Generally, techno is associated with the idea of escapism, leaving behind reality and diving into an alternative fantasy of freedom. The escapes one dreams about when playing a Detroit release almost always has something to do with outer space - with the infinity of the cosmos, out of this world, getting on board a spaceship and travelling to Jupiter and beyond.“Biokinetics”, however, is about the sea (and beyond). When played no space ships appear, but rather sailboats and frigates. If you would like a book to go with it, a good suggestion would be Poe's “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”or Melville's “Moby-Dick; or, The Whale”, rather than Bradbury's “The Martian Chronicles”. The ocean is directly referred to in titles like “Nautical Dub” and “Port Of Call”, and even the alias Porter Ricks was taken from the dolphin film “Flipper”(which in this context could sound ridiculous, but the music made by Thomas Köner and Andy Mellwig is certainly not). “Biokinetics” was originally released in 1996 on the now defunct Chain Reaction - a label linked to Basic Channel, focussing on releases by projects on the frontline of liquid techno - and it had almost been lost in time. An injustice now set straight by Type Records, who have also released the album (for the first time) on a spectacular, re-mastered, transparent vinyl.
Thomas Köner started his career as a builder of atmospheres, released three albums on avant-garde label Barooni in the early nineties (also released on Type, in 2010, as the trilogy “Nunatak · Teimo · Permafrost”) and never showed any real interest in techno. But then he met Mellwig, who in the mid-nineties was working as a sound engineer at Dubplates & Mastering, and was in touch with the Imbalance crew (the origin of what would later be known as Monolake). Together they started Porter Ricks, fusing layers of turbid moods with waves of danceable beats. The oceanic concept has been there from the start, thanks to Köner, who has always been interested in nature as the starting point for the music. The three first 12-inches on Chain Reaction were a revelation, an unexpected twist for the future of experimental techno: it sounded like a growing tide, like the quiet before the storm, like waves attacking a pier, like cetaceans migrating - as if someone had stuck a microphone under water and had recorded a rave on the bottom of the ocean.
At the time, “Biokinetics” was considered a masterpiece. It was in the right place at the right time - when the first Berlin techno-dub generation was at its peak, with the memory of Basic Channel and its nine EPs still fresh in everyone's minds, and with the Maurizio project (the second incarnation of Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, before transforming into Rhythm & Sound) in full swing. Porter Ricks added another nuance, fiercer and more cutting, without a doubt derived from a rugged mix of isolationist ambient - with rumbling beats buried under layers of oceanic noise and liquid movements. The new sleeve art used by Type (replacing the controversial metal packaging used by Chain Reaction, which scratched the CDs) shows a sun eclipsed by the moon, possibly as a metaphor for an especially turbulent cycle of tides affecting a giant extension of clouds that are starting to whirl.
The idea is still the same: techno at the exact temperature when the material begins to change shape, when solid becomes liquid, and liquid becomes gas. Those are the three stages of the pieces. “Port Gentil”, the 12-minute opener, is like calm waters, it's techno to float in a salt and still sea. Meanwhile “Nautical Dub” is the expression of the wild sea, “Biokinetics 1”is cooking, bubbling, while “Biokinetics 2” is steam filtering into the atmosphere. Furthermore “Port Of Call”, “Port Of Nuba” and “Nautical Nuba” are like a furious storm, with the final piece, “Nautical Zone”, the re-composition of the sea surface after the storm - lit by the sun of a new day.
While the music comes and goes, disintegrates and gets excited, Porter Ricks reveals an idea of techno that was visionary and so unique that it would never be overcome. Not even them themselves - in all their work as a duo until 1999, when they signed with Mille Plateaux / Force Inc. and worked with Techno Animal - could maintain the level that was to be expected from them. In 2012, “Biokinetics” no longer comes as a surprise, particularly after many years of techno-dub by the new generations led by Echospace. However, the original feeling of travelling into the unknown still appears: that desire to go to the harbour, rent a boat and row to where the horizon disappears –head-banging fiercely to the rhythms of the waves.