A consistent and hard-working feature of Johannesburg’s left-field electronica scene, Micr.Pluto has been releasing his own take on the genre and beat-music since 2013. With his early music rooted in hip-hop, especially boom bap, Micr.Pluto’s sound has evolved over the years toward the dark and futuristic with his most recent releases, continuing to do so as he keeps experimenting and playing with sound.
Having collaborated with a number of artists over the years, Micr.Pluto furthered his investment into the scene when he, alongside fellow artist Tribal Rebel Ludi and writer Edward Kgosidintsi, founded the record label Subterranean Wavelengths in 2016.
The label has released a broad range of electronic music from artist such as Daev Martian, Eye-On Feather, KAJAMA and Umaah. The Subterranean Wavelengths compilation series highlighted the work of fellow South African experimental beat-makers.
His latest release, Effervescent Lifeforms, a follow-up to 2019’s Sonic Atlas, sees Micr.Pluto explore the sounds which laid the foundation for him as an artist and return to the beat-driven production of his early years.
Created towards the end of 2019, the EP was a release for the producer’s frustrations after a robbery left him without a computer. “I was working on an animation project which was due in a couple of days,” he says. “I had to get a new computer the next day and carry on, there was no time to digest it. I went right back in it. So, the headspace was charged and pissed off and it became this outburst of creativity.”
This frustrating experience would drive and form the basis of the EP’s concept, with this being reflected in the title. “Things can dissolve, and from that, I felt something new regenerated,” says Micr.Pluto. “Hence the sound of the project is a lot of styles and things I was influenced by and grew into. I guess kind of a metamorphic concept that I was exploring. Some kwaito influences, some funk, soul and beat-scene stuff. A bit of everything.” The result is a 5-track EP whose sound is based on yesteryear, but feels like tomorrow.
In order to achieve the experimental, nostalgic yet futuristic beat-driven sound of the EP, Micr.Pluto engaged in a lot of exploration of the different techniques, styles and sounds of these influential genres, creating a host of tracks for him to play with. “I played around a lot with the actual styles. With ‘Strange Bounds,’ around that track, I had also recorded a project with Mx Blouse. They are on some future kwaito dance tip. It was literally creating a lot of tracks focused on a certain aesthetic.”
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Alongside the flows of Tribal Rebel Ludi, the EP also features guitarist and composer Chimurenga and pianist Emamkay who can be heard on tracks such as “Fragments of Light” and “Transit Portal,” allowing Micr.Pluto to once again bring collaborators into his project.
“I felt like it made it fuller, more complete and gave it a bit more of an organic feel instead of it being strictly digital,” says the producer. “Collaborating is also something I’m really big on. I usually collaborate with vocalists, so it was dope to pull in guitarists and composers.”
Opening the EP is the bouncy “Sweeping Ocean Floors,” a track which layers chopped vocals with stabs of an organ and a dreamy melody over lively drums. An off-kilter bass line takes centre stage on “Strange Bounce” which punches through drawn-out synth chords and muted vocal samples. Tribal Rebel Ludi’s eloquent and punchy rhymes dominate the low-slung “Fragments of Light,” a track which, thanks to contributions from live instrumentation, has an added layer of warmth and life. In a similar vein, and driven by a mellow acoustic guitar melody, “Transit Portal” is reminiscent of psychedelic funk, while the closing track “Magnetism” sees a kwaito-reminiscent bassline share the stage with funk drums and a blazing guitar solo.
Apart from this release, Micr.Pluto also helped produce full-length projects for a number of artists. “I have a project with Mx Blouse that I did the bulk of the production on [which is coming out] at the end of the month.”
He also has a number of singles waiting to be released, some of varying styles and others building on the exploration of sounds and styles begun in Effervescent Lifeforms. Subterranean Wavelength is also releasing a number of projects including a full-length release.
“We’ve got a project we produced with a vocalist called Miss Isis, an EP from a new label addition called Hot Gwaai and a bunch of singles from what people have been submitting to the label.”
It is thanks to releases such as Effervescent Lifeforms as well as those he has had a hand in that ensure Micr.Pluto continues to be a consistent feature of South Africa’s electronica scene and can be counted on to deliver fresh and innovative beat-based sonics.