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James Marcel Stinson Obituary

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Ben Tausig writes about the man behind Drexciya and his indisputable place atop the electro lexicon.

James Marcel Stinson Obituary

James Marcel Stinson, one of the most significant producers of modern Detroit electro, passed away last Tuesday due to heart complications. Stinson's foremost projects included Drexciya, The Other People Place, and Transllusion, and his creative fingerprints are apparent on albums by numerous other musicians.

His death truly affects an international community of music lovers and friends. Drexciya have long been a favorite of European audiences, and the group have releases on Tresor in Germany and Clone in the Netherlands as well as early classics like Aquatic Invasion and Bubble Metropolis on the Underground Resistance label in Detroit.

Stinson was a master of exposing the bittersweet soul within the often intractable frame of Detroit techno. Drexciyan music ran the gamut from grating to blissful, foresaking cliches for a strange take on electro that would eventually evolve into a signature sound and style. The 1997 compilation The Quest, on Submerge, is probably the best summary of Drexciya and Stinson's early efforts, while albums like The Other People Place's Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe and Drexciya's very recent Grava 4 best represent the more subdued later period.

Drexciya's external concepts stand as perhaps the most exciting, the most philosophically unique, and the most talked about in all of electro. While problems of race weighed heavily on much of Detroit's electronic music scene, Drexciya produced records explicitly within a self-conceived universe of black science-fiction, very much akin to Sun Ra's intergalactic processes. 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 output was re-ignited recently, with several albums and EPs in the past two years and rumors of more to come. He had considered moving to the southern U. S. to ease his medical condition, but remained in Detroit until his death. The music world mourns this tragic loss.

By Ben Tausig

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