I’ve been in a fairly mean mood all week, for one reason or another, and I had originally planned a very different tune for this weeks FNT. Something dark, something vicious had been preying on my mind as a possible choice but when it came down to it I realised I needed something that was going to lift the spirit a bit higher. Welcome, then, to Drexciya and Sea Snake.
Similar to my feelings on Theo Parrish, Drexciya were an outfit I often respected more than enjoyed. In their prime they seemed slightly disconnected from the rest of the music that was coming out of Detroit and although they shared a base DNA with the likes of Underground Resistance there was something loftier to their productions, an extra mutation that just spun them off away from others. I often wonder if the real reason they seemed slightly separate has more to do with the fact they were genuine innovators at a time when so much of the Detroit sound was becoming almost generic. Any musical movement can be reduced down to the basics of a sound palette and chord progression given enough material and popularity, and exported out to others to see what happens. By the late 90s the ‘Detroit Sound’ had, in purely sonic terms, been well used and abused, not only by a horde of Brits and Germans and other Europeans keen to create something in homage to their idols, but by a younger generation of Detroit artists who weren’t quite up to the same standard as their forefathers. So often the groove, the soul of the music was the first thing to suffer. It was machine music that lacked the organic touch.
Not that you could ever say that about Drexciya. Often described as Electro they were actually so much more than that, and even today they sound – in the very, very best traditions of Detroit Techno – utterly futuristic, like an emergent intelligence, synthetic but so very alive, Like a Skynet that had been created to serve and excite the higher functions instead of waging war.
I’ve written about Seasnake before and elsewhere. It is probably my favourite Drexciya tune (With the possible exception of Black Sea,) and it first appeared on the vast archive that was the Quest collection, buried somewhere on the second CD. It is, without a doubt, one of the happiest tunes ever to be released, a quirky, funky little number that never stays still and never rests as it rides that fat, enormous bass over the endless Drexciyan ocean, the razor-sharp snares kicking up behind it like sea spray and the luscious pads pointing the way to a sun-burst horizon.
I’ve never heard Sea Snake in a club, which is a real shame. I can only imagine the damage it would do to impressionable minds. You just know as soon as that bass kicks into being the whole place would erupt in one long, communal Snoopy dance. And while we can all intellectualise and spraff knowledgeably about all manner of effects and contructs and meanings to be found in the pulse of an 808 or 909, when we get down to brass tacks it’s always about one long communal Snoopy dance, and it always has been.