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Photo by Guilherme Santos
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Photo by Guilherme Santos
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Photo by Guilherme Santos

Dasychira: Beyond the Bounds of Simulation

October 1, 2020
Text by Jakob Dibold
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Photo by Guilherme Santos

Adrian Martens, better-known as Dasychira, talks about their debut album, encounters with the paranormal, spirituality in music and Yu-Gi-Oh!.

With last year’s »xDream«, Dasychira sharpened their profile as an experimental, yet conceptually consistent musician and artist. Not only does the successor to the EPs »Immolated« (2017) and »Haptics« (2018) compellingly merge electronic club sounds with playfully naïve, yet harmonically twisted dreamscapes, it also resulted in a variety of visually challenging music videos as well as the production of plushies. Having lived and worked in New York City, Dasychira is currently based in The Netherlands, and is a founding member of the collective unseelie. Together with Yikii, they will release »DASYIKIILAND« later this year.

Your record »xDream« opens with a track called »Toon World« — I read it as a reference to the Yu-Gi-Oh! card of the same name. Just like the card, the opener provides a portal-like atmosphere and invites the listeners to a very intimate world. Is »xDream« a Special Summoning, speaking in Yu-Gi-Oh terms? It’s a bit less ‘clubby’ and dreamier, but also eerie, with music box vibes and screams from afar…

»xDream« is a spell card that opens a fold-out storybook filled with ghastly clownish creatures. I like to think of »Toon World« as a ritual that activates an unspeakable power that must be dealt with. Similar to the character Pegasus’ Toon deck in the Yu-Gi-Oh! series, the Toon World cannot be put to rest by defeating one of the monsters, but, the whole castle of creatures must be destroyed.

Making this album was an unearthing of anguish from within, revisiting distant remembrances to summon a force strong enough to battle the illusion of a pre-assigned identity. In order to reconstruct the hologram I had come to understand as “myself”, I had to get in touch with my own inner graveyard deck to remind myself of a truth known many chapters ago in life. During that time, I could see beyond the smog of expectation, but when I had to put the cards and that version of myself away, everything curled up back into the book and snapped shut. This record is an awakening, something that goes far beyond the limitations of the club or even physical reality. It is as much a nightmarish collection of lullabies as it is a journey into new sonic territory. I’m not interested in my music being put in any box but rather, opening a Pandora’s box of otherworldly expression.

Speaking of which, »Pandora« is one of three songs on the album that feature Yikii. For its music video that you have recently released, you visited Fort Tilden, a former US Army facility with lots of abandoned bunkers. What were you hoping to find there?

I’ve always been obsessed with this comical fascination of the paranormal. When I watch something on YouTube, for example, The Elevator Game, there’s always something funny about the whole dimension of »What if this actually works?« or »What if these ghosts actually exist?« It’s similar to going to a movie theater and hearing an audience laugh their way through a horror film. Maybe we laugh because we don’t want to admit that we’re afraid, or because the idea of revealing something mystical feels so ridiculous. There is no concrete evidence of the spirits that dwell in the ether, so in a way the absurdity of the discovery feels humorous, thrilling, and scary. This curiosity is something that has carried me through many haunting moments.

I think I was hoping to find a doorway between the cosmic plane, on which we exist on a day-to-day basis, and another world. Yet, once that doorway is opened, there’s a timer on how long you can handle the intensity of that energy. I like to think that the divinity of artistic creation is not something that we can attribute to our world but rather something that comes from elsewhere. I’m experimenting with communicating the frequencies of the psychic realm. My artistic practice stems from my experiences, so every opportunity I can connect with this alternate reality is an opportunity for creation.

When we were scouting Fort Tilden, we met a shaman living in one of the bunkers, who showed us around and warned us of the spirits dwelling within. I think we awakened a lot of sleeping energies with our fireworks, lights and chaotic excitement when we returned to shoot. Some of our gear got damaged and we discovered strange objects and writing on the walls as we progressed further into the bunker. On the final day I remember feeling more jumpy than before, standing at the far end of the bunker and feeling as if there were cold hands trying to clutch me through the gate while I stood with the camera. I was dazed for a few minutes before my friend called out to me and I snapped out of my hypnotic state. Moments like that give me so much to explore in my craft. Music is almost like a ghost art, it doesn’t exist in a bound physical form, but it can give you a physical sensation similar to the experience I had filming »Pandora«.

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Photo by Guilherme Santos

Since you once talked about how insects have always helped people to understand and shape their spirituality, I can imagine why you picked »Dasychira« as your moniker — when you google it, you can also learn quite a lot about moths. When you write, produce and perform music, do you aim to liberate your spiritual self? With your close collaboration with Yikii a new name has evolved — how much of your innermost does surface when both of you work together as DASYIKII?

Music and art are the language of the soul, as they are both eternal. In a sense I feel like a spirit controlling a mech, which allows me to project my consciousness and engage with others within this collective sphere. However, I think it’s often too easy to get caught up in the simulation and lose track of your own truth. Trusting instinct and intuition takes guts, because sometimes it goes outside the bounds of the simulation. Going beyond requires courage and the curiosity to question our understanding of reality. Although curiosity is a tease, like ghost hunting, it can lead you to a place of deep realization before quickly evaporating. You have to face that realization in order to set yourself free — like the strength it must take for a moth to emerge from the cocoon.

Yikii and I have always connected on the wavelength of stepping outside of the simulation and embracing the unknown in cathartic fluidity. Often there is no reason behind it, besides trusting that gut feeling. By having faith in the infinite possibilities of creation, embracing hope, and dusting off the forgotten trail to destiny — we reveal our innermost worlds from a new perspective. Our upcoming album, »DASYIKIILAND«, has already taught us more about ourselves than we thought we knew.

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Photo by Guilherme Santos

Do you plan to further explore different media? Although you quit your film studies, you seem to increasingly experiment with form and imagery in multidisciplinary fashion — alone and collectively, be it plushies or unseelie.

I feel as though my artistic practice can be translated into any form, but recently I’ve been particularly interested in puppetry, toy making, writing, and performance. To me, storytelling is the most powerful mechanism for understanding abstract notions. When you’re immersed in a story, the empathy or understanding you have for a character to overcome their battles can influence, teach, and inspire you to think differently about your life and get out of your own head. As long as I can maintain a sense of fluidity while applying narrative structures to my work, I feel confident that I can unlock understandings of the world’s magic and mystery.

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture.