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Drexciya - Harnessed the Storm

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Artist: Drexciya

Album: Harnessed the Storm

Label: Tresor

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Drexciya are a duo of two unknown techno producers from Detroit. No, really, they're unknown. But they've been around since 1993 and are now well-established with a couple of full-lengths and several EPs already to their credit. And I also recently heard a track off their latest album, Harnessed the Storm, in a club a continent removed from the Motor City in Budapest, Hungary. Also, they are "known" in the conventional sense of the word, as in the average e-tard has probably heard of either them or Underground Resistance, the techno-collective-cum-revolutionary-provisional-government of which they are members. It's just that no one knows their names or identities. Spooky, no?

Their tracks are also spooky, as is nearly everything else about them, such as their unsubstantiated claim that they come from the murky depths of the ocean. If you've heard some of their older tracks and you compare them to the 10 brand-new ones on this album, the themes of water, darkness and scary leviathans continue, along with their appropriately aquatic track titles. Their standard Roland drum beats hover around 120 beats per minute and at first this sounds tired and formulaic, especially compared to some the gazillion beats per minute drum programming made popular by Richard D. James.

Thankfully, once the volcanic bassline on "Digital Tsunami" surfaces, Drexciya's old school approach turns out to be refreshing. They give themselves lots of space to manuever in with their basic frameword, mixing in nifty echoing vocalizations and a very euro 303-type loop. Three tracks later, on "Dr. Blowfins' Black Storm Stabilizing Spheres," things get serious. More low-end rumbles from the dark with a dying woodwind always mean bad news for all of those poor bastards stuck in crippled U-Boats. "Dr. Blowfins'" comes correct as the most banging and sinister of the lot, with an eerie low-end offset by fitered, punctuating drums that creates a satisfying sense of atmosphere. This track should get a lot of play at clubs. Of course, feel free to shake your ass to this one but at the same time beware…something is coming for you. Unfortunately things turn downwards from there when the busy, irritating "The Plankton Organization" comes next, which can't be redeemed by an inventive something-ceramic-dropping sound looped too sparingly The most progressive track on the album and the last repeatable one is an uncomfortable "Mission to Ociya Syndor and Back," a groaning, mechanical testament to the dangers of the briney sea intersparsed with fleeting bits of lively high end that takes away slightly from the overall feel of the track's six minutes.

Rumor has it that Drexciya record their tracks on the fly. If this is true, and it will likely never be known considering their reputation for secrecy and oblique interviews, their skill at their craft is remarkable. The sense of physical space that one gets on the best tracks is almost tangible and easily makes up for the ho-hum sound of the rest of the pack. The production value is also noteworthy with its crisp drums and clearly defined high, middle and low end, with no muddiness that is so pervasive in the work of rank amateurs. Show this to any dorm room loopers you know so they have a sense of how Detroit techno should be done.

By Noah Zimmerman

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