COELACANTH
THE GLASS SPONGE
CD 23five 004

reviewed by P. Eldritch for E/I Magazine, issue 2, 2004

Static music or a music of static? Loren Chasse, education director for sound art collective 23five, teacher, and half of id battery with Brandon LaBelle, and Jim Haynes, label editorial director, concept artist, and scribe for The Wire, truck in a nebulous sort of "magic realism" as drone performance duo Coelacanth. Chasse's approach towards sound is "to activate areas of a landscpae and the objects in them as instruments"; Haynes explores what he terms "the poetics of decay," having adopted a working method of "rusting things" to achieve physical effects. Are these goals reached? Mostly. Riding a horizon of processed machine dread throughout the disc's four lengthy tracks are sounds resembling shards of glass caught in a gas dryer, all manners of grit, hiss, and mist like a thousand hornets massing for migration, and an onslaught of arms and legs attacking microphones then data-crunching the residue into shapes and sounds tacitly cold and alien. Nominally, this is "drone" music, which implies minimalism as well, but Chasse and Haynes vest too much significance in bastardizing their surroundings, in using the entire performance space as instrument (expounding on Eno's old saw of using the studio as instrument), to mark off the constantly evolving tableaux as a living object that breathes, fluctuates, and reacts to stimuli. The duo provides such stimuli, though one wonders about its efficacy post-context, an issue that plagues many an improvising soundscraper when the installation's recording is removed from said installation. Still, the buzzing metals and vibrating tendrils of sound on display here leave no doubt as to the legitimacy of the art piece with a better chance at longetivity than its extinct namesake.

NB. As most should know, the Coelacanth is far from extinct. In the 1940, a young ictheologist discovered the ancient fish off the coast of Madagascar. Since then, the creature has been found thriving in the murky depths of the world's oceans. Mr. Eldritch should have paid more attention in science class, and his observation skills would be vastly improved.