Currently, NASA’s budget for one year could fund sixteen hundred years of oceanographic exploration. One of the things I like most about Drexciya’s Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller I is that it draws your attention to this unknown world. The Detroit duo’s engaging mythology combines two of the most ignored subjects in modern history: slavery and deep-sea life forms. They seem to be pointing out the fact that we don’t even know our own planet, but we’re trying to explore the universe. For those who don’t know, the name “Drexciya” stands for an underwater colony populated by the unborn children of slaves who were thrown off of slave ships. The world is imagined as a kind of a neo-Atlantis, except the protagonists are millitants who’ve learned to adapt the acquatic environment by breathing in their mothers’ wombs.
Drexciya’s sounds are, in a certain way, very harsh. Yet they’re also qualified by a submarine stillness. 808 kicks, snares, and claps are the funky and sometimes industrial-sounding framework for the repetitive, staccato sequencing and morphing arpeggios—the most classic examples being tracks like ‘Wavejumper’ or ‘Aquarazorda’. I hear the dense, oceanic pulse of their beats as an essential transformative device. That is, Drexciya pretty much always maintain the connection to the acquatic mythology in terms of sound design, be it through synth bubbles bursting, filters opening and closing in a wave-like fashion, sea life darting in every possible direction, or an underwater vessel rhythmically pushing towards its docking stations.
Music isn’t just about the joy of listening, the joy of dancing, or the physical impact it has on your body. It’s also part of a fantasy. For me, in every work of art there has to be some sort of escape—a critical distance from reality that provides you with the power to survive it. For Drexciya, maybe this was a mythology that they needed to survive in the streets of Detroit, which is a tough city— especially back in the nineties. But it’s also an uplifting place, because it represents the downfall of a system and industry that was full of nonsense and injustice. If you ever go to Detroit, you can see the skeleton of a particular era of capitalism all over the place. It’s the perfect breeding ground for utopian visions, because it’s so dystopian—which is something I learned from Mad Mike Banks the last time I was there.
If you don’t know Drexciya, then this album will still make complete sense to you. It’s a compilation of both their early and later tracks, as well as some lesser-known material. Clone did a good job in respecting the work of the group and not simply doing a “best of” album. Journey gives a new generation access to music they might not know, as well as old fans a chance to rediscover B-side material they’ve forgotten about— like me for example. I first learned about Drexciya in Hamburg in the nineties, so listening to Journey is like revisiting a formative time in my musical development. But beyond the music alone, you have to see Drexciya as a larger, more complete mythological phenomenon. Explore the music and the information behind it. The song titles are metaphorical and can be the key to unlocking their universe. And that’s why I don’t feel any need to talk about the duo’s personal histories. For me it’s more interesting to look at the phenomenon itself than the supposed biographical connections. I just really, really respect these guys, and I understand why they felt the need to remain anonymous, and what it gives the music. I have a hard time thinking about listening to Drexciya in any other way. ~
Pantha du Prince, whose latest release Black Noise is neither black nor noise, defines his hard-hitting style of cross-genre electronics as “sonic house”. For the last issue of Electronic Beats Magazine, he spoke at length to Dan Snaith about the importance of sound design in making electronic music.
This recommendations appeared first in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 29 (Spring 2012). Read the full issue on issuu.com: