Wildlife Electronica: A Review Of A Lake By The Moon’s ‘Life In Warp’

“Life in Warp,” the debut album from A lake by the mõõn, a.k.a. Duarte Eduardo, is an opportunity to rethink what it means to be “socially conscious” when it comes to music. In what strikes the ear first as swathes of digitally manipulated noise and vaguely industrial, futuristic electronic free-balling, “Life in Warp” affords its listener a vivid and disorienting experience haunted by the sounds of a wide array of endangered animals from around the globe. That’s right—each and every byte of sound on the album, Eduardo states, “was created from field recordings of living beings that are, or have been, endangered since the beginning of the Anthropocene.” The result is something like wildlife-electronica—replete with walrus beats and humpback whale drones—but is so much more serious, devastating, and deferential. Everything you hear was already in some way first uttered by beings whose lives and ecosystems have been under extreme siege for decades, even centuries. Rarely is one’s listening experience shaped by such an unexpectedly potent sense of urgency, loss, and motivation to change your life and protect what remains. Proving that activist music can take any stance or form, what is most significant on “Life in Warp” is precisely this emotional resonance of knowing that all of these sounds came from someone in danger. Someone who, for now, may or may not still exist amidst our exploitative stranglehold on the Earth’s ecosystems.

The Red panda, endangered because of loss of habitat and poaching, is one of the animals whose voice is sampled on the album.

The sheer effort required for such a cohesive sounding project of bioacoustic eco-futurism is staggering from a technical perspective, as is the task of isolating something like a “beat” and building around it subtle modulations and layers of accompaniment from literally dozens of different animals. When experimental music can take the voices of endangered wildlife and lodge them in your brain with rhythmic, pulsing fervor—an achievement especially prevalent on “Solarpunk” and “Utopia o caralho!”—you know you have arrived in a truly compelling landscape. As a wildlife conservationist myself, hearing this level of sincerity and intentionality lifts my spirits and gives me encouragement about ways of moving forward gracefully in this shrinking bestiary we’ve made of the world. It can be a simple and profound gift to encounter other wild souls who strive, as A lake by the mõõn’s Bandcamp page reads, “to manifest against the narratives of fatalism and of fake hopes.” This bizarre record of electronically manipulated animal sounds is real in the realest sense, and is, despite the serious overtones, an exercise in radical playfulness.

The Bornean orangutan is critically endangered because of deforestation, palm oil plantations, and hunting.

And, of course, Shouts! out to the following contributors with whom we stand in unwavering solidarity: walruses, giant sable antelopes, humpback whales, Bornean orangutans, albatrosses, Atlantic puffins, greater sage-grouse, Amur leopards, Malayan tigers, polar bears, Japanese meagre, gracile chimpanzees, Fortescue grunters, Asian and African elephants, wattled curassows, Galapagos carpenter bees, beluga whales, royal penguins, common eiders, golden frogs, Oaxaca hummingbirds, red pandas, hyenas, Asian lions, Mexican wolves, kakapos, red wolves, northern lapwings, Pernambuco pygmy owls, Karthala scops owls, Aruba island rattlesnakes, sea otters, Aldabra giant tortoises, Atlantic salmon, golden bamboo lemurs, mountain gorillas, saiga antelopes, and the Kauai O’o bird.

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Nathaniel Youmans
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"Nathaniel Youmans is a poet, essayist, editor, wildlife conservationist, and sound artist based in Washington State. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop. His work has been featured in Talking River, High Desert Journal, Soundings, and elsewhere. At Shouts - Music from the Rooftops!, he is a Contributing Writer. He is also cofounder and editor of The Strewnfield Review as well as the editor for the Washington Falconer’s Association. He makes music under the moniker Lahar. "

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