Wednesday, October 25, 2006

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 here.


Jump straight to the Drexciya/UR section of Origins

The Seventh Earth


D1’s annual DEAF festival site

Underground Resistance

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Der Zyklus I and the birth of Heinrich Mueller

Late 1996 early 1997 marks the close of the active production side of Dopplereffekt mark 1 and also roughly coincides with the release of the final Drexciya 12", ‘Uncharted’, before their own hiatus. This period would have given Gerald Donald plenty of time to begin to conceive of what his own next move would be and begin anew his experimentations in his Reaktor studio. He certainly didn't hang around as by 1998 his debut 12" as Der Zyklus was released. Not being a fluent German speaker I came up with two possible translations, one being the more obvious The Cycle, or the far more subtle, Termination Cycle. I'm sure it won't be long before some DRL reader settles this one and when that happens I will appropriately amend this piece.

On one level Donald here gets to indulge his German fetish to the max with this untitled 12”, although it would become known as ‘Der Zyklus I’ once its follow up was titled as ‘Der Zyklus II’. The artwork here solely consists of a label, and I mean that in the singular as it is the same one used for both sides of this increasingly enigmatic release. Apart from an inexplicable ‘Made in Germany’ there are only German words used throughout, right down to the listing of the Gigolo ‘Phax’ machine number, even the usual copyright sentence which runs in the traditional circular fashion around the edge of the label is in German which I‘ve never seen done before even on a Gigolo record. Strangely, the follow up, also on Gigolo, had this legend back in English. Perhaps he was excited that this new label that wanted to work with him was German and that he could now so easily present himself as a totally German looking act that he just found it all too tempting not to. Anyway, this release is very much about detail so we must therefore look even closer at it than usual, which I always do anyway!

On the ‘Seite Eins’ side we have the lead track ’Der Tonimpulstest’(Tone Impulse Test). We also get some quite detailed writing and production credits to help us out but not before we translate them. ‘Abgemischt von (mixed by): Heinrich Mueller und Anthony Shakir. Aufnahmeteildienste (something like recording facility): Reaktor und Blackploit.’ To give have I believe is the full picture for the origination of both of these tracks I will continue on with the credits listed for track 2, ‘Die Dammerung Von Nanotech’ (The Dawn of Nano-technology), on ‘Seite Zwei’. ‘Alle Stucke gestchrieban und produziert von (written and production by) Rudolf Klorzeiger. Spezieller Dank an (special thanks to) Herrn Geier & Eschker, which might be a thank you regarding equipment like the previous Dopplereffekt credit on ‘Sterilization’, but who knows. So it looks like Gerald Donald is being a trifle playful or schizophrenic with us by using both of his pseudonyms at the same time. If Donald or even Gigolo were concerned that this release might appear as almost too anonymous for potential fans to notice perhaps the reference to Dopplereffekt’s Rudolf Klorzeiger would assure them of the true identity and what they might expect. Perhaps also, strictly speaking Donald may have felt that the tracks when written and produced did belong to his previous persona but by the time they were finally mixed he had by then become Heinrich Mueller. Certainly one of the tracks, ‘Der Tonimpulstest’, if not both, had an extended birth by being run through the machines at Anthony Shakir’s Blackploit studio before being deemed complete. As a side point, it was probably an oversight but when this track was reissued as a 12” which compiled 4 tracks from Der Zyklus I & II by Frustrated Funk in 2006 it did not credit Shakir at all. But this isn’t really surprising. As another side point perhaps Martin Matiske when titling his Heinrich Mueller indebted Blackploid project, whose 12” also confusingly came out on Frustrated Funk in 2006, he came across the word Blackploit referring to Shakir‘s studio, if true then he’s even ripping off Mueller’s small print as well as his music! I actually really like Martin’s stuff, if your gonna plagiarise, plagiarise the best.

I suppose I should really explain for anyone who doesn’t know who Anthony 'Shake' Shakir actually is. One of Detroit’s 1st generation techno legends, although he didn’t really make an impact as a solo artist until 1992, which sort of makes him 2nd generation, regardless he had been involved on the periphery of the scene since the early days, having a big hand in Octave One’s classic ‘I Believe’ in 1989 for example. He is popularly known as someone ahead of their time that doesn’t really get the credit he deserves and that is probably a fair enough assessment. He does have a reputation as a collaborator also, having worked both professionally and musically with Claude Young, Keith Tucker and Daniel Bell, not to mention his extensive remix work so perhaps its no big surprise that he should work with Donald, even though he appears to have taken quite a minimal role but respect is due. At some point he tragically contracted Multiple Sclerosis. I only mention this because I did meet him once when he played a DJ set in about 2001 I think (I was detailed by my mate the promoter to drive him back to his hotel) and at that time he was walking with the aid of a stick or some sort of crutch. Thankfully he is still with us, but up to date information on him I found is hard to track down on the net, but I can remember his set on the night being superb, very tasteful and in person he was very approachable and friendly. For more on ‘Shake’ follow the links at foot of article.

Musically it appears most obviously that Donald has jettisoned any recognisably human element on these two tracks as no vocals are present. Both tracks have equally fast tempo’s and are very short tracks to boot, ‘Der Tonimpulstest’ only reaches the 3 minute mark while the other doesn’t even make that. Now while this does tally with the Dopplereffekt model on the vinyl if you look at the gap between the grooves for ‘Die Dammerung Von Nanotech’ you can see a lot of open space between them. Both sides are also cut at 45rpm as well so it starts to comes across as a real decadent artefact, no value for money here, which is a statement in itself, but luckily is not a case of style over content. Also this is a sign that the quality of the pressing/cut is at issue with this artist, a sign that he takes sound very seriously. In fact because the follow up would be a more conventional 4 track 12” this debut has all the hallmarks of an aesthetic statement of intent, in a perfect world he would probably have liked to continue on like this but it’s the music business at the end of the day and it needs to turn a profit. I would also not discount the possibility that his unusual demands for this release were a test for Gigolo to see how seriously they would treat Donald’s work and his demands in the future. If so they must have passed as they would soon have a history together stretching up to 2003. Will there be more?

‘Der Tonimpulstest’ opens and closes with what sounds like an audio identification signature, another sign of an attention to detail where the quality of sound is concerned. This track is the more Dopplereffekt of the two and would not have seemed out of place there, the only difference being that it is a little bit more minimal and is of a higher tempo than it. It has a nice eerie keyboard pattern which is of course one of his signatures, but this is the first time he uses it. The pace is relentless with only a slight breakdown but it does have a playful ending which could be argued balances out its rigid structure. This is robot disco of the most barren kind. Of the two ‘Die Dammerung Von Nanotech’ is the most obviously other or new sounding. If Shakir did have any production input it might have been on this one but it’s hard to tell without knowing for sure. Certainly this track would not have sat too comfortably amongst the running order of the following years ‘Gesamtkunserk’ compilation of Dopplereffekt material. The track has a funk element that if you pitch it down is slightly more obvious, in fact both tracks benefit immensely from this, the genius of vinyl! It does have a jam feel and sort of bursts into life fully formed at the start but on closer inspection has a lot of fine detail layered throughout with quite a few new sounds for him on display. A busy production with a number of percussive rhythms lines competing against each other which all actually gel very well. It does end up with an unfinished feel however but is chock full of new potentials, the sound of an artist at a crossroads.

At this stage of Der Zyklus the science theme is somewhat of a token, with only the titles reflecting this concept. For example how exactly is this the sound of ‘The Dawn of Nano-Technology’? In fact it would not be till the second Dopplereffekt album ‘Linear Accelerator’ in 2003, before he could boast that he had managed to truly fuse the music and the concept. I think we’ll find as we go further that the period from say 1997 to 2003 is very much a transitionary one for him where he would hone his more accessible sound to its highest level while seemingly being drawn in parallel towards much more uncompromising and experimental forms.
A word on the Heinrich Mueller pseudonym. I think at this stage after nearly ten years of him using it we should give him the benefit of the doubt that he sees this as just a name, the persona he is most comfortable with. In fact it would be a very common name in Germany, and really I should start referring to him as this from now on as well.

In 1998 the 'Suicide Commando' 12" by DJ Hell came out with a Heinrich Mueller remix which was the first time I believe he used the name officially as a stand alone artist. Hell is of course the label head of Gigolo which makes this a likely collaboration, I must admit I've never heard it and can't comment further on it, and you thought I had everything! In 1999 he did a remix also under this name of ‘Cinematic Automatic’ by Michigan’s Le Car. The 12” the track is on I was lucky enough to come across a good few years ago now as today, well, good luck! It was a very early release on Detroit's Intuit Solar label, the record came simply stickered, housed in what was at the time their generic sleeve. Again as seems to be habit for Mueller he would go on to release at least one more thing on this label, namely the Japanese Telecom self-titled mini album which would arrive later the same year. The sticker attached for the 12”, 'Comin' From Tha D, Instalment 3.0' does list it as containing a remix by Doppleffect(sic) but this is more a marketing thing than a mistake as the label lists the artist as Heinrich Mueller. It’s a nice release if you can track it down, the other remixes are by Adult., D. Wynn and DJ T-1000 of tracks by Ectomorph, Keith Tucker and Punisher respectively. While I haven’t heard the Le Car original I feel confidant to say this sounds like an almost 100% Mueller production with only a vocal sample left intact from the original, or is that even Mueller himself? Can anyone compare the two and let us know? This remix is actually one of my favourite productions of his, certainly from this transitional era, all the hallmarks are here, the bass line, the sharp snare, the eerie keyboard riff, the unpredictable sounds ricocheting round the mix. Solid, really nice and very modern sounding, there’s somehow a real futuristic sheen to this production, not having dated in the slightest, I could see it someday sound-tracking some scene in a stylish movie set in the future, it’s that good, and Le Car will get all the credit! Actually I would like to hear more of their stuff, now defunct but the guy from Adult. was a member as was Ian R. Clark who has been recording as Perspects since 1999 so at least their both still making good music.

To sum up, this debut Der Zyklus release is primarily about making an aesthetic statement about what Heinrich Mueller sees himself achieving/exploring in the future on this new European label with his new project. Remember, this did not come out first in the States on Dataphysix and then get licensed to Gigolo, this is an important development for Mueller, another first for him. The music, good as it is, is not there conceptually yet but it is an effective beginning. You could call it a conceptual false start as well, as if anything he becomes for a time more accessible from this point on, but come on, this is a guy capable of working on many different levels simultaneously, we should just take it as a sign of things to come.

If anyone’s interested after over a year of doing this I've finally noticed a pattern emerging in that I only seem to write these articles when it’s raining or I consider the weather somehow too miserable to go outside. In fact today wasn't too bad, but I restarted the piece yesterday when there was a downfall outside all day. I promised and began this article at what seems like a long time ago now but got bogged down early in translations and then came across that Sun Ra book and got side-tracked by it. Whatever, Japanese Telecom will be my next port of call regarding Mr Mueller, but anything could be posted next, depending on weather.

Old but gold Shakir interview
Gigolo Records
Intuit Solar

Sunday, October 01, 2006

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.