Michael Allen's Bioelectrical Music
Founded during the mid 1990s, the London based imprint, Paradigm Discs, has displayed a deep dedication to the under celebrated shadows of experimental and avant-garde music, issuing a slow, carefully constructed trickle of archival releases and reissues by Hugh Davies, Pauline Oliveros, Daphne Oram, Max Eastley, Trevor Wishart, Gentle Fire, and a great many more. The label’s latest, Michael Allen Z. Prime’s “Bioelectrical Music”, takes us to the heart of what the label is all about. A 3CD collection of compositions that taps the bioelectrical potential generated by plants and fungi, collecting recordings made by Prime between 1990 and 2019, it’s a stunning body of work that blurs the lines between ambience and abstraction, conceptualism and ecology, and the radically experimental possibilities of sound. Issued in a beautiful edition accompanied by a 44 page booklet with an essay by Prime outlining the history and development of our understanding of plant neurophysiology, in addition to a text by author and fungal enthusiast, Merlin Sheldrake, 100 numbered copies also contain a Blu-ray of Prime’s Bioelectrical film. Truly remarkable and not to be missed.
Active since the 1980s, the Cork, Ireland based avant-garde electronic performer, composer, and ecologist, Michael Prime, has carved a highly singular path through the landscape of experimental sound for the entirety of his career. First emerging within the ensemble, Morphogenesis, alongside Fred Sansom, Ron Briefel, Clive Hall, Roger Sutherland, Clive Graham, Adam Bohman, and a number of others, his practice centres around the use of bioactivity translators to amplify the electrical activity of plants and fungi, seeking to allow listeners to enter and interact with the transient world of plant reactions. In addition to his many solo efforts and work within Morphogenesis, he has collaborated with a diverse number of noteworthy figures like Jim O'Rourke, Eddie Prévost, and Max Eastley.
“Bioelectrical Music” is Prime’s first physical release since 2007’s “Borneo”, issued on his own imprint Mycophile Records, in addition to being his first with Paradigm Discs. He’s made up for the time passed with the incredible scope and scale offered across the album’s 3 CDs worth of material, drawing on the period between 1990 and 2019. Over the years, Prime has steadily refined his thinking and working practice, coming to define it across three categories covered by the collection: Bioelectrical Compositions, Bioelectrical Field Recordings and Bioelectrical Installations. All three use - while also extending - the possibilities by allowing the bioactivity signals to form the basis of the music, in addition to its raw material for multi-tracking and electronic processing. Crucially, the composer does so within self-imposed rules that restrict the extent that the original sounds can be altered, attempting to retain the voice of the living sound sources.
Collecting pieces that range from short sound studies to lengthy compositions and installation recordings, made in a wide variety of locations, despite the self-imposed constraints deployed by its composer, “Bioelectrical Music” displays an astounding amount of range across its length. Harnessing a deep sense of abstraction in each work that retains a connection to the natural world, we encounter pieces that bridge the electroacoustic realm in entirely unique ways, from works of sprawling ambience to gestures of bubbling and bristling texture, pulsing broken polyrhythms, and pieces that feel almost entirely electric in their make up, in each case Prime unveils the world of plants and fungi as one of the richest landscapes imaginable for the generation of sound.
Brilliant, immersive, captivating, and endlessly surprising, “Bioelectrical Music” is a truly essential offering for any fan of Prime, electronic and electroacoustic music, and sonic ecology. Issued as a 3 CD collection, accompanied by a 44 page booklet with an essay by Prime outlining the history and development of our understanding of plant neurophysiology, in addition to a text by author and fungal enthusiast, Merlin Sheldrake, 100 copies also contain a Blu-ray of Prime’s Bioelectrical film. Rare and out on its own, this one’s impossible to recommend enough.