Saturday, August 27, 2005

Lab Rat XL

Storm #5: Initially I took the sleeve notes on the Lab Rat XL album Mice or Cyborg, ‘This album is the 7th and last storm from Drexciya’ to mean Storm #7, end of story. Strictly speaking Clone were correct to state that this is the ‘7th and last storm’ because it was the last storm to be released but that does not necessarily make it Storm #7. After studying the series and where it seems to be going, it doesn’t fit in as any conclusion.

While there doesn't seem on the face of it to be much additional information on the album a key piece towards understanding it can be found in a press blurb written by Clone, some of the specifics of which presumably must have come from Drexciya. It read, “Clone will be releasing the last storm in the series entitled Lab Rat XL and produced in accordance with the Drexciyan R.E.S.T. principle (Research, Experimentation, Science, Technology). Because of the tragic loss of one of the Drexciya members this is also (as far as we can tell) the last ever Drexciya production. This last storm consists of 6 stages of experimentation. The loss of James Stinson before the final track titles were decided upon has meant that the tracks are recognised by the production code “Lab Rat” and a number from 1 to 6.” First of all lets tackle what else was never sent or decided upon before James Stinson's death. Well there is no artwork most obviously and no covering text for the record. So no Dimensional Waves production credit or any lines or subtitles that would previously have come directly from the band. What we do have is a good intentioned ‘R.I.P. James Stinson’ and ‘All tracks written and produced by Drexciya’, and the already mentioned ’7th and last storm’ which is misleading. I severely doubt James Stinson imagined his last record would also betray his identity. Having his name splashed all over the internet and media after his death is one thing but he had always managed to keep his records separate from all that and I would imagine his wishes would have been for that to continue for his final record. Clone undoubtedly meant well and maybe it's no big deal, the main thing is that they carried out his wish to put out the album.

The quoted press piece for the album them gives us the only clues as to what this album was about. I believe the theme and subject of this Storm was to have been about biological experimentation. The few keywords we have to go on like lab rat and mice make it sound like the experiments concern animals or are we the animals, full size lab rats, humans XL? But experiments towards what end? This Storm seems to follow on in the same tradition of the others in preparing us for an evolutionary mental jump. In this case there is a series of 6 experiments to be carried out towards becoming, to some degree, a cyborg or hybrid human. Perhaps there was to be an explanation on this album how we were to embrace/utilise technology in this evolutionary jump. Whatever the nature of these experiments we will never know for sure. I think that it could be said that the whole series is a huge all encompassing brain storm towards this mental jump.

We do know, according to the press blurb, the nature of the tracks musical production was done in accordance with the Drexciyan R.E.S.T. principle of Research, Experimentation, Science and Technology. This is the name of a track from Grava 4 which was already released at this stage. Does this mean then that before they began to produce this music they did some research into a topic, experimented with lots of styles and sounds before they settled on a template, then applied their highly developed, scientific even, insight for production detail and finally rendered it with the technology of their studio. I guess this is how they may have always worked, but this time maybe they were more conscious of all aspects of this approach.

Each track is musically quite different from each other, but I wouldn’t go so far to say that there was anything so different to be unlike Drexciya though. Maybe this is the most varied Storm so far, but it does sound quite cohesive in spite of all that, which is quite an achievement. The order of the tracks which were sent to Clone may have been in numerological order but for the album they were sequenced as Lab Rat 1, 6, 5, 3, 2 and 4. It might have been done like this to pair certain tracks of convenient lengths together for the vinyl or I am wrong and this is the order Drexciya wanted. But if you listen to it the other way, easier with a CD copy, the album doesn't particularly improve or disprove it. It seems important that at least the first track on the album does correspond. There is a vocal to consider on this first track as well but it is too hard to decipher. On 'Lab Rat 2' a male vocal seems to be saying "If we get together. Life is like a shadow". Not exactly the biological science subject I'd expected but it does propose understanding among humans and is a necessary step towards the goal of the Storm series.

Stinson spoke of recording the entire series in one year. Presuming that the recordings were more or less completed by the time the first Storm was released in 2001 or as late as when he began doing the first interviews where he spoke of them being finished, we can guess that 2000 give or take 6 months was the critical time period of their creation. Knowing this, perhaps the general millennium fever of the time was the catalyst to their decision to not waste anymore time and to go all out with this burst of creativity or his health concerns. With this time-frame in mind it's strange to consider that by the time the first Storms were being released into the world a very real storm was about to hit with the attacks of September 11th and their bloody and continuing aftermath. Stinson himself would be dead just days shy of the first anniversary of 9/11 and as we know would not even get to see his Storm series completed.

This Storm will always be the most mysterious due to the untitled tracks and what might have beens but it's also sort of nice that there are still some things which we can never get to the bottom of. This whole exercise of mine is by no means definitive, only being a personal interpretation which grew out of a desire to figure out what the Storm series might mean, if anything. I have already discovered far more than I first imagined when I simply played the records for the pleasure of listening to the music. That same feeling is still there for me even after so much analysis, but also a deeper wonder and respect at what Drexciya created.

Transllusion L.I.F.E. is next.


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