There’s a seemingly infinite number of sounds and tones to be extracted from any given instrument. “Tardigrade Soul,” an extended drone track from sound artists Jax Deluca and Phong Tran, feels like a kind of sonic exploration of the abyss, extracting otherworldly sounds from seemingly simple mediums—guitar, percussion, voice—to create a bleak soundtrack of the soul.
“The instrumentation is purposely minimal to keep the stillness moving just enough to capture a sense of darkness pushing through,” Deluca says. “Each time we play, we improvise from a basic framework, but it’s similarly minimal so we can focus on the longness of each movement in the performance. Sonic goals include immersing the listener in sound, but focusing on maintaining a very dense and textured space throughout. Monolithic, but with nuance.”
Deluca says she and Tran met through a mutual friend in D.C.’s experimental music scene, and once they “uncovered a mutual interest in long-form drones,” they started collaborating earlier this year. After performing a few shows, Deluca and Tran were approached by musician Mattson Ogg, who runs the Hyattsville-based digital label Surfacing Records, to record.
“Tardigrade Soul” begins with the slow fade-in of Tran’s bowed guitar, gradually building in tone and sound as Deluca’s haunting processed vocals creep in. It almost sounds like a horror movie soundtrack, slowly building a sense of dread until it cascades into a mélange of feedback and noise, through Touch Synth and cymbal improvisations. Deluca says they named the 32-minute track after the tardigrade, a micro-animal sometimes referred to as a “water bear” that’s known for its extreme resiliency.
“During post-production, after listening to the recording so many times, three distinct phases emerged—submersion, breaking-through, and emergence. To me, this was basically a sonic rendering of a tardigrade’s soul; akin to the aches and pains of being human and going through a reinvention of self for survival,” she says. “That’s not meant to be dark, it’s more of an a reflection of these slow-moving transformations—or rituals—that we find ourselves go through as we continuously adapt to master our environments. It’s survival.“
“Tardigrade Soul” is available today via Surfacing Records. All proceeds go to ISER Caribe, a Puerto Rico-based socio-ecological research institute currently providing emergency hurricane relief effort to communities on the island.