Feb 17, 2010

Coelacanth. The Chronograph.

Joseph Beuys collected objects he considered "psychic batteries"—piles of peat blocks, a copper cast of a mammoth's tooth holding a heating element—which, if hooked directly to a tape recorder, might have made the noises on this record.

Coelacanth manipulate environmental recordings to impenetrable effect, until they seem to consist not of known elements but of the talismanic patina those elements acquire through decay. It's ambient, though not in the usual lovely, drifting, post-Eno manner. They've completely sidestepped any known maps of musical structure. I'd call it minimal, but only in the sense that—once broken down into its sub-atomic elements—this is the finest division of anything that might still be called music.

After the Taj Mahal Travelers, this may be the most way-out thing I've posted. It creates its own sound-space, integrating itself into your environment rather than floating overtop or hovering in the background. It's just there. As Marge Simpson once profoundly said, "Whatever it does, it's doing it now".

Everything sounds fragile. Like with William Basinski's Disintegration Loops, we're immersed in decay, but where his tapes made beautiful, tragic opera out of the sound of their own death, Coelacanth is content to draw chalk outlines around the dead bodies of microscopic, deep-sea bone machines.

A Peculiar Stone or the Iron Molecule makes speaker hum sound organic, if not a little bit creepy. Something's happening in the dark—a blind wraith reaching for a tin bowl on the stone floor of an abandoned building. But only for a minute. Eventually it settles into something like the circuitous wobble of crackling vinyl. We may very well be listening to the vastly amplified sound of oxidation. Method of Extracting a Live Wire might be a deep-sea recording of some new form of planktonic life. How Bodies Become Phosphorescent whirrs and squeaks like an army of miniature scissors snipping away at a rusty playground whirlygig, collapses into the dead-eyed tapping of some exoskeletal machine scratching out a graph that records the flow of silt through a sieve, and then spins clockwork gears behind the pulsing, high-pitched drone of cricket violins. Vaporization of a Convergence unleashes all of of Coelacanth's tiny monsters at once, chittering away until they gently burrow into the sea-floor with a deep sigh.

Unlike a lot of experimental bands that fuss over field recordings and abstract sound, Coelacanth never lose sight of aesthetics. The Chronograph always remains strangely, magnetically listenable. While not conventionally pretty, or even concerned with creating its own kind of beauty, it does patiently transport you into some undeniably unique and rewarding realms.


Coelacanth website

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