Boomkat Product Review:
The great Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe follows his extraordinary 'Candyman' score with this extended electro-acoustic treatment to Daniel McCabe's 'Grasshopper Republic'. Lowe rises to the challenge with a skittering, insectoid set of suggestive mood pieces, using noisy washes, kosmische synths and deceptively processed field recordings.
Filmed over three seasons in Uganda, 'Grasshopper Republic' is the relatively untold story of the lives of trappers in East Africa who jump terrifying hurdles to gather grasshoppers by the sackload. Lowe interprets the underlying message of community survival and environmental damage with significant pathos, but doesn't resort to any of well-worn scoring tropes, preferring to explore the subject matter with painterly, suggestive sonics rather than tug at our heartstrings. His suite of tracks, made up of both brief vignettes and lengthy, absorbing passages, captures the spirit of McCabe's documentary rather than just mapping its emotional peaks and troughs, and suggests the buzzing, chirping world of insects by subtly mimicking the motion. We hear this almost immediately on 'Becoming', that weaves a fluttering kick drum into a magnified backdrop of doomed, electrically damaged strings. Tense and uncomfortably alien, it sounds like Jake Meginsky's high-vibrational percussion experiments merged with Lustmord's crepuscular electro-acoustic textures.
It's not all doom and gloom either; Lowe taps into the kosmische wellspring on 'On the Road', bending fictile Berlin school synths and organ sounds around cavernous percussive clonks. And although 'River View' is gloomy on the surface, its soup of glitchy rhythms, harsh croaks and brassy, Cluster-like blasts conjures a complex picture, unveiling the peculiar beauty of an unseen microcosm. Lowe enhances the rhythms and drones of a natural world that's easy for most of us to ignore, using the language of electro-acoustic music to tap into its inherent abstraction. Unregulated and unpredictable, the grasshopper's ecosystem is imagined by Lowe as a place where conventional tonality and rhythm is mostly absent, so using xenharmonic washes and unexpected blasts of gristly noise alongside more trackable elements, he subtly suggests the anxiety between the insects' reality and our own. On 'Crossover World', one of the score's most generous pieces, dissonant synthesized waves crash into animal calls and woodblock knocks, and buzzing shakers collide with blippy, drippy modular phrases. This contrasts with 'Grasshopper World', a brief, quiet interlude that sounds isolated and remote.
And the score never stops surprising - before it's over, Lowe provides an ambitious set of longer-form works that almost work as an album in their own right. 'Dawn Of The Swarm / Work Dream' is an eerie, moonlit lament that sounds like Tangerine Dream in an underground dungeon, 'The Swarm / After The Swarm' dissolves majestic orchestral flourishes into a slop of glitched beat sequences and serrated synths, and 'Marketplace' captures the hustle of Uganda with chiming bleeps that are inevitably swallowed by foreboding drones. Bold and filled with Lowe's unique personal touches, 'Grasshopper Republic' is one of those scores that comes around all too infrequently, meeting the intelligent, empathetic film on its own terms and never missing an opportunity to challenge and surprise us. Biggest recommendation.