Not all heroes wear capes – some wear ski masks too. One such veiled hero is Detroit’s DJ Stingray, AKA Sherard Ingram. Making his name as the tour DJ for aquatic techno legends Drecxiya in the 1990s, he has since cemented his status as one of the finest manipulators of a stack of vinyl and an attendant crowd.
If you haven’t been to a Stingray show yet, prepare to sweat. Paying homage to the Drexciyan Afrofuturist mythology, which places their music as the cultural documentation of a subaqueous warrior-race of children miraculously birthed by enslaved mothers drowned in the Middle Passage, Stingray’s sets are a trip. By trip I mean a physical and mental journey – into the mind, into unconsciousness, into the humid intermediary between moving bodies that is the club-space.
Sonically, his selections are aggressively precise, mechanic and relentlessly grooving, keeping the BPM high, the melody minimal and the percussion ever-present. Having released his own productions on a variety of labels including Viennese techno repository Pomelo, Lorenzo Senni’s Presto?!, and Moodymann’s Mahogani music, DJ Stingray now steps up to helm the fourth volume in Berlin club Tresor’s Kern mix series.
Following last year’s esoteric and at times jarring selections from Objekt, Stingray’s mix is an equally defiant representation of his musical identity: abrasive yet swinging, challenging yet imminently danceable. It’s only appropriate that Stingray opens his mix with one of Drexciya’s side projects, Gerald Donald’s Dopplereffekt and the track ‘Scientist’, a funk-EBM number with a parodic vocal hook. Seamlessly transitioning into the drum-rattle of Alex Cortex’s ‘We Run Your Life’, the insidious energy refuses to dissipate throughout the mix.
There are five tracks from Drexciya in all, including the melodic cascade of ‘Aquabahn’, the expert synth bass of ‘Running Out of Space’, and the seething ambience of ‘Cascading Celestial Giants’, which closes the mix. Other highlights include Stingray’s own project with Donald, NRSB-11, which manifests in the insistent ‘Nationalised’, as well as Herva’s acid bass rumble on ‘Slam The Laptop’, and an appearance from Aphex Twin as AFX on the typically squelch-heavy ‘Serge Fenix Rendered 2’.
The mix CD is accompanied by a double vinyl release of individual tracks including the aforementioned AFX and Herva numbers, as well as the ‘80s techno-rap of ‘Professor X’ and LoneLady’s pounding snare remix of Anna Meridith’s ‘VapourIsED’. Blending 27 tracks into a flowing narrative is no easy feat, but that is the beauty of Stingray’s craft, fusing compressed drum hits and thick, buzzing bass lines into a foundation of almost meditative consistency. Within this meditative space, then, subtlety comes to the fore and the ingeniousness of arrangement and selection is immediately apparent.
It isn’t style over substance but rather a confluence of both that brings out the merit of each in itself. Drexciya’s legacy pervades, as cultish as ever, since artists like Stingray continue to send the message, pushing forward and assaulting ears in the process.
Words: Ammar Kalia
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