NRSB-11 – NRSB-11 review

Despite being billed as “Drexciyan DJ Stingray” in the early stages of his career, Sherard Ingram never formally collaborated with the duo that lent him his prefix. Having known Drexciya’s James Stinson and Gerald Donald from his time working in a Detroit record store he was recruited by the pair as an official tour DJ, but it was the formation of that relationship that gave Ingram an outlet to create music as DJ Stingray. As mentor/apprentice relationships go, it’s an unconventional one, and one that Ingram seems to have been left to develop on his own terms. Arguably, he has brought his own political angle to the sound of sub-aquatic techno with his productions, which has earned him his own place in the Drexciyan mythos, but this collaboration with Donald (aka Heinrich Mueller) is still long overdue.

The record itself is a curious beast, and one that explores the themes of their previous work without being overly referential to it. The track titles, purposefully obtuse numerical strings (e.g. “685-471 (2)”) hark back to the purposeful alienation of their collective works, yet the music, though arguably constructed from the same palette of muted neon, is lacking in the usual ferocity of their individual material, be that Stingray’s furious breakbeats or Dopplereffekt’s shrill tones and serrated edges. For the most part the A-Side is actually a measured exercise in patience and space; opening with an orchestral sci-fi pad and mournful abstract vocal, the only real indication of its provenance is a trill snare, but one that’s situated within a sombre Juno-106 bassline which owes more to John Carpenter’s soundtracks than any mythical “Bubble Metropolis”.

As it turns out, the Carpenter influence is one that seeps through the entire record. The B-Side begins with a quote from his 1981 film Escape From New York. Ingram has always been one to use politically charged samples in his productions, but here they feel less like disembodied propaganda and more like an integrated part of the whole – in no small part down to the suspended, filmic quality of the production at hand, whose use of conversational samples places the listener in the centre of an imagined sci-fi world. After all this, it’s hard not to listen to the EP’s more reflective closing track as soundtracking the end credits to an imaginary movie, one that you could imagine walking the line between 80s shlock and serious political commentary, much like, well, the films of John Carpenter.

This tension between trashy B-movie fictions and an underlying interest in the political has effectively underpinned everything that Ingram and Donald have ever done, and NRSB-11 is arguably an extension of that. But as you listen to the pensive, open sound world the pair have created on this record, one gets the sense that this project is a far more personal exploration of their own personal mythologies than the anonymous name and track titles would have you believe.

Scott Wilson

Tracklisting:

1. 685-471 (2)
2. 6231-748 (3)
3. 685-471 (1)