8iR0RnCvwhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAN7zEntg0Y
The noted artist and filmmaker Kapwani Kiwanga is making a film with Drexciya as subject matter and would be interested in making contact with people with a view to interviewing them. So if you have been touched by or inspired by the Drexciya myth you can contact her through her website. She tells me she can meet with people in Europe but preferably in France and also in North America but preferably Canada. She has already begun her project and has had a period of filming and researching in Benin, West Africa. It¡¯s fantastic to see Drexciya¡¯s influence spreading out into other areas of the arts, the depth they brought to the presentation of their music will no doubt make them a rich source of inspiration for years to come. A short trailer of ¡®Atlantide¡¯ can be viewed athttp://www.vimeo.com/307129
You can make contact with Kapwani through her website athttp://www.kapwanikiwanga.co.uk
Dopplereffekt are lining up quite a few shows at the moment. Two have already been officially announced, details below, the rest only list the cities so far, and please note that some have yet to be confirmed. If you are a promoter they are said to be available for most weekends, except of course those dates already listed. Why not get them to play your local! Contact http://www.kontra-musik.com/index.php?id=137
April 26th at Bangface Weekender, England.http://www.bangfaceweekender.com/
ECLECTICA FESTVAL PREPARTY
Live: Dopplereffekt (Dataphysix, US)
DJ: Ulf Eriksson (Kontra-Musik)
Saturday May 3, 2008
May 9 Rostock, Germany, tbc
May 24 Oslo, Norway
June 6 Glasgow, Scotland
June 14 Warsaw, Poland, tbc
July 5 Dublin, Ireland
July 12 London, England
Drexciya Groovesmag interview
Another of the rare Drexciya interviews has found its way to me. Big thanks to June for locating and scanning it. This is the 9th full length James Stinson interview I have archived here to date and to my knowledge there were only ever 10. That of course leaves us with just one more left to locate! This would be the one from 1994 which was done by Tim Barr. It was probably only available in a print magazine, as was the Groovesmag one, so if you ever come across it let me know and we'll figure out how to get it up here. I have already included some quotes from the 1994 interview in 'Drexciya Speaks', the article which rounds up all of the James Stinson quotes under different headings, but they were gleamed from the later 1997 Tim Barr interview where he referenced them. I will slot these new quotes into 'Drexciya Speaks' asap as well. Check it out at link below.http://drexciyaresearchlab.blogspot.com/2005_05_01_archive.html
I must say that this interview is particularly interesting and revealing. Sure to become another important piece of the Drexciyan puzzle. Enjoy.
Unleashing Storms Unto The World
James Stinson surfaces from Drexciya's underwater lair for a rare interview.
from Groovesmag #8 2001
by Nick Phillips
In this electronica era, where genres mutate and multiply faster than you can say drill¡¯n¡¯bass ghettotech, Drexciya plays like singular transmissions from a parallel universe. It is an essential otherness coded into the very genetics of its music, a slowly percolating wash of sound that systematically subverts electro¡¯s 808-driven pulse by driving its icy, clipped rhythms deep into liquid layers of low frequencies. And, more obviously, this otherness is dictated by Drexciya¡¯s stubborn and insistent refusal to play any of the minutiae of the publicity game, instead shunning interviews, avoiding press, and shrouding its personal identities in veils of mystery that have driven the electro crowd into gossip overload.
Until now, that is. Drexciya¡¯s newest release, Harnessed the Storm on Tresor, with its epic ebb and flow of delicately warped electro, finds the enigmatic Detroit duo letting a little outside light into the studio ¨C even consenting to a phone interview, although the surprisingly congenial Drexciya spokesperson with whom I finally caught up admits no change of heart. "We never were hostile (to the music press), though my aggressive nature probably made it seem otherwise,¡± says James Stinson via telephone. ¡°Before, we decided that for our purposes we didn¡¯t have time to do interviews, because we were in R.E.S.T. mode ¨C Research, Experimentation, Science, Technology. We didn¡¯t listen to the work of our peers, listen to techno radio programs or do interviews. Because it would upset the balance of our R.E.S.T. mode and upset the balance of our work. Now the time just seems right.¡±
Of course, Stinson¡¯s being a little disingenuous: This is the same duo that blocked interviewers¡¯ inquires for a full eight years. Drexciya¡¯s current assumption of the spotlight is especially perplexing once you consider the announcement that filtered through electronic music circles back in 1997, hot on the heels of its classic double album The Quest, that Drexciya was quitting music altogether ¨C a promise that was thankfully broken with 1999¡¯s Neptune¡¯s Lair. So what spurred Drexciya back into the studio for their most productive years to date? ¡°Back in the day, things were really limited,¡± he says, ¡°You had minimal techno, hard techno, house, and that was it. What energised us to return was that techno went supernova, creating many new electronic music formats. Now, hell, there are so many different music groups, so many categories, so many styles. You¡¯re always hearing something new, like somebody off doing something extremely abstract and out there. I may not get into their style, but that¡¯s the evolution of electronic music, and that¡¯s what¡¯s important ¨C people coming from the beginning and cutting their own path from it.¡±
In fact, one of the most surprising aspects of Harnessed the Storm is how contemporary it feels ¨C until you realise Drexciya hasn¡¯t changed, it¡¯s just that the rest of the world finally caught the electro bug Drexciya has been feeding off for close to a decade. Refreshingly, Drexciya isn¡¯t defensive about artists like Peaches or Adult., who draw from a sonic blueprint Drexciya helped to forge. On the contrary, Stinson says, ¡°I feel overjoyed about these people, because that was one of the many goals that was set from day one, to influence others and bring some excitement into electronic music. That¡¯s my duty in music. We were building from Juan (Atkins) and Kevin (Saunderson), and the Underground Resistance, so we¡¯re giving our contribution, and we want people to take from that and do their own thing with it.¡±
Talking about Drexciya¡¯s inception, Stinson sounds like he¡¯s recalling a religious conversion. ¡°I first received this thing called electronic music back when I was a little kid, when I heard Cybotron, the work of Juan Atkins, and a lot of the early Detroit people played on the radio, and it blew my mind.¡± He says. ¡°This was back in the funk era, when you had just funk and R&B on the radio, a little bit of disco maybe, and that was it. Then I heard techno, I heard bass music. I heard electro, and the music just grabbed me and dug deep inside like a parasite.¡±
From this bite-sized introduction developed a full-on obsession: At times Stinson sounds more like a rigorously committed student than an electronic musician. ¡°Yeah, discipline was a big thing for us,¡± he says. ¡°We didn¡¯t want to just get some equipment so we can release some records and then we can have this jet-setting, party lifestyle. When we sat down to do Drexciya, we worked out our principles by putting together extensive protocols for how we were going to operate, like the idea of R.E.S.T. We weren¡¯t in it to sound like the new hippest thing; we didn¡¯t listen to the newest hit record and say, ¡®How can we sound like that, how can we get their sound?¡¯ We loved electronic music, and we wanted to contribute to it to have a lasting influence.¡±
Some critics have mistaken Drexciya¡¯s unswerving discipline for an unchanging sound, but Stinson shrugs off such criticism. ¡°We stick to our style, cause that¡¯s our style,¡± he says. ¡°A while back, people said we sounded old, but we do what we do: We use 808s cause we love the sound of 808s! Of course, the earth turns, and you gotta update programs, like you update your AOL browser or whatever. You have to update your theories and stay current. But I¡¯m not in the process of just making records; I¡¯m in the process of developing my style.¡±
And Drexciya¡¯s particular style was forged in the early electronic scene, which (out of necessity) heavily favoured live recording and knob working. Stinson professes a disinterest in the computing advances of recent years. ¡°There¡¯s nothing wrong with computers, but it¡¯s just not our style,¡± he says. ¡°For me, playing live is the key: That¡¯s how the energy becomes transformed into something unique, and the music becomes part of you. When you¡¯re doing it live, it¡¯s all about the rhythm pattern you¡¯re on, evolving to the energy you¡¯re creating on that moment. Every time you switch something, every time you twist a knob, you can make something on the spot ¨C it could be something glitchy or whatever, but it¡¯s part of the feeling of the moment, and it¡¯s something you can¡¯t reproduce.¡±
This emphasis on following the moment informs all aspects of Drexciya ¨C even apparently, the overwhelmingly complex mythology that underlies its releases, which pits Drexciyans, "the water breathing, aquatically mutated desendants" of "pregnant America-bound slaves" discarded on cross-Atlantic voyages "by the thousands during labour for being sick and disruptive cargo," against the dreaded Audiovidual Programmers. "Man, that was spontaneous!" Stinson says, laughing. "It was back in '88, and we'd just been fooling around with music for a few years. One day, I woke up and it just came to me! I rolled straight out of bed and it all just started flowing. I didn't have the name at first, but the stories started coming naturally, and one day the name 'Drexciya' came to me, it just felt right when I pronounced it. Since then, we've done some heavy meditations on it, and the story has just evolved. But the music always comes first - the concepts always follow the music. We listen to the tracks and decide how they correspond to these principles and to these stories, and then we build the album around it. If a track doesn't fit in the flow, we'll just put it aside. We're perfectionists, and we control the output of our music. If it's not working, we don't force it: We just wait until you're clicking on all four cylinders, and the energy is strong and clear, and that's when music comes out fast and good."
Of course, Drexciya isn't about to give up all it's secrets, and Stinson turns shadowy when I ask him about what principles are driving Drexciya now, admitting cagily that, "There are some principles we have that we can't share with the world." When pressed, Stinson reveals a little of what Drexciya has in store. "At the moment we're working on unleashing the seven storms onto the world, which are seven albums that Drexciya is involved with that we're releasing into the world under a whole host of names, from a whole host of countries," he says "It started with the first storm, which was the new Drexciya release. Then the second storm was Transllusion, which came out of Germany, then you had The Other People Place LP coming out of England. And now we've got four more storms in the works, coming from places like Portugal. They're just in a holding pattern, just waiting to be unleashed."
Check out latest online issue of Groovesmag here.http://www.groovesmag.com/
Cherenkov Radiation etc etc
After only a 5 month delay the Der Zyklus
Radiation' 12" finally emerged on Frustrated Funk. It is on dark purple vinyl. But you would be forgiven for thinking it was so dark purple as to be black. But hold it up to the light and you'll see the purple. Although I would expect Mueller sees it as more of a violet than purple. This is because Cherenkov
Radiation is in the ultraviolet colour spectrum. The human eye only sees it as a bright blue, the glow of cherenkov
radiation from a nuclear reactor. In fact it mostly exists visibly in the ultraviolet colour spectrum which the human eye cannot see. The sensitivity of the human eye peaks at green, and is very low in the violet portion of the spectrum. Hence violet or a dark purple would be the nearest colour we can relate to it. This certainly proves at least two things about Mr. Mueller; he is a real stickler for detail, like any good scientist and that he has thought about all this fairly deeply and completely. I for my part, appreciate what he is doing by in turn thinking deeply about it myself and finding all this stuff he buried just underneath the surface. It is also good musically, but it's my policy not to describe it - in anymore detail
than I already have - straight away, so will comment on this release when I get to it in about a year or more at this rate!
One other piece of additional info did emerge on issue of the 12" however. For some time now a Der Zyklus MySpace
has had the circular patterned label image up which I've included here. I'd always thought that this was a fan page up to now but at the very least it appears to be maintained by someone with connections to the group or even by the man himself? There are other original images there as well plus a link to Drexciya's
'Hydro Theory' YouTube
video, 3 old Der Zyklus
tracks and various other bits, so again, make up your own mind how official it is.http://www.myspace.com/derzyklus
Time for a round up of a few other loose ends.
Noticed this recently. If you never got to download the Arpanet
audio promo, 'Time Shifting' which appeared I think as a radio show kind of thing on http://www.cbs.nu/
then you can download it both in English and German language versions
from this link. If memory serves all the tracks featured are unreleased Arpanet
/Gerald Donald music. It's a cool little extra and you learn something, can't be bad.http://robotdj.net/?dj=CBS%20Special
On the speculative side; if you ever wondered how Heinrich Mueller finds the names for his projects how about looking no further than the equipment in his studio. The Zyklus MPS
is a now rare and retro 80's midi sequencer which I think could make some sounds we would be familiar with. Check it out on this demo video and see if you agree.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIb39XCJvNY
Also, anyone for Doepfereffekt
? One of my readers tracked down a certain Douglas Wagner from the credits on the 'Sterilization' 12" and found he works for Enport
who distribute Doepfer
products in the US. Check out their site athttp://www.doepfer.de/home.htm
Lastly while on this subject, the keyboards which Dopplereffekt
have been using when playing live lately are a pair of Korg
Triton Le 61 key workstations.
There is a new Zerkalo
video up called 'When I Was Sick' on YouTube
. Hard to know what, if anything, Heinrich Mueller did on this track but it's ok
in its own right.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwA3ds3rzsM
While I won't be doing this for every promoter that is doing a Dopplereffekt show
, but because their
first ever live UK appearance at Bangface didn't
happen due to equipment problems which were not their
or the promoters fault the real first ever live UK appearance by default is now to be held at Numbers, Glasgow
, Scotland on 6th
June 2008. I have reproduced the flyers
. Tickets and more info can be got at following linkshttp://www.myspace.com/numbers12345678http://www.northsouthdivide.com/
Dopplereffekt appear to have a seated show in Athens, Greece on 30th May. DJ Stingray is also on the bill. The flyer is reproduced at base of post. It is in a venue called Bios and tickets are 12euro on the door.
While doing some provisional work on Arpanet¡¯s ¡®Quantum Transposition¡¯ album I made a discovery I believe is worth sharing with you separately, lest its importance goes unnoticed in what will no doubt be a very lengthy article in its own right. Mind you, I¡¯m sure it would have come to my attention a lot earlier if I¡¯d had the correct format! But these things are probably meant to be and maybe some of you had already noticed anyway? Printed only on the CD itself there is the following equation.
symbol used by Black Replica is unmistakable. Or is it, I'm only going from a scan, if someone can confirm it I would appreciate it. It may not be in the same typeface but it is does appear to be the symbol. This gives us a whole new context for it, one beyond mere speculation. The symbol certainly still represents the Greek word psi which represents the word or study of psychology as discussed before and this fits in well with the Black Replica image and content so far. But what it also now clearly represents is the ¦· particle. I could'nt find if the equation on the CD represents this particle but it led me to investigate if there was a connection between the symbol and mathematics. The particle was discovered in 1974 by a group led by Burton Richter at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, who named it as the ¦· particle. Unbeknownst to then, at about the same time in November 1974, the team of Samuel Ting at the Brookhaven National Laboratory found the same signal. They had dubbed their particle, J. It is now commonly known as J/¦· and has remained a particle which has been studied intensively ever since. So important was this discovery that they jointly received the 1976 Nobel Prize. Why did the first group call it after a Greek letter you might ask? The odd coincidence was that a computer reconstruction of the decay of a J/¦· particle looks just like the Greek letter ¦·. I¡¯ve reproduced a picture of it for you.
Wikipedia says this about it
"The J/¦× is a subatomic particle, a flavour-neutral meson consisting of a charm quark and a charm anti-quark. Mesons formed by a bound state of a charm quark and a charm anti-quark are generally known as "charmonium". The J/¦× is the first excited state of charmonium (i.e, the form of the charmonium with the second-smallest rest mass). The J/¦× has a rest mass of 3096.9 MeV/c 2, and a mean lifetime of 7.2¡Á10-21 s. This lifetime was about a thousand times longer than expected."
Interestingly the Greek ¦·, in biological terms, is also a symbol used to represent water potential.
I had been saving this up for my main Black Replica article sometime in the future but now seems like a suitable time to use it. But I stress here that you are free to make of this what you will as you¡¯ll quickly see this belongs more in the realm of speculation. But I think we have learned by now that Mueller and co are more than capable of working on multiple conceptual dimensions at once. There are many levels beyond the surface of all great art.
Remember also that in the video and pictures the ¦· symbol appears on what appears to be a shield. There is an ancient rune symbol called the Algiz which is very similar in appearance to ¦·. I found the following interpretation for it.
Algiz: (Z or -R: Elk, protection.) Protection, a shield. The protective urge to shelter oneself or others. Defence, warding off of evil, shield, guardian. Connection with the gods, awakening, higher life. It can be used to channel energies appropriately. Follow your instincts. Keep hold of success or maintain a position won or earned. Algiz Reversed: or Merkstave: Hidden danger, consumption by divine forces, loss of divine link. Taboo, warning, turning away, that which repels.
Certainly the symbol caries multiple meanings for its users. Maybe these discoveries can be rewarded with some new Black Replica material soon? It's great to see Mueller keeping up the Drexciyan tradition of droppping hints and links between his records. As you can see from this post, I'm not finding them all straight away or maybe at all so please share them with us if you are.
This is a truly mind expanding Blog, which makes my explanations of particle physics etc look like the kidstuff it is.http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2008/12/jpsi-resonance.html#links
More info on discovery of J/¦· particlehttp://www.slac.stanford.edu/history/revphotos.shtml
Seeing as I'm from Ireland I might as well stoplight the latest Drexciya/Dopplereffekt related goings on there in July. First off there is a Dopplereffekt live show taking place in the Sugar Club in Dublin on 5th July. Support is from Dublin electronic legend and long time friend of mine, Decal. It is a seated early gig which is said to be starting promptly, doors at 7pm.
More details from link below.http://www.myspace.com/testindustries
By the way, video’s from Dopplereffekt in Glasgow here.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H68vdX8tXkAhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mc6s0bssUU
Also check out this great video for Japanese Telecom’s ‘The Making of Ultraman’.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egVJ7XWqcGM
I'm not sure how many of you would be aware of it but I am also a conceptual artist, now you can see why I think and write the way I do! Well, a few months back, partly because of his knowledge of DRL, Dennis McNulty, an artist and one of the curators of an upcoming art exhibition asked me to get involved with an exhibition he was putting together. “'Underground' is an exhibition and publication looking at the changes in independent music culture over the last 15 years, tracking the relationship between the local and the global, society and technology and charting the erasure of the boundary between the public and the private.” There are many artists featured so my piece will of course be only a small part of the whole.
One of my contributions is a 6 minute video called 'Find Your Own Story' which takes Drexciya as subject and context as theme. To a soundtrack of Drexciya's 'Birth of New Life' from 'Harnessed The Storm', I run a sequence of roughly 40 or so James Stinson quotes and titles of tracks and albums etc. The texts are all black on a white background and I hope on the surface level I have managed to design it to intrigue people not familiar with Drexciya and their world. Going deeper, whether people know them or not I am interested if people will try to find a meaning in the sequence of texts, the order is one quote followed by 4 titles. I have certainly worked in a meaning as well! Going beyond that I have an ongoing fascination with context and by picking certain quotes and titles and ignoring others I inevitably lead you in a certain direction. Not that I am consciously doing that with DRL, here I try to give you all the information I have for you to make up your own mind, but I do, wrongly or rightly, choose to give you my own interpretation as well. Using simply text and music in the film of course mirrors what I work with when doing DRL. Hopefully at the very least it will, as I said, intrigue a few more souls into their world.
The coincidence of both events over lapping is purely luck, the last day of the exhibition is on the 6th July, which is the day after the Dopplereffekt gig. Maybe they will be tempted to visit? If so, they and anyone else will be very welcome.The exhibition takes place in the basement of Road Records on Fade Street in Dublin city. There will be an opening held at 6pm on 27th June and it will run to 6th July. More information can be found here.http://www.myspace.com/undergroundexhibitionhttp://dennismcnulty.com/
An 80 minute film I made in 1998 to document the final night of a Dublin club called Phunk City will also be screened as part of the same exhibition in conjunction with Dublin’s Darklight Film festival. Does this have anything to do with Drexciya? No, but it makes me happy!http://www.darklight.ie/pages/programme280608.htm
If you feel like reading further I was asked to write an essay for the publication which will be released to coincide with the exhibition. I guess the essay belongs here, if it was another artist I certainly would have included it. They had all the essay’s professionally edited by the way in case you wonder why it doesn’t sound like me at times! The stuff about me at end is also in publication so I have included it as well.
-The Return of Mystery
I believe we are truly poised to take a step forwards in the evolution of music.
On a basic level I see current changes offering a chance to free a new generation of artists from excessive ego satisfaction and from commercial pressures. However, far more interestingly, I see the potential arising for the return of mystery - giving us a chance to be curious about music and its artists again. Making us go to the music, seeking it out, rather than it coming to us and having to fend it off.
This will not happen overnight. Commercial pressures persist while some artists only use MySpace as another way to publicise more minutiae about themselves. But perhaps a new movement of happy-to-remain-anonymous artists who pursue music more as a hobby may emerge, or professional artists may use the ease of digital distribution as a chance for the proliferation of side projects and collaborations to stimulate their creativity. This is already happening but it could become the driving force of new music. If so, the medium will certainly have formed the message and in this case, I believe we will be onto a good thing.
Some time at the latter end of the 20th Century, one of the pioneers of electronic music, Alexander Robotnick remarked on the evolution of how we consumed music thus: "In the ‘60s and ‘70s there were no music genres but the fundamental ones such as jazz, rock, classical and easy listening. Each band or artist was a different thing. Then there were those who imitated them. Today if you imitate an artist you're not considered an imitator but someone who belongs to that music genre. This 'collectivisation' of artistic expressions kills individual ingeniousness and depresses the quality level. Now there are thousands of artists who all sound alike and can only be distinguished by the music genre they make. The audience is confused and no longer interested in artists and ends up relying on DJs who therefore become the real bosses of the music system."
This doesn't sound particularly positive... more like another step on the path towards the death of originality in music. And since that time, the sheer volume of music and artists now on offer ensures that we continue to rely on DJ’s and tastemakers to pinpoint and publicise the best for us.
A lot has been written in the last 10 years about how the art world itself has come to mirror the music business in just this regard. Certainly we are currently living in the age of the curator. Obviously, discrimination in music has been important for a long time but with a return of mystery we will have to do more of the discriminating for ourselves, becoming far more discerning in the process and thus ultimately becoming our own DJ's/curators. Once this happens we will begin to programme ourselves - rather than being programmed by others.
On initially discovering them, I found that the genres of electro/techno/house offered an appealing anonymity. I would only listen to these sounds in a club context, and a good DJ could blend it all into one piece, thus making it a truly ‘collective’ effort. Up to that point I had been more of a guitar music fan – I had liked some of the more maverick electronic artists but they weren’t the kind of artists I was generally hearing in clubs.
So, one of the reasons I stopped buying the weekly UK music press - another thing of the past - was that they did not write very much about this new music that I was discovering. It was in independent record shops, or in a relatively quiet corner of the club itself that I finally started to get names to go with these amazing and mysterious tunes. It was truly a word of mouth thing for me then and all the stronger for it when a DJ himself would tell you to check out so-and-so, or when a friend passed you a freshly burned CD.
During this period of discovery, I learned again the old adage that when we are left to our own devices and cease to be spoon-fed, what we uncover for ourselves we take deep within us. The less exposed it is the more we feel it that it belongs to us. This equation works in all circumstances and cultures. We all know that all you have to do is ban something or artificially limit its availability in order to see its popularity increase.
Sure, it’s not the same as the old days; I loved hanging out in record shops as it was never just about buying the music. Chat rooms and online forums aren’t the same, but this is also evolution and once you stop changing you die. Reaction follows action and right now this is where we find ourselves.
And that, in my opinion, is deep in the most retrospective of ages. We live in a time when every artist and scene gets its own documentary, its own retrospective and reunion tour. And this in turn goes on to influence another generation of ‘new’ artists. Pop has always been on the verge of eating itself but never so close as today; witness the 'behind the scenes' information and 'access all areas'-type insights that we now expect from contemporary artists in every genre.
The nature of this expectation is, I believe, engendering the certain death of mystery in the arts in general. This revealing of 'the truth' has only lead to cynicism - which is now rife, and infecting every aspect of our lives... we know all of the ‘how’ but very little of the ‘why’. The time seems ripe for something new to come along - a radical change is overdue.
Another more challenging aspect of this process that I want to examine here is the end of the complete work of art and the removal of context from same. As an artist who still makes artefacts, I have great sympathy for the views of a musician like John Reis from Rocket from the Crypt who says on this subject, "We put together a CD, we package it, and we release it. Now there's no finality to it at all. It’s just an entire catalogue of music that you can just go and get. I think if a band doesn’t want to be involved with that, they should have the power to say, ‘I don’t want that.’”
In further reference to ‘the virtualisation of the musical experience’ Reis goes on to say: “A lot of my feelings are based on reading other people’s reasons for using it: ’The labels rip off bands anyway. The only way bands make their money is from playing live’... but this is a sixteen year-old, middle class kid in his bedroom, telling me what I’m doing? You do not dictate the way I release my music and the way I want my art to be presented... I would condone breaking into record stores and stealing our records before I would condone someone downloading it from Napster. At least they‘ll have the actual record you know? And they‘ll hear it the way it‘s meant to be heard.”
Context, as ever, is everything. So in this transitional period we must keep in mind that we are not always getting the work as the artist intended. Of course this loss of context could have positive aspects also, insofar as we will ultimately have to create our own context. And the artist will have to adapt to this new paradigm along with the listener.
Since 2005 I have been championing just this type of group, Drexciya and all of their related and ongoing projects. My website ‘Drexciya Research Lab’ reviews and archives their work and also explores the meanings which I personally take from their intriguing music. The artist Ellen Gallagher has also used Drexciya as subject matter for a series of paintings entitled ‘Watery Ecstatic’ (2002-04), while the noted artist and filmmaker Kapwani Kiwanga has used them as subject matter in her 'Atlantide' (2008) film.
Although this Detroit-based duo did leave artefacts of records and CDs behind them during the course of their operations between 1992 and 2002, they rarely did interviews, and never played live, nor did they even reveal their identities during the group’s lifetime. One of the duo was only identified in death. James Stinson died tragically in 2002 of heart complications and brought the group to an untimely end.
In my opinion Drexciya have been proven to have been well ahead of their time in their truly underground attitude. Stinson’s musical partner - Gerald Donald aka Heinrich Mueller - has in recent years taken advantage of internet technology to more fully embrace the virtualisation of music and its inherent mystery, and he is now involved with at least three solely MySpace-based projects at time of writing. Still rarely interviewed, he has begun to play live, although he insists on wearing a mask when doing so.
My ‘Drexciya Research Lab’ site communicates my instinctive reactions to how I feel about this group. It gives no clear answers and only makes me question further. This is nothing new - think only of the puzzles set by the lyrics of Bob Dylan to his fans in the 1960‘s - but it’s where I and others now find ourselves, and we are all looking for our own subjective answers. Drexciya’s conceptual approach employed the metaphor of a storm to describe a life-transforming process when (in 2000) they unleashed sevens albums on seven different labels around the world in one year. James Stinson said of his catalogue that "all the records we’ve made give you clues, how to tap into your inner selves. We bring you right to that door and give you the key. We’re doing what we’re able to, dropping messages from day one without getting too deep and scaring people off. We can only hope that people will pick up on what we’re doing.” Fittingly their storm maxim was ‘Don’t Be Afraid of Evolution’ - as to overcome fear is always the key to evolution. I can’t think of a more fitting message to leave you with concerning this subject.
Don’t be Afraid of Evolution.
Stephen Rennicks was conceived in 1972. He currently lives on a small holding in rural Leitrim where he practices as a conceptual artist. Notable works to date include the year long 'Junk out of Context'(2004) which explored the audio and video stock of Dublin charity shops; 'Trains for the Blind'(2004), a sound piece released in conjunction with the ESB Dublin Fringe festival; a six month 'secret residency' at Dublin Airport during 2005; 'Imagine Black Lough' installation at The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim and his debut solo show 'With & Without Context' at Mantua in 2007.
He uses everyday materials not normally associated with art practice in his work; using things like free template websites, one-take films and standard photo lab processed prints, as part of an aesthetic that aims to demystify the medium for the viewer. However, the message in the work itself is always paradoxically designed to be multi layered and open to personal interpretation beyond its surface meaning. Since 2005 he has also been writing about Drexciya and their related projects.
“Rennicks is an intriguing conceptual artist who has proved himself willing to invest time and energy in lengthy projects that are hardly likely to attain any public profile at all, but do have the potential to connect with an audience on a one-to-one basis, in an almost clandestine, underground way.”Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times