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Drexciya - Grava 4

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Artist: Drexciya

Album: Grava 4

Label: CLONE

Review date: Sep. 30, 2002

The Interplanetary Craft

Drexciya have been operating in and around the fringes of the electronic and techno communities for quite a few years now, leaving a dense trail of influential beats scattered across labels such as Underground Resistance, Warp, Tresor, and Rephlex, all highly renowned labels in their own right, with each one coming from a different, distinct point of attack. This shady duo has always had loftier goals than just pristine beat creation, however, as they have used their music as a springboard for political commentary and bold ideas. Combining elements of electro, Detroit-style techno, acid house, and bits and pieces of industrial, Drexciya are rightly regarded as true innovators, inspiring a host of other musicians and producers alike while still operating on the margins of a steadily burgeoning culture. But then again, this duo has always cultivated their anonymity, never seeking acclaim, but instead always searching for the land of that perfectly warped beat.

Grava 4 is the duo’s newest, and last, record, but their first for the CLONE label out of Holland. This long player ostensibly seeks to weave a story of race of deep sea dwellers propelled into the deepest reaches of space in search of their new home, a colony on the planet Drexciya (coincidentally, most of this was inspired by the fact that the Drex purchased their own star recently). On the surface, their isn’t much here to distinguish it from their whole back catalogue of taut rhythms and soundscapes. But hey, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As the old axiom goes, if it ain’t broke…

Drexciya begins their journey here firmly underwater, with the beats of “Cascading Celestial Giants” moving in deep submersion, undulating back and forth as layers of sound and melody are added on the surface. “Powers of the Deep” is a carefully plotted and executed journey into hard, four-on-the-floor beats. It’s not quite as out there as some of the folks they’ve inspired, but it still works well, combining the duo’s almost innate knack for fashioning floor shakers with a distinct grasp of the workings of outer space electronics. “Drexcyen Star Chamber” picks up the pace a bit, and this time around adds bits of interstellar ambient backgrounds to skittering melodic lines. Track 4 here is untitled, and this one utilizes a tight, unflinching beat to set the groundwork for Drexciya’s otherworldly sounds.

“Drexcyen R.E.S.T. Principle” places a straight ahead raging beat against ebbing and flowing bass lines, adding a neat little contrast between the standard electronic sound and some nifty star-like textures. “Hightech Nomads” relies more on barely off-time synth lines that run directly against a throbbing bass drum smack and more acidic bass textures. “Ociya Syndor” channels straight back into old School electro sounds for its bass lines and synthesized hand clap sounds, pausing only to add strangely oscillating quasi-melodic lines to the mix. “700 Million Light Years From Earth” sounds like another lost classic from the vaults of Detroit style techno/electro experimentalism, but overall it doesn’t stray too far from anything already hinted at on this disc. The album closes with “Astronomical Guidepost”, a cut that neatly summarizes everything Grava 4 is about – a merger of electronic dancefloor aesthetics with hints of harder industrial stylings scattered here and there.

If you’re a fan of Drexciya, the odds are likely that there isn’t a whole lot here you won’t have heard before. Drexciya isn’t rewriting the book on electronic music with Grava 4, but then again, they have a few key citations in that book anyway. This work will stand out regardless; it is, sadly, the last new material the duo will ever release, as James Stinson, one of the two figures known as Drexciya, passed away barely a month ago. It’s a deeply sad loss for anyone who loves electronic music of any shape and form, as he worked tirelessly to expand the concepts of both what could be accomplished within electronic music and the communities that embraced it. Mr. Stinson, you will be missed.

By Michael Crumsho

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