Antinote ‎– ATN039

The people at Antinote are always excited to introduce new names to its roster and Sign Libra, its latest addition, makes no exception to the rule.

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Released under the moniker Sign Libra, Closer to the Equator is the work of Latvian artist and composer Agata Melnikova. Composed for a contemporary ballet at Latvian National Opera in Riga, the music on this record strongly relies on Melnikova’s appreciation of BBC-produced nature documentaries. Projecting the life of each creature that inhabits the British TV-program into her very personal and highly synthetized world, Sign Libra lends these microscopic beings her own voice. Each song works like a musical “tableau” in which the main protagonists – plants and animals – come on stage to play their part in a ballet carefully choreographed by the Latvian artist.

Sign Libra’s mental and musical incarnations of the microcosm of the rainforest have something to do with Software’s album populated by exotic insects and crawling plants, a “Carnaval des Animaux” released on Sky by a MIDI-addicted Hector Berlioz. These microscopic beings incarnate themselves in resonated melodies that echo through a technicolour rainforest, while winds blow through holographic ferns, vines and palms.

Closer To The Equator synthesizes visions panning treetops as the sun’s rays pierce through clouds nearby. Sign Libra takes you into a harmonic world that shines brightly wherever you stand, and offers a genuine synesthetic experience.

The rainforest might appear to be a perfect place for plants to thrive. Yet down here the forest floor is one of the hardest places imaginable for a young plant to begin its life. The canopy above is so thick that only very little sunlight can filter through. But plants on the forest floor need not be passive – if the light does not come to them, they can go to the light. Nevertheless they still have a problem – the light is 50 meters above them, so they must climb. It is much easier to use another plant as a ladder, but they will not get very high, unless they can hold on tight. With every meter they climb, the light gets a little stronger, fueling more growth. In a matter of days these climbers make it to the canopy. Now with light and plentiful supply these plants are able to flourish...

Living in trees and bushes, animals must hide themselves well from predators and be skillful hunters. One of such masters of ambush and mimicry is the praying mantis. Well camouflaged and lightning up quickly, this insect is a highly efficient predator, but it has a worthy enemy – the panther chameleon. Its camouflage is exceptional because it can change skin colour to match its surroundings. During the hunt the chameleon’s eyes move independently to spot prey. It creeps towards its victim until it unleashes a super weapon – its tongue, which shoots out at a speed of 15 meters per second and not only hits but grasps its target...

The life of any Amazonian water lily bloom is short. It opens up in the evening and gives off a strong perfume, which attracts pollinators. Beetles bring with them pollen from other lilies. At night a lily closes its petals and stays closed for the whole of the next day, slowly flashing pink but the beetles will be held captive inside for 24 hours. The following evening the beautiful prison opens its gates, and inmates are free to go. During the stay the flower has showered the beetle with its pollen. Now red and odourless, the flower is no longer attractive to beetles, so they will go in search of white flowers on another plant. When the lily‘s mission is completed, the flower withdraws back to its watery world…

In every living creature’s life there comes a moment when it starts thinking about producing offspring. The way in which stalked-eye flies approach this matter is particularly peculiar. Shortly after they emerge from their pupae, males hide themselves under leaves and begin an extraordinary transformation. They ingest air through their oral cavity and pump it through ducts in the head to the tips of the eyestalks, thereby elongating them while they are still soft and transparent. At dusk both males and females gather, and males compete with each other to control lekking aggregations through a ritualized contest. This contest involves males facing one another and comparing their relative eye spans, often with the front legs spread apart, possibly to emphasize their eyestalk lengths. At the end, the female choice would fall on a male with the longer eyestalks and the winner has the right to mate with all the females nearby...

A small strawberry poison-dart frog has great responsibility to provide each of its offspring a survival in a tropical rainforest. While her fertilised eggs are developing, she and her mate are keeping watch, making sure they are safe from predators. After about 10 days the eggs hatch but the leaf litter is drying out, so the female needs to quickly transport the tadpoles on her back to some water- filled location. She makes a journey across the forest floor to the foot of a tall tree. Then she starts to climb, looking for a particular plant – the bromeliad. Growing high up on a tree, it holds at its center a water repository – a perfect nursery pool for a developing tadpole. But this is just one of the six surviving tadpoles. Once this has been done, the female must rush back down to the forest floor to rescue the others…