As far as biologists are concerned, “dasychira” is a genus of moths. But for students of contemporary experimental music, Dasychira is also the name of Adrian Martens’ innovative electronic narrative project. The namesake is no coincidence, however. One listen to the music of Dasychira reveals an organic, earthly essence underlying the sputtering club rhythms and ethereal sound textures.
It may seem odd that an electronic artist would take insects as their inspiration but the ideas behind Dasychira become more clear when you learn of Martens’ upbringing in South Africa and how it had an effect on his music. Martens relates to me how in his youth, he used to go bug collecting and create little dream biomes for the creatures he’d find: “It was my own way of composing nature, I suppose.”
It’s that feeling of youthful discovery that lies at the heart of Dasychira’s music. You can hear it in the ethereal whimsy of the productions on his first EP “Immolated” as well as the recent Blueberry Records release “Haptics.” Martens says he doesn’t intentionally incorporate his connection to nature in his music, however. As he puts it:
“A lot of it stems from feeling, and the feeling that inspired ‘Haptics’ was the yearning to get back to that place of exploration and awe.”
The sense of awe that comes from a brush with the sublime is certainly conveyed on “Haptics.” Strange bird calls and distorted pan flute abound on “Swing,” a track so filled with life, it could be field recordings from a forest. And if “Swing” is the sound of the forest coming alive then “Umbreon” is the sound of it falling asleep. Here, The mercurial artist known as Malibu murmurs a poem in hushed tones while hidden critters buzz and chirp. Dasychira wraps Malibu’s vocals in swathes of ethereal sound, effectively recreating the sacred quality of eventide afterglow.
Martens is particularly interested in the natural world as it relates to notions of spirituality, a theme he explored on his debut EP “Immolated.” While that release looked at how insects can help us understand our own spirituality, “Haptics” turns inward to examine how digital media influences our conceptions of self and spirituality. Martens explains that ‘Haptics’ is an evolution of the theme in ‘Immolated’: “The idea for this second record was to explore self-understanding through avatars, much like understanding spirituality and consciousness through insects. Immolated had more to do with the context of existing in relation to the external world, whereas Haptics dwells more on existing in your internal world.”
The word “haptics” can be used in a variety of contexts but fundamentally it denotes touch sensation and the process of communicating through touch. For example, haptic technology allows one to interface with a device through touch, as evidenced in the fingerprint lock feature of iPhones. Martens is interested in ‘haptics’ and the notion of ‘touch’ because it can mean so many different things, like the physical sensation itself or being “in touch.” Martens also mentions that he thought about haptic technology when working on this album:
“One thing I really like about haptic technology is how it’s associated with personal devices. It’s a means to interface physically with the non-existent or simulated, so you’re being given the ability to touch something almost unreal. I think many notions of identity come through expressions of identity on digital media, and I wanted Haptics to show how you can get “in touch” with yourself through avatars, whether digital or physical.”
With Dasychira, Martens is actually examining different ontologies through the lens of club music. Learning of the ideas behind “Immolated” and “Haptics” reveals a dialectic of self and other at play in his music. It makes sense then that the experience of listening to a Dasychira release is not unlike an encounter with the Other, the alien or the sublime. Although his music might come across as discombobulating, strange and otherworldly at first, repeated listens yield a sense of familiarity, warmth, comfort even. You certainly wouldn’t be amiss for hearing a similarity between Dasychira’s music and the soundtrack to “Ocarina of Time.” This is because there is something beautifully nostalgic about Dasychira’s music, bringing us back to that youthful sense of awe and wonder. It is at once alien and disorienting yet at the same time we recognize a part of ourselves in it.
This is what sets Dasychira apart from your usual club producer and aligns him more closely with similarly-minded conceptual “club” artists like Chino Amobi, Elysia Crampton, Rabit, Lotic, M.E.S.H. or Aisha Devi. When asked about the importance of the hybridized, conceptualized approach he, along with these artists, is taking, Martens says:
“I think its creating a new form of introspection at the club. Instead of focusing on what is happening externally, I think people are now being encouraged to look within and also find empathy on the dancefloor.”
What Martens is getting at here and what seems to be something of a mission for the aforementioned artists is the conveying of otherness through music as a means to shed our ontologies of the self-same. In other words, using music to help us realize that we are no different than the other. To introspect at the club is to leave one’s body and to return feeling anew with the discovery that the self is permeable, unfixed. It is to evolve and transform, like a moth leaving the cocoon.
RSVP + Purchase tickets to Dasychira’s Toronto performance at the link below:
The “Haptics” Tour continues in the EU for the following dates:
Barcelona 7.05.18 @ Drakis
Czech Republic 7.07.18 @ Creepy Teepee Festival
Copenhagen 7.13.18 @ Umbra
Paris 7.22.18 @ High Heal
Estonia 7.26-29.18 @ Kalana Saund
Feature photo credit: Pieter Kers