I love mushrooms. Perhaps more than anything else I’ve been fortunate to experience in nature, the endless variety and forms of fungi, is an ongoing highlight. Each discovery is another otherworldly meeting with real life aliens. Part of our understanding of any of the numerous and spectacular life forms we share our miracle planet often includes the question ‘I wonder what it is like to be them?’
It’s no surprise that all animals have complex relationships and share intelligence and emotions with each other on some level. We are after all, simply fixated on similar goals to have a good life and to protect those we care about. But apply that logic to plants, and then a step further to fungi or slime moulds and suddenly, our brains are simply guessing.
I remember a walk last October (it’s also happening again right now here!) in a local wood and within the space of 10 metres, there was literally a dozen different types of fungi growing through the pine needled floor. No two shared the same colour, shape or form and I laughed in amazement at the mind-blowing creativity on display. Each of these fungi had the whole plan mapped out, every aspect of their being was carefully considered to do a specific job of getting on with their lives.
What is abundantly obvious is that these lifeforms are doing everything in their own way. Yes, we have worked out that some taste great, others are deadly, some make you trip your head off and others have potent medicinal qualities. But considering they are so abundant and remarkable; we are still at a very basic stage of really understanding them at all.
Eryk Salvaggio new album Worlding: Sympoietic Mycology, offers up a fascinating attempt to illustrate, if not explain these remarkable organisms a little more. Informed by Andrew Adamatzky, whose research suggests mushrooms use a vocabulary of electrical patterns to communicate, Salvaggio uses a synthesiser to document these patterns in sound.
In a way the results are an engrossing blend of mycological phone hacking and electronic processing.
The set opens with the cartoon procession of Fruiting as rhythmic elements chug along. A pattern of heart beats, data and joy rendered in thick electronic tracings. Each track title gives some sense of what’s happening, Phototropic Response is the reaction to a light source, Misting 1 and 2 the experience of moisture. Pinning, the process of the mushroom dividing into fruiting bodies, a flurry of division and multiplication.
But in each example, it’s hard not to slip back into our human world, as these synapses get rendered into electronic vignettes that effortlessly pass as beautiful abstract ambience.
But that sense of conceptual momentum keeps rising as the album peaks in the two longer tracks. Proximity to a Human Hand beautiful shimmering waves feels like a hallucinatory interspecies dialogue. Zero Red One One One One One goes ever further, simultaneously being the most human and oddest experiment here, a Conet Project that makes real sense, as one syllabled words cycle endlessly.
The album ends with the beautifully woozy Evidence of Growth which feels like a celebratory anthem for the entire project.
Ultimately, Worlding: Sympoietic Mycology could be looked at tangible scientific evidence that mushrooms seem to be aware of, and react to the world around them. Perhaps the results here hold some sort of magic that we haven’t yet decoded but in the meantime, we have an album that’s bursting with playful creativity and life.
I have even more respect for these weird little souls now.
Worlding: Sympoietic Mycology is out 21 October on cassette and digital on No Type