The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was created with the goal of restoring Earth’s agriculture in the case of a catastrophic, global event. As of November 2015, they had 867,801 seed samples. It’s housed in Longyearbyen, the Northernmost town on Earth, nestled 600 miles south of the North Pole on the Arctic Svalbard archipelago. It’s also where electroacoustic, experimental musicians Koenraad Ecker and Frederik Meulyzer—who previously collaborated as Stray Dogs—made field recordings for the first album, Carbon. It’s impossible to separate the reality of climate change from Carbon, but rather than wallow in the descent, or offer gaudy slogans, Ecker & Meulyzer explore the implications of the crisis sonically.
Despite its brooding mood, Carbon is kinetic; there are plenty of exhilarating moments—not all of its songs echo the frozen crackles of opener “Enclosure.” Some, like the seven-and-a-half-minute triumph “Commons” are filled with pummelling, sublime percussion, foregrounded with meandering electronic melodies. Others, like “Metabolic Rift” combine field recordings of icy wind, wolf howls, and electronic instrumentation, and move from rhythmic dance rhythms to naturalist soundscape. The album ends with the evocative “Carbon Cycles,” a 10-minute composition that begins with the “Exposure”’s familiar crackles, then gradually transforms into an orchestra of thwacks, shimmers, and beats. The slow disintegration in the opening moments echoes our present age; the chaos that closes the song is a harbinger of things to come.