Koenraad Ecker and Frederik Meulyzer make their Subtext debut with “Carbon“.

The Belgian duet, formerly known as Stray Dogs, have released works such as Wasteland, recorded in deconsecrated church in Antwerp and Kalkar, recorded in the cooling tower of a former power station in Germany. More recently, they released And The Day Began To Walk on Kvitnu record. But their long-standing friendship has already led them to create other performances and albums such as their first appearance with Intangible States in 2010 and Animal in 2012. A few months ago, we had the chance and pleasure to interview them about their common project Stray Dogs.

Koenraad Ecker works in the fields of electro-acoustic music, field recording, radio plays, stage performance and text. Together with Andrea Taeggi, he is part of the Opal Tapes-affiliated duo Lumisokea. His output encompasses studio albums, audiovisual installations, texts, performances, and sound design for film.

Frederik Meulyzer is a percussionist active in projects including Belgian jazz band Hamster Axis of the One-Click Panther, contemporary music and theatre company Post uit Hessdalen, and experimental psych-krautrock band Slumberland. 

Each of them traces very distinct paths, which is almost certainly highly rewarding when meeting for specific collaborations. What characterizes this duo most, whether they are Stray Dogs or they choose to direct under their names, Ecker & Meulyser, is their ability to narrate, an uncommon skill for artists who choose to work with concrete sounds. Their pieces all tell us a story, a passage or a moment undoubtedly resulting from a reflection.

As reported in the press, Carbon is Based on field recordings made at Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a secure seed bank located on the island of Spitsbergen, Carbon grapples with the many contradictions that lie at the heart of our shift into the capitalocene.

The project began in 2017, when Ecker and Meulyzer scored the performance “Frozen Songs,” a commission by Zero Visibility Dance Company led by Ina Christel Johannessen.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was conceived of as an effort to preserve copies of seeds from key crop varieties, ensuring their persistence in the event of large-scale crises. Yet the area is warming faster than anywhere else on earth, causing the permafrost to melt and putting the seed vault at risk.

Across from the Seed Vault lie the decrepit remnants of Svalbard’s mining activities of the early 20th century; Carbon wrestles with the incongruities nestled in the town’s landscape. Reflecting on dissonances of stasis and change, closeness and distance, enclosure and expanse, as well as cynicism and hope, Ecker and Meulyzer consider the urgency of our situation while trying to sidestep all-too popular depictions of dystopia. In Ecker’s own words, “we don’t have the luxury to afford that kind of pessimism.”

From close, supple sounds to cold, brutal sonics, Carbon meditates on the many challenging questions and contradictions raised by the Seed Vault and its surroundings—a landscape that embodies and makes visible the many intertwined phenomena that shape our current predicament.

Listen to the first excerpt Growth, release Date is the 18th of November.