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Coelacanth The Glass Sponge

Music In Review by Andrew Culler, Volume 06 / Issue 40, October 12, 2003

23five came into the public eye as the label vehicle for sound artist-types, peddling the kind of stuff I'd see in the MoMA gift shop and pass by thinking it just wouldn't be the same outside an austere gallery space. Now only 6 releases into stride, the label has proved me wrong several times over. One needs only to hear Furudate & Zbigniew's World As Will II to see why. The opening minutes of Coelacanth's sophomore release, however, left me with second, or rather third, thoughts. The Glass Sponge begins with a sparse scraping, thumping, and clanging that seems on the brink the ever-arty black hole of inaccessibility. After a few minutes, droning bell tones and tempered feedback ease their way in, making the piece more substantial before, as quickly as it began, the music fades into silence. Those opening bits were merely a prelude to the real meat of track, a sort of second act comprised of layered static and an enriched texture of lulling feedback and prolonged bell tones. Stuttering vocal utterings rise from drone and static layers that sound truly oceanic. Song titles like "The Leaden Sea" and "The Violet Shell and Its Raft" lend a marine theme to The Glass Sponge that feels apt in relation to the music. (The name Coelacanth, also, refers to a prehistoric fish recently discovered to still exist). All four tracks exhibit an approach to drone music that is both texturally rich and emotionally resonant. Tracks range from gentle, inviting trips across static that gurgles and glimmers like actual liquid to eerie passages where hollow drones and squealing feedback rise from the depths. The Glass Sponge is host to a multitude of bizarre, untraceable sounds as well. Various throbbings, tinkerings, and knockings find comfortable home in Coelacanth's sound world, given overture in the album's first moments, making it increasingly hard to believe that any of this was gathered from public performance as the notes describe. This is beautiful, thoroughly engaging, and unique music, no doubt more appropriate headphone music for pretending your bed is a liferaft than for strolling the museum floor.

NB. Neither Loren and I have ever incorporated our voices into our recordings, although we are flattered that Mr. Culler would assume that our voices would be as 'oceanic' as our sounds.