Massive Attack‘s landmark 1998 album Mezzanine celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion, the group is releasing a new version of the album encoded into DNA. The album is being released in the form of a can of matt black spray paint, each of which contains approximately one million copies of the release, according to a press release.
“It’s a creative way to store your back catalogue, although DNA-encoded spray paint is unlikely to be adopted by street artists seeking anonymity,” the duo noted in the press released, possibly in reference to Massive Attack member 3D’s beginnings as a graffiti artist (as well as the longstanding rumors that he might be Banksy).
The press release also includes a statement from Dr. Robert Grass of Zurich’s TurboBeads, who describes the process of encoding the DNA:
“This digital bitstream of the album (0s and 1s) was first translated to 901’065 DNA sequences (A, C, T and Gs), each 105 characters long, and closely following our publication (Grass et al. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015). The 901’065 individual sequences were then chemically synthesised resulting in a synthetic DNA sample, which fully represents the digital bitstream of the album. To enable the mixing of the DNA with the spray can paint and to guarantee information stability, the DNA sequences were encapsulated in synthetic glass fossils (see: here) and then directly added to the spray can. We ensured that every spray can contains at least 0.1 micrograms of the synthetic DNA, which is equivalent to 1 million copies of the album. This is only possible due to the immense data capacity of DNA (about 100 exabytes per gram).”
The group also pointed out that DNA encoding “could be an answer to the problem of archiving the increasing amount of information that the world is creating.” That may be true in the long run but for right now, a DNA encoding of the album sure does seem like a heck of a collector’s item. Check out a photo of the reissue below.