Posted by: Jeff | February 23, 2012

Album Review: Drexciya – “Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller I”

Drexciya – Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller I [Buy Here]

Clone Classic Cuts
Release Date: January 2012
Grade: C-

Listen on Spotify here.

I don’t listen to a lot of Tech House, so forays into the album format are generally novel and fresh. Despite their almost cult status among early Tech House adopters, I’m also not very familiar with Drexciya – aside from that track on the Gold Panda DJ-Kicks release last year, of course.  On this particular LP, a compilation album in truth (many tracks date back to the 1990s) Drexciya (Gerald Donald and recently-deceased James Stinson) endeavored to create an ambitious concept album – a soundtrack to accompany the mythology of a manufactured aquatic civilization – appropriately named the Drexciyans.  The fascination of the producers here is on creating bubbling aquatic soundscapes that fit acoustically on the bottom of the ocean.

Does it work?  Well, by force, if nothing else.  Stylistically, there is some variation across tracks, with cuts like “Wavejumper” featuring a pulsing bassline funk underlying hints of shimmery tech glitch.  Other tracks like “Hydro Theory” more closely approximate what house music must sound like underwater, with washed out farty basslines and synths that truly do sound like bubbles.  “Unknown Journey I” appropriates a jungle bassline and a death rattle to signify a more ominous locale as the listener goes deeper into the sea ahead of “Aquarazorda”, a track more akin to Afrika Bambata’s “Planet Rock” than modern Tech House.  “Sea Quake” is perhaps the most out of place track on the record, with acid undertones so frenzied it’s hard to imagine it fitting into the aquatic habitat of the Drexciyans.

The breakbeat work here on several is most interesting, and captures the most auditory attention on tracks largely devoid of melody – in fact, the melody often seems limited to three and four note stabs of synth, more incidentally than intentionally melodic.  There are a few tracks that hold a listener’s attention (“Lardossen Funk” has a particularly cool bassline), but overall the compilation is underwhelming.  And what’s worse, the disparate genre styling and chronological production is sometimes held together by inserted vocal narrations by native Drexciyans, both out of place and unnecessarily cheesy.  It may be cute that a narrator imploring a docking submarine to slow down is accompanied by an audible slowing of the metronome before the introduction of a new track, but the vocal narrative comes off as an unfortunate cohesive bond of skits between tracks that don’t always grab a listener’s rapt attention.

For fans of: Hardfloor, Acid House, Breakbeat, Tech House, Autechre, Detroit Techno

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