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Music-and-video outfit x-eleven burned brightly in the Dallas rave scene from 1992-1995, with frequent radio play on Jeff K's Edge Club program, inclusion in the Tales From the Edge CD series ("Texas Techno" installment), and appearances at major rave events. Their fast, scintillating techno tracks never quite gelled into a CD's worth of material, at least for perfectionist Gary Wicker, who wrote and performed the music. Strong nods to prog-rock and the industrial canon distinguish it from more purist or jazzy Detroit-style techno; Wicker mentions 808 State as an inspiration but I'd say Orbital if I had to compare it to anything. Wicker's amphetamine-fueled contrapuntal keyboards are in many ways the opposite of acid-house minimalism; one could envision a caped Rick Wakeman playing some of these baroque riffs, accompanied with grooving dance-floor bass and slightly incongruous party-hearty samples of kids saying "C'mon!" and "Let's do it!" The music doesn't quite fit into the Simon Reynolds standard techno timeline: it's an intriguing side-stream to what was happening further north and across the pond.
In '96 Wicker sold all his equipment and never looked back at his musical career, at least until last year, when he put the entire x-eleven catalog online, with assiduously detailed commentary, in what he calls "a sort of paean to the spirit of failure." The site has literary as well as musical interest, with Wicker narrating his own short career in the reflective tones of a sociological case study--a bemused audio-linguistic meditation on artistic aspirations and the messy realities of a being a group navigating the world of public performance and recording. (Personally I think he is seduced to this day by the capitalist paradigm that confuses business failure with creative failure--the latter this is definitely not.) With the reckless generosity of a recovering musician (who says he's still working, but not in this style), Wicker invites you to "download [all the x-eleven tracks as] .mp3 files, load them into your iPods, burn them onto CDs, do with them as you will." While you're listening you can read his fact-crammed commentary, a veritable how-to of basement keyboard and drum techniques. See, for example, this blurb for the 1992 track "Through the Ether":
This track opens with a filter-sweeped OB-8 sixteenth-note figure and a basic four-on-the-floor beat. Shortly thereafter, the members of Yes are digitally tricked into playing a portion of their biggest hit backwards, then forwards, then backwards again by a crafty ASR10M. Not content to humble just one great prog-rock act, the ASR10M then corners Robert Fripp's guitar, lassoes it and forces it to play a strangely happy melody that would be right at home amongst the talking mushrooms in an episode of "H.R. Pufnstuf." A bouncy CZ10M mallet part (inspired by Absolut's "X Ray My Love") soon takes over lead duty as most of the rhythm track drops away, leaving only a TR909 bass drum whose dotted-sixteenth triplet pattern indicates that it's caught a case of the giggles. A jazz drum loop soon joins in the fun, followed a few bars later by the rest of the drums and a stereo-phased ESQ-1 white noise bit. A tight snare drum roll announces the return of Fripp's regal-sounding looped guitar, and a confused Matrix 6R, still playing the theme from "Past Passion," wanders in from the next room. The mallet part eventually returns, accompanied by ascending arpeggios from the Matrix 6R and some stereo delay trickery, and we're soon back in Sid & Marty Krofft territory. The six-note "Past Passion" theme makes another final appearance before the track draws to a close.
Other standout tracks on the site include "Burn it Up" and "Past Passion," but they're all worth a listen. It's the apotheosis of geeky keyboard tech--geeky but cool, at least in my biased opinion as a fan who until recently had only a few nuggets but just found the mother lode.Update, December 2014: The X-Eleven links above are dead but the group has a page on bandcamp.