Monday, June 25, 2007

Elecktroids - Elektroworld

In 1995 the UK’s Warp Records put out the much loved ‘Elektroworld’ album by Elecktroids. Today Elecktroids are widely known to have been a side project related to one or both members of Drexciya and possibly two others. At the time however I’m not sure how much was revealed to the press and public about its authorship. There was a press release/statement which restated the albums linear notes under two headings which read, ‘Background: based in Flint, Michigan, USA, the four young sons of an electrician, known simply as the Elecktroids, have welded together their debut album.’ and ‘Inspiration: this album, titled 'Elektroworld', is a personal tribute to those well known pioneers of the electro-disco-beat; Kraftwerk.’ From this, outside of knowing we are at least dealing with musicians from the state of Michigan we learn nothing more of the fact that we are actually hearing work from some other musical pioneers more usually associated with its capital, Detroit. These notes are all a bit of fun anyway, in keeping with the pop sensibilities found on the album. Warp had just previous to this released the now infamous and powerful trilogy of 12” singles which were united by their artwork and Drexciyan links, these being Drexciya’s ‘The Journey Home’ aka ‘Drexciya 5’, the debut Ultradyne release, ‘E-Coli’ and Elecktroids themselves with ‘Kilo Hertz’. So it would have been obvious from this to those paying attention who the parties responsible for this album were likely to be. If that were not enough, 4 years later it would become even more apparent when the un-credited bonus track found on the CD version of the album turned up on Drexciya’s ‘Neptune’s Lair’ as ‘Triangular Hydrogen Strain'. Today there is still much debate about who exactly was responsible for the album and unfortunately or not I am going to have to add to that by speculating on the specifics myself. I would plumb for ‘the four sons of an electrician’ being most likely Drexciya’s James Stinson and Gerald Donald and Ultradynes Alex Lugo and Dennis Richardson, there-by creating the link between the two undisputed artists featured on the aforementioned 12“ series. This is the most obvious and certainly the most likely scenario going by the available information. Unless they just wanted to give the impression of having four members like Kraftwerk, which is a strong possibility. If Ultradyne or even Donald himself would make a comment on the matter this issue would be closed but if they don’t they can only expect people to continue to come to their own conclusions. But of course they won't resolve it, they understand that we secretly and not so secretly love not having all the answers, as providing finality in anything only hastens our interest coming to an end no matter how good the music is and in Elecktroids case mystery is all we have left. Kraftwerk understood this principle as well and it really came into its own for them when they would take their extended breaks, always returning to the increasing anticipation of new and old fans right up to the present day. Just think how long Drexciya have assured their place in history by not fully explaining themselves. So next time you see some latest big thing giving MTV or whoever an 'all access' glance at their working methods or touring operation just think how much more quickly their fans will tire of them and then marvel at how completely they seem to disappear afterward their 15 minutes has passed.
The artwork doesn’t tell us much either as four masked and boiler-suited people pose on a hill side. It’s very effective artwork, hard to put a time and identity of these residents of this electro world. But it’s so anonymous we can’t tell whether the shots were staged by Elecktroids themselves or by some mates of whoever did the artwork. I’m sure someone at Warp or The Designers Republic knows, but of course it’s not important. One thing which does very much link this album with Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer World’ is the home computer style type faces and even the yellow background colouring. Not to mention the all important four members in the photograph. There is also a 'special thanks to God' credit in the text as well, which is of course a common Drexciya credit. So, the artwork has done its job, what about the music?
Well, first off, going by the production it doesn’t really tell us much about its creators either, there’s certainly no Ultradyne signatures to my ears, it’s a far more Drexciyan sounding affair but is distinct even from them in that you can actually hear more echo’s of their later work than anything they had done up to this point. The vocal of ‘Midnight Drive' for instance sounds like a close cousin of tracks to be found on 2001’s The Other People Place album. That’s all I will say on this issue except to point out I have previously written in the AKA article that the members of Drexciya worked with Ultradyne on an early version of ‘Wave Jumper’ which would appear as the track ‘Crossphaze’ under the name X-Ternal Pulse in 1993 and that I personally doubt they would still have been collaborating with them by the time of the ‘E-Coli’ EP. Are they present here, I really couldn't say for certain.
Regarding Kraftwerk, the album title most clearly references their 1981 album 'Computer World'. which would also be one of their two albums most generally considered their most obviously influential on electronic music. The other being the 'Man Machine'(1977) and not forgetting their world wide smash hit single 'Tour De France'(1983). Of course each of their albums from 1975 on were an essential stage in the development of electronic music but if you just want to check out the ones displaying the 'electro-disco-beat' them those are the ones. If there's a Kraftwerk track that Elecktroids took as a template then in my opinion it would be 'Home Computer' from 'Computer World'. Really this one has it all, from regimented computer funk drum programming to weird atmospheric sections. Its vocal also concerns the future, '...Beam myself into the future', which is an obvious Elecktroids theme. Also if you listen to those big sad keyboard lines which begin from the one and a half minute mark on 'It's More Fun to Compute' from the same album I think you get a big Drexciya vibe.
The agenda of this album is clearly and unequivocally stated with the continuous looping of a robotic voice saying 'Welcome to the Future' on the opening 'Future Tone'. This after-all is a more than fitting sentiment to express as we enter this 'Electroworld'. How self-contained this concept is we shall see as the album develops. Musically this track is accessible enough and on close inspection does indeed have a continuously rising tone as one of its signatures. The echo on that fairly bare snare is the type of sound that on first listen would give rise to certain people saying things like 'old skool' but there's a lot more going on here than that. It's a solid opener that sets our expectations for the album up fairly well, eg. more vocals. 'Perpetual Motion' sounds quite Drexciyan, somehow aquatic, an instrumental it boasts a number of rhythms lines and is finished with a few textures of synth. Without any strongly recognisable element however it’s a bit of filler really, but at almost the 6 and a half minute mark it just about keeps your attention to the end. ‘Japanese Elecktronics’ more than makes up for it though. Every track on this one has that something special about it. Great and very memorable bass line, the “Japanese Elecktronics” vocal sample itself, loads of lovely touches contained on the keyboards, especially towards the end, I hesitate to be so literal as to call them oriental sounding but yeah hey do. Of course the title of this track does pre-empt Gerald Donald’s interests in Japanese technology which he began to explore more obviously with Japanese Telecom and Arpanet but you could also point to work that was more contemporary with this time period with Flexitone and even Dopplereffekt. Certainly the makers of this track are acknowledging and enthusing Japan’s superior electronics. I wonder how much of their equipment originated in that country?
'Check Mate’ is up next, the production is good on this one and the melody pleasant if a bit throwaway. It’s just a loop, effective of course and maybe perfect for that. Maybe someone with a better ear can decipher the last word of the vocal sample, ‘Check mate ...?’. If it even says that, it’s very clipped. I guess it’s worth considering that if there really are 4 people at the controls you might expect far less of this fairly ordinary stuff getting through but it can go either way, too many idea’s diluting the consistency you need to sustain an album, to include a bit of everyone’s input to be fair even if better idea’s have to go by the wayside, or the majority over ruling what might have proven to be a better idea if allowed to develop. Of course any true collaboration is just that and if a struggle ensues then that's all part of it and resolving the differing opinions and inputs into a cohesive whole that goes beyond what an individual could have achieved is the ultimate goal. My own gut feeling is that this is simply James Stinson and Gerald Donald working together and in isolation. ‘Mystery World’ sounds very much like something from ‘Neptune’s Lair’. It even has that same unfinished abrupt, read short, quality that many of the tracks on that album have. At the one minute mark it has a lovely floating synth sound which is one of the high points on the album for me. About the four minute mark there’s another huge change into what actually sounds like it would fit a David Lynch movie soundtrack. Going by the title I’d nominate ‘Blue Velvet’. This is an outstanding track, amazing melodies and a really great production with these big surprising changes happening seamlessly. ‘Silicone Valley’ is out of this world, a timeless piece of music that could in 50 years be used to sell you a futuristic product or something in that context. Don’t forget this is already almost 15 years old as it is. They really managed to find the magical ingredients on this one and no mistake.
The aforementioned ’Midnight Drive’ is another beautiful track for different reasons , a very smooth sounding male vocal which could be singing anything really, “5, 4.30, love?”, it’s not that but it could be. I guess it doesn’t really matter as the sentiment is undoubtedly melancholic and highly effective. To date there had been nothing like this from Drexciya and there’s certainly nothing else like it on this album so it’s doubly surprising to find it here. Whenever Drexciya decided to create the Storm Series and knew that they would be covering a number of styles I wouldn’t be surprised if a chance to return and expand upon the template of this orphan was a long cherished project. ’Thermo Science’ gives me more of a Gerald Donald production feel, with even the vocal being one of his interests. It has a sense of fun in its production which also links up with both Glass Domain and even the more absurdist side of early Dopplereffekt. It’s a worthy track, maybe incomplete to some degree, a bit stuck in its own groove. More humour, if you choose to interpret it as that on ‘Stun Gun’. Love the bass line on this and the double vocal sample, ‘I got a stun gun’ is a hoot when it gets going. Plenty of arcade game style gun sounds ricochet throughout as well. ‘Floatation’ is another track which kind of pre-empts the future, all I know is that it sounds like the future to me, it’s at least contemporary with what is going on today. I guess it might have some very minimal Drexciyan elements but basically it’s another attempt at a brave new sound. The final official track, ‘Time Tunnel’, begins “Logo rhythms, Algo rhythms, multiplication, linear integration.” A male vocal, wonder if it’s Donald? A very sparse track which soon develops into a tight little bass-line led number with plenty of snare and echoing beats throughout. It also has a very nice dark ending which is drenched in reverb and just when you think it's over there is one final mysterious male vocal, "When number 9 extends into infinity, in either direction, positive, negative." Thus are we left hanging, unless you have the CD version which has the aforementioned ‘Triangular Hydrogen Strain' by Drexciya five minutes later which then leaves you hanging for 4 more years.
So to sum the album up in a line, this is a tribute to Kraftwerk which doesn't sound like them musically but does follow their pioneering spirit. Musically there are loads of tracks that sound like they might have appeared on 'Neptune's Lair' in time if this release had not been so it's interesting in that sense. Does the future concept tie together throughout? Sure, basically it's a simple enough idea and can stretch to include a lot.
The ‘Kilohertz’ 12”, long one of the most sought after and therefore most expensive of Drexciya related rarities brought 4 other new Elecktroids tracks to light. The opener, ’Kilohertz’ itself, is an instrumental, as all the other tracks are but does feature what seems to be like a very familiar sample which I believe started off life as a child screaming. Its strongest element is the bass line and more high frequency bleep melody. A few unexpected sounds too but all of the home-computer type variety. My favourite and for me the most distinct sounding track is next. While ‘Algorithm’ does have a certain flavour of ‘Neptune’s Lair’ to it in my opinion it also has its own style which sets it apart from anything previous to it and even since. Keyboard driven and with an unexpected breakdown halfway it shuttles along on it own momentum. It could lay claim to one of the few tracks with a slight, very slight Kraftwerk sound but only towards the end. ’Magnetic Field’ is a surprise in that it’s fairly hard and reminds me of material found on their first 12” ‘Deep Sea Dweller’. Still fairly sparse and at just the 2 and a half minute mark it is a bit throwaway, far from their best work. Check out the weird ending though. The wonderfully titled ’Remote Control Hornet’ closes the EP and comes a close second to my favourite track here. Again I can detect a lot of sounds and programming on it that would not have seemed out of place on 1999’s ’Neptune’s Lair’. Quite a dark brooding track but also with a quirky upbeat charm which is really the description of classic Drexciya. All in all a tasty collection and companion to the album. The artwork here does not follow the album and is simply a small square shot of I would guess the famous Hal 9000 computer eye from the Stanley Kubrick film 2001 with red as its primary colour. There may be what appears to be a human figure reflected in it. As mentioned the other two 12”’s in the series also had similar artwork.
At the moment all of these tracks are available for download from Warps site but as indicated by the high prices these items attain on Ebay they have not been pressed for probably over ten years now. Of course it would be great to see them out there in the shops again, it would make sense to at least expand the CD to include the EP tracks as well. At some stage I can see this happening, it was good to see Dopplereffekt’s ‘Gesamtkunswerk’ getting another outing through Clone’s Classic Cuts. While many DJ’s have moved to laptop set ups, which is fine and undoubtedly a sign of evolution in that art-form, to actually have it back in the shops again and to have fresh clean vinyl versions of this music, the temptation for DJ’s to play it again and for new ones to discover and do likewise is always going to happen. As it would for the Elecktroids material. I’m sure a label like Clone would jump at the chance to put the Elecktroids album out again if Warp agreed to license it to them or more likely whenever the rights return to the creators, whoever they turn out to be. Incidently there was a also a cassette version of the album, guess this is their first time on ferrox odide? Of course if anyone else has more info to add let me know.
By the way if anyone is thinking, have I stopped following Gerald Donald’s production progress, I must reassure you that it has only been a temporary break, I will be travelling that road again soon. In fact I can’t wait to catch up with where he is now but as mentioned before we might find it more rewarding to take this more methodical, scientific even, approach. I’m never 100% sure what is next, so barring the discovery of another Heinrich Mueller MySpace project, live appearances or the announcement of yet another Arpanet/Dopplereffekt/Der Zyklus album, there will be always something more to write about as long as he keeps releasing music. Rest assured there will be more text and images for you here soon.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Get in early on the latest Gerald Donald involved MySpace
project by going to
First of all I am very grateful to one of my readers for finding this one for me and also supplying much of the information that I will now give you. The site actually has been up quite a while, since April of this year, and so far has 38 members. In some quarters the membership of this band would be considered as something of a ‘super group’, but it is what it is. Anyway, the members listed and some links to the known participants are as follows

Beta Evers
Heinrich Mueller
Beate Bartel
(the girl from Liaisons Dangereuses)
Susana Correia
Penelope Martin (
Zwischenwelt itself is a german word which seems to translate best as ‘in-between world’.
The two tracks there so far are both titled in Spanish, any closer translations than I could come up with would be appreciated. The first one ‘Agujero Negro’(‘Black Hole’) appears to be a Beta Evers/Penelope Martin produced track, because another version of which, called ‘Voces Sin Rostro’, can be located on Penelope Martin’s MySpace site. The second one, ‘Segunda Realidad’(‘Second Reality’), looks like being the Heinrich Mueller contribution but to be honest they both sound very Mueller/Black Replicaish to me. I have posted the image of one of the girls from the profile here for you as well, is this girl coyly hiding her face the mysterious Susana Correia? There are a few more images there as well.
Between this project and Black Replica Mueller is nothing if not a ladies man, will any of it be committed to vinyl, will they tour, does any of that stuff even matter anymore? Only time will tell. Check it out for yourselves, become their friends, make up your own minds.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dopplereffekt/Black Replica

I have a semi-exclusive account of Dopplereffekt and Black Replica from the Kontra-Musik festival for you. While I didn't manage to get to it myself, too close to my Sonar trip, one of my friends did and you can view his images and videos at his own site at and here for pics and here for videos. There's also footage of it already up at You Tube as well.

He also very kindly wrote me a report of it and while a picture is still worth a thousand words, as with a lot of things on the Internet, we need far more text content than we get. The Black Replica tour is a good case in point as I’ve seen so much footage of it at this stage but have hardly found more than a sentence to describe the feelings and experiences of the people who were there. What I have noticed however from the live shows, whether you were there in person or just online is the sense of humour and theatre that they are bringing to balance out what is essentially some very serious and sombre music. Which is an equation that any good artist understands and can effectively put into practice. For my part I love what their doing, it’s not important that they are using backing tracks and Gerald Donald is not present, these are people who obviously completely understand the power of mystery and will not simply give us what we expect. It is essentially just great theatre, I await their next unexpected move with anticipation. The same goes for the girl standing in for the increasingly mysterious Heinrich Mueller as Dopplereffekt at the same festival. How disappointing but how very typical, it’s just not going to be made that simple. Mueller has never played the game so why would he start now?

Black Replica/Dopplereffekt, Kontra-Musik Festival, Malmo, Sweden 9th June 2007 Report by Skkatter.

Black Replica was on at around 6:30pm at this Kontra Musik festival in Malmo. Before her was an experimental act called Incite, a German duo who were playingclicky, IDM style cut up noise stuff, a bit dubby, similar to Pole, except more software sounding, along with a special visual show they had which was synced up to the music. They were very good, it was in a cool small-ish dark room (max capacity of 200 I'd say, but there were only about 60 people there), the audience sat down and watched them.

A DJ came on and played a bit, and then the Black Replica show started. A mic and monitor was set up on the floor in front of the visuals screen, nothing else. Then the visuals and music started, the first track was Mathematical Eyes, the visuals were a mix of bits from the YouTube videos they posted and other blurry videos of "the girl"(are we calling her Black Replica? Ms. Replica?). Then Ms. Replica herself appeared, crouched down on the ground, with her black cape covering her, the then sang along to the backing track. Great voice, sounded good live. She danced around, in an unusual pagan style, and sang along to some more tracks. I was pretty awestruck, the music is great, and she's a beautiful girl too, and I was finally seeing somebody connected to this whole Dopplereffekt thing! After a while she discarded the black cloak and was wearing a black lycra bodysuit underneath it, oh yeah, and black high heel type boots.A few tracks in she put the mic down and ran off "stage" (it wasn't a stage though, she was right in front of us, a very intimate show), a new track started playing and she came back on dressed up this time in a white lycra bodysuit with a big bunch of feathers sticking out of the head, which drew some cheers and good natured whistles from an otherwise completely silent crowd. She still had the black boots on. While wearing this new costume she performed the Black Feathers track, I'm not sure, she may have performed another track dressed in this costume but pretty soon she ran off stage again and came back on wearing a beautiful flowing silky red dress, with that pagan symbol on the chest, glowing red, and she was barefoot. She performed another two or three tracks (once again, all spooky dark and moody, great singing, a few tracks were heading towards the 120 bpm area, could possibly be mixed into my DJ sets if it gets released!) Before the end of her set she changed back into her black lycra and cape she wears in the video. I'd say she played for an hour overall. Everybody cheered and clapped at the end, I picked my jaw up off the floor, went off to get a drink and started mentally picturing the engagement ring I was going to pick out for her.

I went up stairs to the club room which was a bit bigger than downstairs and had a proper club sound system which was nice and loud and bassy. The DJ was playing some electro stuff, the last track he played before Dopplereffekt came on was Biomechanik by Anthony Rother. At this point on the stage (he was off DJing on a table to the right) there was a Korg Triton LE keyboard on a stand, facing the left of the stage. There was also an office chair in front of it.
An Asian looking girl then walked out, dressed in a black top, black skirt and sat down at the chair. She was practically motionless throughout her set, moving her left hand over the keyboard a few times, pressing the odd key here and there, but mostly staying perfectly still, facing towards the left of the stage. There weren't really many visuals for this show, just some text coming up on a screen every so often "Multiple universes", "Calabi Yau Space", "Extra Dimensions". Then every so often a short video loop of the girl herself, a close-up of her face and it also showed her holding some folded paper diamond thing. The music was brooding, dark, along the lines of the new album on Rephlex but I've just heard samples of that off Juno, I didn't recognise any of the tracks she "played". All in all a very mysterious show. No sign of any Gerald Donald over at the mixing desk, on stage, or during the Black Replica show either.

On the Black Replica MySpace page they are currently displaying the flyer for their show at the Distillery in Leipzig, Germany. This was the only late addition to what has become known amongst fans as their 'Spring 2007' tour. While it was no doubt done by an outside artist for the club the artwork was obviously greeted with approval by the group. Whoever was responsible certainly did their homework because as you can see it incorporates both their symbol and female front person. I've reproduced it here in case it disappears from the web.
One more Dopplereffekt show is scheduled at Germanys Shining Festival over the weekend of 22nd and 23rd of June 2007. Who’ll show up, well last weekend he was in a mood to confound people, this time it’s anyone’s guess. Additionally as you probably all know by now their 'Calabi Yau Space' album is also finally available on dbl LP and CD on Rephlex. Their press release goes into some detail about what a Calabi Yau Space is and although I've previously explained this myself there is no harm in having it stated again. Especially keeping in mind that this explanatory text almost certainly comes with the approval of Gerald Donald, if not certain sections coming from his own hand and therefore belongs here.
Rephlex Press release in full

Dopplereffekt are one of the more mysterious units of the contemporary electronic music scene. There are no interviews and hardly any live appearances. The composers hide behind strange German pseudonyms whereas the song titles and lyrics are in English and make up a strange mixture of scientific, sexually explicit and political allusions. Dopplereffekt's music is also highly eclectic and unusual.Even if at first sight the forefathers Kraftwerk seem to be more than present, Dopplereffekt have developed their very own and highly influential sound aesthetic.

Dopplereffekt are originally from Detroit though some believe them to be now based in Europe. Critics claim their electro-style resembles that of Drexciya and that they were indeed early members of that now legendary outfit. This album is a perfect sequel to 'Linear Accelerator', their last album released on International DeeJay Gigolo in 2003 and accompanies this year's classic retrospective 'Gesamtkunstwerk' from Clone. Musically, it follows a more ambient/soundscape/experimental/electronic course akin to the Der Zyklus 'Biometry' project or even Rephlex's 'Quantum Transposition' produced by Arpanet in late 2005. Arpanet's 'Inertial Frame' album on Record Makers, from the same stable, was among the very best albums of last year. Though some find this album more specialist, it is just as engaging and combines the science of sound with other fields of physics. After a few listens, you'll notice some similar musical themes running through various tracks. A lot of thought has gone into this album and it will generate even more, given the chance. The album also features exclusive artwork under license from CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory.

Calabi-Yau spaces are important in string theory, where one model posits the geometry of the universe to consist of a ten-dimensional space of the form. Although the main application of Calabi-Yau spaces is in theoretical physics, they are also interesting from a purely mathematical standpoint. Consequently, they go by slightly different names, depending mostly on context, such as Calabi-Yau manifolds or Calabi-Yau varieties.

Although the definition can be generalized to any dimension, they are usually considered to have three complex dimensions. Since their complex structure may vary, it is convenient to think of them as having six real dimensions and a fixed smooth structure .

If you are only excited by familiar things or fanatical about contemporary indie/rock then maybe this isn't your bag. If you like the challenge of the new and are intrigued by possibilities and the unknown, we urge you to investigate this album. After all, a great melody or rhythm or harmony begins with sound itself and it is on this level that Dopplereffekt is concentrating. 'Techno' in the sense that the term was originally intended.