From vinyl to CD and iTunes, the music industry has ceaselessly pioneered new technologies of distribution. The latest step has seen Bristol triphop godfathers Massive Attack encode their 1998 album Mezzanine into DNA. That’s right, using technologies we claim no understanding of, a number of limited spray cans will contain the DNA encoded audio within matte black paint.

“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”, says Massive Attack’s 3D AKA Robert Del Naja.

View this post on Instagram

One million copies in each can @robert3delnaja

A post shared by Massive Attack (@massiveattackofficial) on

As for the actual science behind this all, we nominate Dr Robert Grass of TurboBeads, the man who has spent the last ten years of his career developing a technology allowing for the encapsulation of DNA in nanoscopic glass particles. The development represents a new horizon in the long-term archiving of digital data.

“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. 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 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)”

Get all that? Thought not.