Stuart Bruce, Chain DLK, May 28, 2018

Composed across a period of more than five years, Nano-Cosmos is a five-piece cycle of acousmatic pieces dedicated to insects, small arthropods and microorganisms. Fifty-three minutes of arhythmic granular clicks, glitches and sharp biology lab sounds running over long drones, tuned synthetic hums, irregular heartbeat sounds and electric growls, it certainly emphasises how alien the microscopic world is relative to what we would call familiar.

If you’re squeamish, don’t worry — despite being rooted in biology, sonically there’s quite a digital flavour to it, often sounding more sci-fi than organic, particularly in pieces like Bacillus Chorus or the expansive synth opening of Pixel Springtail Promenade. The biological aspect exhibits itself as much in the unpredictability as in the tones themselves.

Pixel Springtail Promenade is a notable highlight, a self-contained 15-minute work in many sections where the synthetic pads evolve into larger more orchestral sounds with a luxuriant quality that emphasises the dichotomy of the insect clicking noises — twisting into weirdness towards the end with a soundscape that to my ear sounds decidedly more like a frog chorus than insects.

Final piece Xylocopa Ransbecka is also an opus, accompanied by the hard-to-beat conceptual description: “features a carpenter bee and twenty doors, recorded in Belgium”. After a series of disorientating vignette-style sections, again more orchestral elements appear in the second half, building steadily to an almost conventional crescendo that then devolves into a digital equivalent where the insectoid clicking and glitching multiples exponentially until we approach white noise. It’s a fitting finale, both successful and strange.

Inspired by and sourced from a selection of very specific biological phenomena, this release really does seem to blur the lines between music and science — and the result is a nicely immersive bit of complex soundscaping that you really can get into.

… a nicely immersive bit of complex soundscaping that you really can get into.

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