Originally posted on The Vinyl Factory
Working under a number of aliases and reluctant to give interviews, Donald remains mystified, operating in an orbit of his own. Just as his music seems to escape any sense of time and space, so too does his identity.
Ahead of his appearance at Portugal’s Semibreve Festival, where he’ll be joined by Luke Abbott, Powell and more on the line-up (he also recently revived his Der Zyklus project for a new four-track EP), Patrick Ryder looks at Donald’s key records.
Listen to all 10 as a playlist below, and turn the pages for the individual releases.
(Underground Resistance, 1994)
Although this wasn’t the first Drexciyan output, it was the release which put our aquatic explorers on the world map in a major way, and still stands out as one of the finest Donald – Stinson collaborations. Their second release on Detroit’s home of afro-futurism Underground Resistance, this three tracker paired unparalleled quality with a remarkable diversity, oozing class throughout the fluid machine funk of ‘Wavejumper’, emotive electronics of ‘Sighting In The Abyss’ and the beefy breaks and rapid fire snare trills of ‘The Countdown Has Begun’. On both its original release and subsequent repress, this record changed lives.
The Journey Home
(Warp Records, 1995)
After that show stopping appearance on UR the previous year, 1995 saw Drexciya clutched to the pounding bosom of the UK techno scene, this four-tracker on Warp only cementing their newfound status. While the chilly electro of ‘Hydro Theory’ saw the duo gliding through the deep ocean water, it was the twisted warehouse techno of ‘Black Sea’ which stole the show.
(International Deejay Gigolo Records, 1999)
Although details are suitably cryptic, the second half of the 90s saw Donald and Stinson go their separate ways, the former surfacing from the Drexciyan waves and establishing his Dopplereffekt project with a rotating cast of collaborators. Drawing influence from the European electronics of Kraftwerk, Grauzone and Pyrolator, and tackling sexual politics and gender identity with a wry irony, Dopplereffekt released a string of essential releases on their own Dataphysix Engineering, handily collected in this Gigolo compilation from 1999. Predating and provoking the electro renaissance of the 2000s, Gesamtkunstwerk falls into the “every home should have one” bracket.
Der Zyklus II
(International Deejay Gigolo Records, 2001)
Firmly established as one of DJ Hell’s Gigolo cohort, Donald hooked up with occasional collaborators Shake Shakir, Kim Karli and William Scott for the crystalline electronics of Der Zyklus. Where Drexciya had mined offshore seams and Dopplereffekt followed in the footsteps of the German robots, Der Zyklus embraced the Motor City machine funk of early Juan Atkins, delivering zero gravity beats and bloodless synthesis. There isn’t a bad track on their second EP, but B-side opener ‘Formenverwandler’ should go down as the finest electronic soul record ever made.
(International Deejay Gigolo Records, 2002)
During the same fruitful period of collaboration with Germany’s Gigolo records, Donald adopted the Japanese Telecom moniker for a solo exploration of clear, concise and club-eeady electro once again inspired by the uncertainty of 21st century sexuality. While more immediate cuts like ‘Cigarette Lighter’ saw the album unfairly lumped in with the flash-in-the-pan electroclash movement, Virtual Geisha boasts an enduring quality which sets it aside from its contemporaries.
(Record Makers, 2002)
If Japanese Telecom saw Donald musing on sexuality in a digital age, Wireless Internet was a sublime discourse on the full spectrum of human interactions in the face of a shifting technological landscape. Named in honour of both the pre-web network and a classic synth manufacturer, the Arpanet project features Donald’s warmest and smoothest production to date on both the dancefloor cuts and more introspective ambient numbers, ‘P2101V’ and ‘Wireless Internet’. While club-ready electroid freakout ‘Illuminated Display’ is often earmarked as the standout here, newcomers should look to the vocoded manifesto of opening track ‘The Analyst’ for a better flavour of the LP as a whole.
DJ Stingray / Heinrich Mueller
(WéMè Records, 2009)
Adopting yet another moniker, Heinrich Mueller, Donald provided the slow and sombre sludge of ‘Drone FX’ for this split EP with Drexciyan acolyte Sherard Ingram. A far cry from his rapid-fire electro cuts or short circuiting dancefloor tracks, ‘Drone FX’ dropped the tempo to a Mogadon throb, delivering crepuscular atmospheres via glacial synths and rubbery bass. The soundtrack to a midnight cruise through distant space debris, this is machine music at its most emotive.
(WéMè Records, 2013)
After spending the latter half of the decade exploring the more abstract fringes of the electronic spectrum, Donald returned to the club in the company of Spanish DJ Penelope and DJ Stingray. If recent years had seen Donald’s productions swap icy waters for analogue warmth, ‘Commodified’ marked a return to the dark and dense sound of his early career, albeit with a lot more squelch. If you’re after out-and-out electro ‘Shadow Corp’ should suit you nicely, while ‘Industrial Espionage’ and ‘Offshore Banking’ tread a more abstract path towards gloomy techno.
(Pornophonic Sound Disc, 1991)
Although that takes us up to the present day, it only seems right to slip through a ‘Hydro Doorway’ and give you a glimpse of Donald’s very beginnings with two EPs which predate even Drexciyan excursions. This four tracker, originally released on clear ‘glass’ vinyl by Pornophonic was the producer’s first foray into the music industry and still stands up as an inventive and uncompromising debut. Alongside the tough-as-nails techno of ‘Shattered Glass’, Donald serves up a trio of off-kilter electro-pop cuts topped with pitch shifted vocals and all manner of synth weirdness. As out there as some of the more abstract no wave experiments reissued by RVNG Intl, this odd release features many of the themes Donald returned to time and again.
Balance Of Terror
Before there was Drexciya, there was LAM (Life After Mutation), who dropped this ecologically themed EP of raw electro aggression on Robert Hood’s seminal Hardwax imprint in 92. If you’re listening out for the icy, aquatic sounds which Drexciya would make their own, you’ll struggle to make them out through the corrosive filth and radioactive resonance of the brutalising rave cuts on show. Hydrophonics aside, this EP delivers killer beats and unbridled machine funk and is a must have for any electro fans out there.
Dopplereffekt play Portugal’s Semibreve festival from Oct 30-Nov 1, with Luke Abbott, Heatsick, Powell and others on the line-up. For tickets and more information, head here.