Neuroplanets is the latest entry in Sub Rosa’s New Framework Series, which is itself a subset of the label’s Concrete Electronics Noise. These matryoshka-like layers serve as an apt parable of the music itself, based on source material donated to sound artist Thanasis Kaproulias (Novi_sad) by BJ Nilsen, Daniel Menche, Francisco López and Mika Vainio. One can approach the music – and yes, it is fair to call these soundscapes music – from either direction. When approaching from the outermost layer, Neuroplanets is a fine quartet of soundscapes that easily could be mistaken for drones. Approaching from the innermost layer, the album is a collection of elusive, ephemeral phenomena, seldom heard even by the most attentive of ears.
Wind, dust devils and tornadoes on Mars
Ghostly planetary plasma waves from NASA
Whistle of ultra-cold liquid helium-3, changing volume relative to the North Pole and the Earth’s rotation
Decametric noise and radio storms on Jupiter
At this level, one might call Neuroplanets a science fiction album, with an emphasis on the science. Over the years, we’ve sent so much cluttering noise into space, polluting the solar system’s natural soundscape, that it’s only fair to take some home with us. (And who knows where Voyager’s golden record is now?) A strange fascination comes with the fact that the sounds of interplanetary weather systems have been condensed to 0s and 1s, copied to a disc, and duplicated, thereby increasing the chances that they will be beamed back out into space. Imagine the sound of all 500 copies being played at once, each starting in a different spot, like old waves receding, crashing into the new.
Functional anatomy of schizophrenic patients with auditory hallucinations
Patterns of music agnosia associated with middle cerebral artery infarcts
Rightward and leftward bisection biases in spacial neglect
Neuroimaging with bipolar disorder and children with serious emotional disturbances
Novi_sad applies this data to that data, agitating the sonic pot. The two sets seem to have little in common, but Kaproulias seeks to combine them. And who is to say that they are unrelated? If we are all “made of stardust”, then there must be a connection. Now add the thought that the recent surge in everything from peanut allergies to A.D.D. may eventually be traced to the ingestion of plastics that humans have injected into their own environment, and the tenuous begins to sound reasonable. Of the four tracks, only the last (source audio from Mika Vainio) sounds truly disturbed; its darkness flattens as it descends into an abyss of thump and mire. One can’t help but ask if this is the sonic representation of the abyss gazing into us.
What is the music without the explanation?
Kaproulias clearly worked very hard to produce this work, meticulously designing a crafted artifact and its accompanying online text. And yet, many people will simply skip to the samples. While this sort of approach may be maddening to an artist, in this case it won’t hurt. The claustrophobic closer is itself worth the price of admission. If one just listens, one might describe Track 4 as a drone piece in which the synthetic elements clear like mist, making way for a drum and a parasitic chime. Within minutes, the clouds swallow them whole, but they eventually knife through it like a foreboding peak. In similar fashion, one might approach the other pieces with metaphors, ignoring their genealogy. One might even make musical comparisons. For example, the factory-like noises of Track 3 could easily be mistaken for the pulse of an early Einstürzende Neubauten track. But one can enjoy this collection for its sound as much as for its construction; after all, the moon is just as beautiful to a child who thinks it is made out of cheese. (Richard Allen)