Live at Seventh Annual Activating the Medium festival 2004, Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo
Format: MP3 128kbps
Recorded by: Randy Yau
November 16, 2003
The choice of a band name carries certain implications. One would not, for example, accept a band called Mastodon if they played Belle & Sebastian-style tweephonics. Not even if it was presented ironically. So when I saw this project – band, whatever you care to call – it I expected to feel like I was on the bottom of the Marianas Trench in a submersible, staring some Cambrian-era plated fish in its beady eyes. And I was not disappointed, Coelacanth keeps their end of the implied bargain.
Loren Chasse, of Jewelled Antler fame, is one half of Coelacanth along with Jim Haynes, Wire contributor and record guy at Aquarius in San Francisco. And though I am hesitant to recommend further Chasse-related work to anyone who earns less than the minimum NBA rookie salary or has less time to kill than Ed McMahon, the quality of this music certainly marks Chasse as a sound arranger of no mean skills. Take my word for it when I tell you that I listen to more aquatic-themed ambient music than the average bear. And most of it is, to work the metaphor to death, watery and weak. Chasse and Haynes inject some real grit into The Glass Sponge. The seven tracks are organized around shimmers and curtains of guitar-sourced sounds, and spotted with compact grains of noise. You get the impression of clouds of plankton, black plumes of superheated chemicals and the odd shaft of light penetrating the briny deep. There is a feeling of both claustrophobic pressure and suspension here, as the sounds appear and then recede across the listening field. -- Bruce Adams
Signal To Noise
issue 32, Winter 2004
Coelacanth pulse further into the abstract. The duo of Loren Chasse and Jim Haynes, their second disc The Glass Sponge uses sound as allegory for the object in question. Documents of various performances 2001 and 2002 are chewed through manipulations and banks of effects to resemble a slurried fog of haze, rendering sources delirious: a vision of the seabed caught through night fog, punctured by abject scratchings. Chasse's fondness for field recordings rears its head throughout the recording, most significantly in "The Hexactinellidae," where a bank of cicadas and insects are wrought in spatial disarray, multiplying in volume and panning across the stereo spectrum. If Coelacanth's intent was to abstractly invoke the glass sponge of the title, then full marks: their compositions are exquisitely rendered and shot through with electricity. -- Jon Dale
The Sound Projector
Issue 13, 2005
These two guys are Loren Chasse and Jim Haynes. Once again as Coelacanth they manage to produce something translucently beautiful, and have the single-mindedness needed to sustain such extreme forms of sound art. Continuing with considerable tenacity to plough their furrow, they explore the tiny and obscure channel of sound art they have chosen. Like jgrzinich, they too reserve the right to retain a great deal of mystery as to their doings. All we know from this is that it's pretty small-scale; a specialist technician was required, and is credited, to 'rescue sounds that tried very hard to make themselves disappear.' Otherwise, the events documented on The Glass Sponge are simply 'unspecified public and private performances.' Make of this what you will.
Having some familiarity with the work of Coelacanth (and of their nearest antecedent id battery), I usually have this image of the artists at work burrowing like moles in remote and unattractive zones in cities or countryside, depending on thier travelcard range... once therem striving hard to locate (perhaps with microphones) tiny events which can scarcely be said to be happening at all. Said events are captured and subsequently re-engineered into sonic entities. Layer them all toegther and you have these uncanny products, utterly alien reports from obscure corners, compellingly beautiful, intimate airless, fully formed. We should note that their work rarely appears to be artificed; it betrays little evidence of human intervention. List of things that are meat and drink to the Coelacanth boys include mould growth, rust stains, pockets of dust, cobwebs mists rising, peeling paint, decaying foodstuffs, and the gradual erosion of stone by the sea.
Water imagery abounds; yet apparently 'very little water spilled into the recording' of this CD. Of the four tracks, "The Hexactinellidae" is particularly strange, as though these name monsters are some form of microscopic life teeming in the depths of the ocean, whilst up above the surface miniature foghorns are blowing. Perhaps, these are inhabitants of "The Leaden Sea," another environment they describe. Ay, it's fascinating enough to sit and contemplate their processes, but the finished recordings unleash a listener's imagination in many unexpected ways. "The Electric Hydrometer" is more of a portrait of scientific / magical device used to measure the water; but we're back to sea-faring realms with "The Violet Shell and its Raft," an almost heart-hending episode of an ocean voyage undertaken by the smallest of vulnerable creatures, against impossible odds, yet still comes through it alive... life endures yet. I never thought about it before, but Coelacanth is of course the name of a prehistoric fish long thought to be extinct, until a specimen was capture in the Chalumna river near South Africa in 1938. In like manner, Jim Haynes and Loren Chasse capture and preserve rare sounds swimming in our own environment thought to be extinct... or in some cases non-existent! -- Ed Pinsent
The 23five Live Archive
Since 1993, 23five has hosted numerous performances and installations from a wide range of sound artists. The following selection of MP3s represents a growing library of audio documentation from these events, which mostly take part in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. While we are making these MP3s free to the public with the blessings of the artists in question, we hope that you will consider donating to help offset the costs of the server space and help insure that 23five can continue to offer adventurous programming for years to come.