HMS003 CD Helen Scarsdale
The Bay Area-based Coelacanth is Loren Chasse of the Jewelled
Antler Collective and Jim Haynes, an artist and a critic for
The Wire. The duo's live shows often feature complex installations,
but judging from their third recording Mud Wall, their
music is intriguing enough without them.
How you hear Mud Wall will mostly depend on how loud
it's playing. At a very low volume, it's an appliance
blending in nicely with your air conditioner or refrigerator.
Turn the volume up a bit, and you'll detect a trace of
the textural improvisations of AMM, whose influence Coelacanth
acknowledges. Play it loud and it could almost be an early electronic
piece by Iannis Xenakis (though Mud Wall is never quite
as aggressive as tha comparison suggests). With the volume up,
Coelacanth's music is vaguely machine-like but coated in
fuzz, composed of components that sound like they're straining
to break out of the intricately stacked layers. These layers,
along with a non-hierarchical approach to organization in which
no individual part is designed to
stand out above the rest, give Mud Wall a depth that
albums of its kind sometimes lack. It's possible to hear
the album in a different way with each listen by focusing each
time on different components.
The sounds Coelacanth uses, which range from concréte-like
clangs to pitchless whooshes that sound like gale-force winds,
are compelling, too: They're timbrally colorful without
obviously sounding like anyone else. The pacing of Mud Wall
also works well, as Coelacanth employs a variety of textures
over the course of an hour-long work while still managing to
shift smoothly from one to the next. Mud Wall is an excellent
album of subtle and very human-sounding drones, and it fits
in well alongside works by the best artists of Coelacanth's
kind, such as AMM and Jason Lescalleet.