“There’s this ambiguous plane between spirituality and science in the study of insects I wanted to explore,” writes New York-based South African producer Dasychira (aka Adrian Martens) about his newly launched dasychira.com. Built by Johannesburg-based artist Bogosi Sekhukhuni, the immersive web experience is tailored to Marten’s debut EP Immolated, released on January 17 via Blueberry Records and exploring what he calls “anthropocentric fallacy.”
That fallacy is one where science sees a distinction between humans and insects, and where organisms who’ve outlived us in ‘time spent on earth’ are viewed as otherworldly. These are some of the ambiguities that Martens explores sonically, imagining music in an insect’s world in the Immolated EP inspired by the Praying Mantis, famous for sexual cannibalism and its forever folded forearms looking supplicant and devout. The predatory reproductive ritual is inflicted by the female on the male, but mostly in captivity. Embaci envisions such a self-destructive lust in Dasychira’s ‘Vipera,’ where the jittery, stridulating dissonance underpins the singer-songwriter’s celestial voice in a combination of simple vocal melodies: “should I leave you alone?”
Of course, the project extends beyond the EP itself, where the musical conception of “biomes on identity through the lens of an insect in its different stages of life” is realised in the part-horror, part-sci-fi fantasy cover art by Kyselina — who’s worked with Lotic and Yves Tumor‘s Bekelé Berhanu project — and additional production on ‘Amitie‘ by Dviance. For the website collaboration with Sekhukhuni — also of South African art collective CUSS Group — the duo use music, poetry, and nature videos to create an imagined habitat, always immersed in the ambient hum of a bug.
Adrian Martens: Mantises are sentient and their figure of praying evokes a sense of spirituality. Their mannerisms, moods, and emotions are relatable and pure. Insects have this survival mentality that is very primal in the way they adapt to new environments, build colonies, and undergo metamorphosis. I wanted to capture the same emotional purity I see in a creature like a ghost mantis through sound.
** How much did Embaci capture the mood of the album in drawing it back to love and self-destruction in ‘Vipera’?
AM: She introduced a vital theme to the project, cannibalism in mantids. There’s this double-edged sword dynamic in the mating cycle between two mantids that’s entirely natural, and we wanted to portray a powerful mantid who is both sensitive and formidable in the presence of her mate.
** It feels like there’s a very collaborative thread to this EP. You’ve worked with Embaci, of course, and Dviance, also Kyselina is responsible for the album cover and Bogosi worked on the website, how much input do they have and how much do they expand on the ideas that are already there?
AM: They all helped me see the project through different perspectives. When Kyselina and I were talking about artwork in the beginning he proposed the imagery of an insect lying on an operating table being dissected — which related to this conceptual idea I had of this being that was pulled apart emotionally but was still very much intact and alive. Embaci introduced a powerful sensitivity, Dviance and I embedded our friendship and experiences in Berlin into ‘Amitié,’ and Bogosi helped me build the actual environment that I wanted to portray sonically. I wrote the poetry on the website in the form of a manifesto, which Bogosi printed out as exterminator signage and hung on trees in Johannesburg where he filmed them.
** With regards to the song titles, you’ve picked from an eclectic mix of theologies, mythologies and ideas, there’s the Greek in ‘Caduceus,’ then Reliquary, which crosses religious faiths, and then on the website there features a muted video called ‘Aliens and Insects,’ which proposes a connection between Ancient Egyptian civilization and insects as extraterrestrial beings, can you tell me more about how all these ideas intersect?
AM: There’s this ambiguous plane between spirituality and science in the study of insects I wanted to explore. Insects are among some of the first symbols found in ancient civilizations, like the scarab in ancient Egypt portrayed with wings like an angel. The scarab was adorned for its similarities to Ra, rolling its orb around the desert like the sun rolls around the earth. These creatures have been on earth longer than humans, yet we see them as almost extraterrestrial creatures. Insects have helped people understand their spirituality and thus their identity throughout history, yet science pulls us away from this connection to view them objectively. It’s interesting because science is a human invention, its the way we interpret the life around us, but there’s a spiritual weight to this life that remains mostly unexplored.
** Where did this fascination with insects come from? Does it have anything to do with growing up in South Africa?
AM: It came from a history catching little bugs like silkworms and beetles outdoors and keeping them in little terrariums to observe their behaviour. There were entire eco-systems waiting outside my doorstep in South Africa that I became desensitized to over time, and when I left for New York I realized how vast these ecosystems really are. I guess this EP is an attempt to live these experiences vicariously through music.**