The first life on earth was a metabolic cycle, not coded bits of chemical scrap (arXiv:1207.4803v2 [nlin.AO]). They - we - started out slow, blooming about a hydrothermal stack, breaths a day long, heartbeats as protracted as the glide to an oxygen-rich sky. At first, everything had the sense of a trk1-03_06_19_Bedroom experiment in a teenager’s alien flick - the watchful suspense of moving around something self-producing, unspooling itself for you - something independently learning to speak in cycles, in sudden gestures, in ticking sounds - winding up on its own across a planetary process - a membrane starting to form - the tiniest hints, now growing, of acceleration into itself, its purposefulness loading up into faster and inscrutably fast oscillation - and out of this a whole microbial mat of teeming life - spinning into billions of years of ascent.
When I play this track outside, watching the mountain, the insects think it is speaking to them. Wasps dance frantically across my table, caught in its loop. They circulate a second, then dive to tap the glass, and then dance up, around once, and dive again, possessed by its call, like the crypt-keeper wasp Euderus set’s magical parasitism in galls.
By trk2-07_06_19_Brass, we are aware of a bestiary. Honking denatured garage basslines strut ungainly about the scene, chatting, chirpsing; declamations of potency. By trk6-18_06_19_Whistle, these new creatures have learned to lash out articulately. They mark their being by their autonomy of codes. Like cryoconservation freezes DNA, purely analog life-forms cannot survive over geological timescales without digitising their protocols, winding up into unnamed strings. The infra-laptop marks the moment of the first self-talk in the wet landscape of siliconised objects.
Not all early creatures were so brazenly individuated. Landscapes of wind, sky, water still bare to space, like trk3-04_07_19_Breath, gave birth to planetary life, as metabolism’s thermodynamically favoured primitive core - the Krebs cycle - spawned other metabolic processes into informational replicators, and information gained causal efficacy over matter. Things loop in the same way again, enchanted by themselves.
It was near the beginning that organisms first learnt to enclose each other for food. Breathing into the microphone - “...and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” - of the laptop makes of its ear a propeller. 475 million years ago the jaw was formed, and thus the face. We are it, the object being turned like a propeller; we are inside the mouth, being used by it, the tongue-eating louse; the silicon parasitises the carbon.
How much hotter can the mountains get? The infra-laptop’s clamped shut mouth singes its own teeth, enclosing the parasite sound inside the jaw, enchantment boils the insects into codes inside their loops. Ours is the ecology of distress, ours are the suppressing fires, ours are the articulate limbs, the tweeting, the dust of the ground, the protocols, the parasitisation on the favoured primitive core. Ours is the propeller and its breath. Ours is the causality and ours the planetary death.
released January 10, 2020
Performance, programming, recording - James L Malone
Text - Richard Hames
Artwork - Joe Wright