The Journey Home
From quite populace roots in rave, Warp went on to usher in a new school of ‘intelligent’ electronic music during the 1990’s and continue to do so right up to today. Working with Drexciya at this point certainly put them ahead of the times. While still a very unknown and underground act at this stage, Warp were hardly seeing dollar signs with this 3 EP project, which all shared similar artwork and were marketed as a package. No, this was about getting to work with some of the most exciting producers around at that time. I'd like to know if Drexciya’s stuff was being widely used in clubs at this point or if it was selling more for home listening purposes.
Musically I'll just fly through the four numbers we have to consider here. 'Black Sea' starts out sounding very suitably titled, dark and bassy, with only a few lighter touches appearing as the tempo builds and it evolves into a fully formed Drexciya stomper. 'Darthhouven Fish Men' reminds me of some of the shorter tracks on Neptune's Lair, it's pretty full on with hard beats plus an unexpected ending. 'Hydro Theory' builds slowly and is the key track here with lots of great sounds floating through the mix. Another track that could move a dance-floor, but as ever, an open-minded one.
For my money I also get a real Neptune's Lair feel, but more fully realised, from the final track here, 'The Journey Home'. Quite an efficient number, no slack here, good bass lines, weirdly perfect. As I said I think this track signals a new template for the band, a foretaste of things to come.
Conceptually what is this all about? Well, the question is where is home? Does it mean the journey back to our, the listeners home, back to dry land where we began from on Drexciya 1 'Deep Sea Dweller' or does it mean the home of the Drexciyan's. Well so far, as I have been reading it, we have been following a journey designed for the listeners/strangers perspective. We have been visitors in Drexciya up to this point, this reference to home must refer to our own, whether we are familiar with it or not.
Lets consider the clues, such as they are, the title’s being the most we can go on. Although there is a little message to us in the text which includes '...We're Going Deep', which does suggest this journey is bringing us further rather than back. The artwork image of a squid looks to me like it came from the label, but I might be wrong, either way it only serves to push the aquatic angle and doesn’t reveal much else. 'Black Sea' is unlikely to be a reference to our own Black Sea, that mysterious landlocked region which borders some of the most volatile countries in the world. I've always seen this sea as a country in itself and can imagine that smuggling and various illegitimate traffic between these countries must be endemic there. So much so that whole outlaw families may be born and raised here, completely stateless. While this does parallel the world of Drexciya to some extent I think it unlikely that they were on this track. In the context of exploring Drexciya, as we have been doing all through the 4 preceding EP’s, maybe reaching this ‘Black Sea’ area means that we have now arrived at a point where we can begin our journey home, the nature of which I’ll get to. It strikes me that if the water is black then we are at a place where the normal laws of nature and physics do not apply.
Certainly at this point we encounter ‘Darthhouven Fish Men’ but what is their purpose and what does Darthouven Fish Men mean? The latter question might be explained if Darthhouven is the name of the region and I think a fish man might well be the term for everyone here, except the ladies. Their job or purpose might be that they are the gate keepers that explain to us the ‘Hydro Theory’ which will get us started on our ‘Journey Home’. If I’m right this is a very neat and tidy finish to our journey which is balanced by the ambiguous destination and nature of ‘home’, Drexciya leaving it up to us to figure out, for now. However by the time of 1997's The Quest they seemed to be sign-posting 'home' as Africa. This is fair enough, especially when you consider that this does not have to exclude anyone, as there is good evidence that all human life came from that continent. What's important to note here is the development of their concept from the physical to mental realm. Because of the same type of language this could well be the beginning of them conceptualising the existence of the Drexciya Home Universe, the Utopia finally revealed in 2002 on Grava 4.
There are no tracks from this on The Quest, the music for a change not being licensed from UR or Submerge, although they and God do get a thank you credit in the text. It will be interesting to see if and when Warp might ever make this available again, probably never. But it is available to buy as a download from Bleep.
That brings the Drexciya 1 -5 12” series to a close and leaves us starting out on another journey whose destination we are reassured is home. Before we get to 1999 and Neptune’s Lair there will be plenty of bumps in the road and nothing will be as clearly defined conceptually as what we have so far considered. Never the less, confusion is good also, it would be another 7 years before Drexciya themselves arrived at where they were going and in that time they would cease working, make a triumphant return and splinter in a myriad of aliases. The next releases up to The Quest do continue this story but not as clearly as before.
Get ready for the ‘Aquatic Invasion’.