Drexciya – Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller II review

Drexciya - Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller II
Artist
Drexciya
Title
Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller II
Label
Clone
Format
2xLP, CD, Digital
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Following the first installment of Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller, Clone delves back into Drexciya’s archives for the follow-up. Like the first release, the Dutch label has been granted access to tracks from the Detroit duo’s earlier releases, including Bubble Metropolis and The Unknown Aquazone, which fetch hundreds of pounds online. Invariably, some owners of these original releases will balk at the music’s exclusivity being lost. These are the same kind of people who used to hurl insults from behind the counter at people who came in to browse releases in the local record store and should not be given any credence. Others, including this writer, who own original releases, laud Clone for remastering and repressing Drexciya’s early work and making it available to a new generation of people whose appreciation of electro does not start and end with Deadmaus.

Drexciya were mysterious and their music works in mysterious ways, but to assume that they were elitist or wanted any of their releases to remain a precious, scarce commodity is to spectacularly miss the point of their project. Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller 2 is also fascinating for the way that Clone have curated and programmed it. “High Tide”, from the ultra-rare, shamelessly expensive Uncharted EP issued on Somewhere in Detroit in 1997 (it also appeared on The Quest compilation a year later) kick-starts the release in abrasive mode as yelping analogue riffs and rolling snares rush in over a malevolent, insistent bass. A sense of calm only returns when the sonic interpretation of waves crashing in becomes audible in the outro. A similar feeling of menace is expressed on “Anti-Vapour Waves” ( from 1994’s Molecular Enhancement release on Rephlex), where a tone-shifting bass and harsh claps set a mood that is almost Wagnerian in its grandeur, while the duo explore a more high-paced, mangled expression of electro funk on “Positron Island” (from 1993’s Bubble Metropolis on UR), with warbling, deranged acid riffs cosying up to a screeching, high-paced rhythm.

Yet despite all the music media’s talk and pontificating about Drexciya testing the boundaries of electronic music, invading our subconscious and bringing us to new worlds, it should not be forgotten that they were also entertainers par excellence.  Even at their most obtuse, on the dystopian synths of “Unknown Journey”, the duo were sneaking in EBM basslines and memorable hooks.  It’s a similar story on the squelchy P-funk of “Danger Bay” (also from Bubble Metropolis), which features a brilliant but daft ‘ha ha ha ha’ male vocal sample and “Dead Man’s Reef” (from 1997’s The Quest), with its mock-horror riffs unfolding over phased hats and murderous bass. To these writer’s ears, these tracks are as entertaining as they are innovative – a sentiment that a generation of furrowed-brow electro fans will surely disgaree with.

The other misconception about Donald and Stinson was that they were merely an electro act. The warped, low-slung minimal techno of “Bang Bang” replete with mock robo vocals (from 1996’s Return of Drexciya) dispels this myth  – and could be the sleazy counterpoint to DBX’s pure minimalism – as does “Davy Jones Locker” (from 1996’s True People: The Detroit Techno Album). With its warped bass and mysterious piano lines, the lithe rhythms seem to cruise in a space between Detroit electro and UK  jungle. The tendency to inhabit these grey areas is also audible on “Journey Home”, taken from the eponymous 1995 EP for Warp. On that occasion however, Drexciya push towards a 4/4 arrangement with their warm low ends and woozy synths making for one of the most nakedly emotive and personal takes on Detroit techno. In case the listener is in any doubt about Stinson and Donald’s mastery of many sounds,  the beautiful  “Neon Falls”, with its dreamy synth hooks and innate fragility brings this second installment of Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller to a close. Forget the hype, myths and half-truths surrounding Drexciya; just drop the needle on the record and dive straight in.

Richard Brophy


Tracklisting:

1. Intro
2. High Tide
3. Danger Bay
4. Anti Vapour Waves
5. Dead Man’s Reef
6. Aqua Jujidsu
7. The Davey Jones Locker
8. Bang Bang
9. Unknown Journey II
10. Positron Island
11. Journey Home
12. Neon Falls

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