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Pindrops is the first album by the Berlin-based artist Dylan Peirce, and one of the two inaugural releases on Digital in Berlin. Following a sculptural approach, Peirce lets small sound events mutate into densely layered soundscapes and elaborate, rhythmic compositions. This album not only gradually shifts our perception, but also radically calls it into question.
If you’d like to understand what happens on Dylan Peirce’s Pindrops, you first need to understand that it is not meant to be understood in the conventional sense of that word. Instead, the six compositions of his debut album on the newly launched Digital in Berlin label need to be perceived, absorbed, and given time to transform. This is, after all, part of the process involved in their making.
The Berlin-based artist has previously worked extensively with sound in his visual art pieces and installations, but in recent years has focused on this aspect of his artistic practice more exclusively. For this, he uses minute sound events, the proverbial “pindrops”, as the starting points for pieces of music by magnifying them and letting them mutate and take on a life of their own.
Peirce records his basic material at varying scales, using field recordings, sound captured with contact mics or electromagnetic sensors as well as close-miking techniques. The resulting music is marked by unpredictability, infused with moments in which it is unclear what exactly is becoming audible. Much like Peirce’s holistic yet transformative working process, so intrinsically linked to a sculptural approach, it is not the music alone that raises questions: look for example at the record’s cover and ask yourself what exactly you’re looking at: the bird’s eye view onto a geological formation in a remote and hostile environment? A snapshot of an old, disintegrating concrete wall in an abandoned building? An eroded form that has been put under a microscope? The answer to all these questions is, of course, “yes”. And “no”. Or “well, it depends”. Or “how could anyone possibly say?”.
What is certain is that Pindrops as a whole follows a dynamic trajectory. In the first half of the album the music focuses on the interplay of small elements like in “Heights”—which calls to mind classic minimal music, IDM and musique concrète—before slowly zooming out to reveal broader structures near the end of the album. This gradual shift illustrates how Peirce lets his source material evolve as he works with it, but can also be understood as a way of relating the music to a wider context.
While neither working solely with soundscapes nor explicitly referring to the tradition of acoustic ecology, there is a reason why these pieces sound so organic both sonically and structurally: in their own processual way, they mirror and reflect upon ecological developments, the life hidden below the threshold of human perception, whether in the smallest of sounds or the traces left by what are being referred to as “hyperobjects” in ecological theory.
So, what do you need to understand when listening to Pindrops? That it is little more than a delusion to believe that we can comprehend what we listen to when we hear it. Pindrops shatters this notion—not with a grand gesture, but bit by bit. And then it slowly picks up the pieces to sculpt something entirely different out of them.