CD HMS 003
reviewed by Charlie Wilmoth
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 that 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.