Review: Transllusion - The Opening Of The Cerebral Gate


It is hard not to feel emotional while writing this review of Transllusion. So much background must be covered and also explained to provide context to this very valuable reissue, that comes just shortly after the death anniversary of its creator, James Marcel Stinson (14 September 1969 - 3 September 2002).

An appreciation note written by Underground Resistance reads: "James Marcel Stinson...Negative evolution cycle completed. Now in sonic infinitum mode."

James Marcel Stinson, along with Gerald Donald, was a primary member of the influential Detroit project Drexciya. While much of the project and band is shrouded in mystery, and deliberately so, what we do know is that Stinson was a quiet member who was described by fellow collaborator and producer Dennis Richardson as "ultra-low-key": "You see him on the street, he's an everyday guy. You get him in the music studio, and he's a maestro." A married truck driver with seven children, Stinson was once reported to say that music was his third love after God and his family.

Much of the project's mythology, including its tropes of the Afro-American aquatic voyage also belonged to Stinson. An obituary for Stinson written by Ben Tausig explains the mythology succinctly: "According to legend (and album notes), the Drexciyans are an actively subversive race of superhuman, aquatically inclined beings who were born to pregnant slave-mothers brutally hurled from ships carrying human cargo over two-hundred years ago. Drexciya's metaphor of the African journey through modernity is a brilliant summation of a massive history, and it serves as a poetic introduction to the issues which so many Detroit techno musicians consider central to their art and their lives.

Stinson's own announcement of releasing 'seven storms' in the form of seven LPs in a rare interview with Detroit Free Press writer Tim Pratt can be alluded to his seven children, whom he has dearly left behind. He said: "Harnessed the Storm is one in a series of seven individual storms, which are LPs. The albums are sent to different labels. Harnessed the Storm is one, Transllusion is two, and the Other People Place is three. Much like storms or tornadoes, you don't know where or when they're going to show up, but there's four more. They were all made within one year."

Unfortunately, only three storms have come to light. These three storms along with a final album 'Grava 4' as Drexciya on the Clone label are to be his final works. 'Grava 4' is named after an actual star adopted by Drexicya and is for me, a shining example of Stinson now living among the stars as planet Drexicya.

A little more context before the music: Transllusion is one of the solo project names of Stinson and the two releases under this moniker are 'The Opening of The Cerebral Gate' (released on Supremat, a sub-label of Tresor dedicated to the more abstract and experimental electro sound) and 'L.I.F.E' (released on Aphex Twin's Rephlex label). Now on to the music.

As an album, 'The Opening of The Cerebral Gate' contains the trademark neo electro-bass sound established by the band for Detroit. Now that the electro genre is facing a mini revival of sorts and in part fueled by the rather recent Drexicya reissues, the comeback of this album makes it ripe for picking.

This 3LP reissue package (Tresor 270) includes the vinyl version of the album as it was originally released plus a bonus 12” featuring “Look Within”, “Unordinary Realities” and “Do You Want to Get Down (Vocal De Void)”, available for the first time on wax. This reissue is further accompanied as a bundle by a 3-track 12" EP called 'Mind over Positive and Negative Dimensional Matter' (Tresor 271) featuring tracks 'Power of The 3rd Brain', 'Disrupted Neural Gateway' and 'Do You Want To Get Down?'.

The first track -- the rude and shocking awakening of 'Transmission of Life' -- with its blaring alarm sound is a wake up call. I often skip this track purely because it is as jarring as it is intended to be. Next, 'Negative Flash' and ‘Walking with Clouds’ touch that breaky, shuffly sweetspot aimed at the feet - get into a DJ set already!

The track ‘Cerebral Cortex Malfunction’ asserts personality with randomly triggered sound samples influenced by komputer friends. ‘Unordinary Realities’ shares the same vein of cuteness, one can’t help but feel that for Stinson, technology was really one of his good friends.

Of the album of extremely catchy electro breaks and loops, ‘Dimensional Glide' stands out for me as a more evolved species. A driving, arpeggiated pulse and a quiet, chintzy synth counterpoints the sweet main melody before gliding to oblivion. Contained within is a sincere moment of human expression.

Also of mention is ‘War Of The Clones’ with its distorted amped up drums and input of keys conjuring up a horrific war scene populated with armies of robots marching in unison. Soaring pads temper down the tension creating a mixed effect of fear and hope that is overall uneasy.

Of the EP bundle, ‘Do You Want To Get Down?’ gets a second airing on the B side, along with ‘Disrupted Neural Gateway’, which is one of my picks because of a more sinister undertone that heralds more to come. “Power of The 3rd Brain’ works just as well, with a held-back approach making it a good choice as a bridge or a pause.

Overall, Tresor has reissued a hot package littered with jams you’ll be hard pressed to select just one as a standout. As one of the legacies of a great man and musician, Transllusion and this album should, forbid, not be missed by any serious collector of Drexciya for filling in an important piece of the legend.

Tracklist (Tresor 270)
01. Transmission Of Life
02. Negative Flash
03. Walking With Clouds
04. Cerebral Cortex Malfunction
05. Cluben In Guyana
06. Look Within
07. Unordinary Realities
08. Dimensional Glide
09. War Of The Clones
10. Crossing Into The Mental Astroplane
11. Do You Want To Get Down?
12. Do You Want To Get Down? (Vocal De Void)

Tracklist (Tresor 271)
A1. Power of the 3rd Brain
A2. Disrupted Neural Gateway
B. Do You Want To Get Down?