Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Other People Place

Although The Other People Place album, Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe (2001), is Storm number 3 in my opinion, it was I think, the first Storm to be released. James Stinson had yet to give any interviews to my knowledge about the Storm Series and I suppose it was just treated as simply a Drexciya offshoot at the time. Of course it does contain the line, ‘This was a dimensional waves transmission', in its minimal sleeve-notes, but this hardly informs us of more to come, so it would have appeared as just another pseudonym at the time. Although I would be interested to read any press stuff that Warp sent out with it, in case any other clues to the groups identity or of the coming Storm were slipped out at this early stage.

At first I thought The Other People Place has to be a dimensional reference, but where exactly would its location be? Where 'The Other People' are I guess. The first question then is who are these other people (and where are they)? I’d like to give you a better answer than, the people in the other dimension, but for now that’s were I’ll leave it. Lets tackle this from another angle, the artwork. Surely The Designers Republic had some sort of brief for the striking images they produced. Let us presume they got some pointers from Drexciya about the nature of the name of the project and the title of the album. Now a lesser design company might have just stuck a steaming coffee cup next to a laptop and left it at that but luckily they are not the average design company and they came up with an image that I think hints at the true meaning of the album. They made nature a strong dual image alongside current modern technology. The cover image itself could be read to mean that technology, in this case an Apple Powerbook, is the link between our natural state and virtual reality, a glimpse of which we get on the laptop screen, just another jpeg that looks convincing but only really exists as lights on a screen. Significantly it appears as the corner of a room some place indoors, the opposite of the great outdoors environment the laptop sits in. 'The Other People Place' may simply be us in virtual reality, which technology has hastened to the point we are now at, in today's laptop cafe culture and everything that has brought us (we are of course a lot further into this kind of life since this album was released thanks to things like 4G and Smartphones etc) .

The themes which the tracks on the album tackle are all basic human nature stuff, namely love and meaning. The ultimate message here may be to not lose focus on human nature in our rush to embrace more technology. The Storm analogy could be used here quite easily as we fight to retain our humanity as more unnatural/technological behaviour is expected of us. How face to face conversation happens less and less as email, text messaging and social media become the norm or the growing potential of human cloning replacing human sexual reproduction at some future date would be the most basic general examples I can think of. Not that Drexciya are necessarily taking a Luddite stance here, but I think they can see a conflict, in that not everyone can as easily adapt and that maybe we have gone too far.

There are 8 gorgeous slow paced tracks on this album, six with vocals. Due to the lyrics this is the most direct Storm yet, with the least confusion about the sentiments of the tracks. Love and possibly lust/desire are what makes this record tick. The only exception being ‘Let Me Be Me’ which appears more broadly philosophical in nature with the repeated vocal loop of ‘Let me be what I want to be.’ I think this is also my favourite track, such a simple statement which could be directed at parents, lovers, anyone in authority over us. I think it may also be the central piece of the album which connects to the previous storm as it echos similar sentiments on Transllusion's, The Opening of the Cerebral Gate, album about finding your true self.

The longest vocal is on the opener ‘Eye Contact’, “What do we have here? Wow! Somethings happening to my transmitters, starting to overload., sitting here in this cafe drinking my latte. Somethings happening to me. What do I see on the other side of the room? My my, hmm that's what, my, she’s gorgeous. So let me slide over, transmission, communication sent.” It sounds like he might have sent her a wireless message or did he really slide over and talk? The following track, ‘It’s Your Love’, has a vocal loop which sounds like “It’s your love that's keeping me sorry” which gives some emotional balance. ‘Moonlight Rendezvous’ is instrumental but the title references the lyrics of 'Running From Love’, “ I’m a fugitive in the moonlight just running from your love”. Perhaps the instrumental soundtracks what happens when he stops running? The idea of running from love might be to ask why at times we are afraid or unwilling to give in to those emotions. It could be another reference to how modern society is growing ever more complicated, so much so that we would prefer to resist something as precious but complicated as love. Although love can still break your heart without any interference from outside of course.

The first appearance of what seems like a female vocal appears on ‘You Said You Want Me’. The woman asks that question to be answered by the male “You know I do.” There is an obvious question here about the male vocalist. Is this Stinson or Donald, if either. I would plum for it being Stinson, only because it just doesn’t sound like Donald but we’ll never know unless we’re told. This album has also gotten described as a Stinson solo project as well but this has never been confirmed although I'd be willing to go along with this. Another androgynous sounding vocal is on the closing ‘Sunrays’. Another stand-out track on an album full of them. The lyrics loop the phrase “Relax your mind, slowly unwind, catch some rays of the sunshine.” Sublime and so simple. Not a love song, more a chill out/simplify message which does chime in with the whole getting back to nature concept.

‘Lifestyles of the Casual’ is another instrumental and a bit of a mystery. I guess as it’s so close to the album title it may mean we can refer to the inhabitants of The Other People Place as 'Casuals', but this might be taking it too literally. It could mean the lifestyle of accepting casual occurrences also, but that is really just another literal interpretation. Most of all from this album we get the impression of love and the awakening of an inner life, which could certainly be described as a storm and fits in well with the concept so far.

There is one other release by The Other People Place that I want to consider, even though it came out a year later and on a different label. Sometime in 2002 Clone released the 12" Sunday Night Live at the Laptop Cafe. This was the first time Clone hooked up with Drexciya and they went on to build a strong relationship with the band culminating with their Grava 4 swansong and continuing into today with the work of Heinrich Mueller. Of course to add more confusion this is actually The Other People Place featuring Mystic Tribe a.i. First of all the producer of Mystic Tribe is Sherard Ingram who is a respected producer in his own right. He must have been a close friend of Drexciya as he was also their Drexciyen DJ Stingray.

The mesmerising and very Lifestyles sounding ‘Sorrow and a Cup of Joe’ is credited to TOPP while ‘Telepathic Seduction’ is down as written and produced by Mystic Tribe a.i. The artwork presents a mock handwritten poster on the window of what looks suspiciously like the Clone record shop. It reads, ‘performing at midnight The Other People Place’ and ‘special guest Mystic Tribe A.I. will be performing at 2am’. Maybe this release is more oddity than anything, only linked to the 3rd Storm by its titles. But as Stinson himself said of the Storms, they can be pretty chaotic, a piece of debris like this flying off should come as no surprise in this context. I suppose to sum up in very broad strokes where we have got to with the interpretation of the series would be wise at this point.

Harnessed The Storm is the violent scene setter that tells us all is not well but ends on a note of hope of a new kind of life and a physical and mental journey of rediscovery about to begin.

The Opening of the Cerebral Gate is when things start to become clear, it is the first real step in the Storm towards this new life. We learn to look within and explore our mental dimensions.

Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe tells us to continue this process of finding our true selves but also to develop/retain basic human emotions, especially love and not to become a victim of the coldness of technology/modern society.

Next up is the eye of the storm itself, Abstract Thought Hypothetical Situations.

3 Comments:

Blogger achuter said...

I have to agree that 'let me be me' is the standout track, in fact probably drexciya's best of all time. It sums up Stinson's whole statement on life. I think it is about all the false expectations that people put on you, and the wish that people would just respect you for what you are. In Stinson's case, people might want to say 'you're just electro/techno' or whatever without really immersing themselves in the music's messages. Or as Derrick May said that black artists are expected to be 'bouffant idiots'. Why is it that Moby is interviewed by the Economist magazine and Stinson not?

I think the obvious interpretation of 'eye contact' is that at the end 'transmission sent' means that he just made eye contact with her. I don't think it means he sent her a text message. I think that Stinson has made the ultimate booty track really, just infinitely more sophisticated than the Dance Mania guys with all that 'fuck that bitch in the hole' type stuff. The track is simply about a guy making eye contact with a beautiful woman. Now that's real class - Barry White meets electro.

I wonder if this album is influenced somewhat by Kraftwerk's Electric Cafe? Tracks like 'the telephone call' and 'sex object' come to mind.

6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was one of the two "Drexciya" albums that made me very emotioal (like almost in tears) the first time I heard it (the other was Grava 4 because of the opening track).

IMO it's all about alienation and the difficulty of forming intimate relationships in a society where it's cool to be socially "atomized" and communicate mostly with technology. Coffee shops are a sort of symbol of that.

I see it as a sort of dialogue between the male and the female. It's as if he's not even sure what communication means any more. They're both afraid of intimacy, alternately loving and rejecting one another. "Sun rays" has a really delusional feel to it, like an ironic happiness.

And then "Let me be me". Being yourself but not really knowing whether you'd be able/allowed to identify/socialize with others freely if you wanted to. It's my favourite as well. It's a really cyberpunk track :)

Another track that really reminded me of this was "me want punani" on "Abstract Thought" - it's almost like an afterword to this album, where the two voices saying "You mesmerize me" and "Come and get it" just sort of trail off into infinity.

In terms of politics I think it's Detroit techno's piece de resistance - because it's coolly indicting the whole postmodern sort of urban culture that it has become synonymous with..

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the lyric in 'it's your love' is 'it's your love that's keeping me soaring' not sorry.

2:56 AM  

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