CD, Audiophob, 2009
Charles Darwin is arguably the most celebrated biologist of all time, and 2009 has been a highly significant year, being both 200 years since his birth and 150 years since his groundbreaking work, “The Origin of the Species”, was first published. With his ingenious theory of evolution, Darwin inspired millions, while simultaneously enraging the religious establishment stubbornly believing that mankind was the work of a divine creator and not evolved from monkeys. With this special occasion in mind, Mandelbrot have created a musical tribute, appropriately entitled “Evolution”, and have had the rare privilege of offering this composition as an audio accompaniment to an exhibition on Darwin at the Museum am Schölerberg in Osnabrück, Germany.
As a side project featuring the Bielefeld musicians B. Teichner and P. Muench, better known for their work with various respected electronic and industrial acts such as Synapscape, Monokrom, The Rorschach Garden and Rasputeen, the quality of Mandelbrot should presumably be high. This project deals with experimental dark ambient, definitely one of the most appropriate musical genres for evoking the memory of a great scientist, and certainly very suitable for a museum environment. Tracks are assembled at times methodically and others more intuitively, feelings of exploration and fascination are conveyed powerfully and numerous novel sounds and intriguing findings presented in a concise, scientific manner.
The tracks are somewhat confusingly titled, with numbers in German, null to acht (zero to eight), arranged in a seemingly random order; perhaps pieces for separate parts of the exhibition rearranged for the most pleasing musical progression. Helpfully, “Null” opens the album and “Acht” closes it, the former giving the impression of landscapes never before witnessed by European man, the latter a more melodic piece of rhythmic electronica, paying tribute to the noble art of scientific investigation. “Eins” is one of the darker tracks on the album, perhaps suggesting a struggle to collate observations into a convincing new theory, quirky sounds creeping in to possibly represent difficult mental processes. “Zwei” brings to mind Darwin’s overseas voyages into the unknown, mixing senses of both adventure and fear, while “Drei” sounds like a foreboding trek into a dense jungle filled with threatening nocturnal creatures.
“Vier” opens with a surprisingly rapid beat alternating with short drones and noise washes, giving way to almost psychedelic melodies, followed on the album by the next number, “Fünf”, featuring the mysterious rhythms of newly encountered tribesmen and perhaps an exchange of stories and ideas. “Sechs” seems to be the most biologically themed track of all, with numerous strange bird sounds and the fearsome cry of some undiscovered beast, the driving beat suggesting a flight from danger. “Sieben”, the shortest and penultimate track on the album, is slightly claustrophobic and unsettling, creating images of bizarre experiments performed in a laboratory full of elaborate and intimidating apparatus.
A fitting tribute to the great man, then, and a fine piece of modern ambient electronica, offering greater rewards with deeper investigation and enquiry. Why not make this album part of the soundtrack to your research?
— Nathan Clemence