Coil Sea


Born from the mind of Dave Heumann (Arbouretum, Human Bell), Coil Sea came about as a collaborative experiment between some of Baltimore’s finest.

The idea for the Coil Sea record came about after Arbouretum had finished our Summer 2009 European tour. The band had some time off, and I thought it would be interesting to put a session together consisting of musicians that I knew and had played with, but hadn't all played with each other. The goal was to create improvised music without much in the way of set ideas or editorial input from my end, and to hope that we could, over the course of the session, become comfortable enough playing off of each other that something compelling would result. Matthew Pierce (keys) and Michael Lowry (drums) are members of a long-running, mainly instrumental project called Big in Japan, and had invited me to sit in with them one night during a course of a month-long residency they were doing at Baltimore's Windup Space. It was there that I first played with Michael Kuhl, who played percussion both on that gig and the first Coil Sea session. Jimmy Wallace (guitar) was someone I'd first played music with in high school while growing up in Baltimore's suburbs and had subsequently moved to Asheville, NC. We'd continued to play music informally on occasions when either of us were in the other's town for a visit. Walker Teret (bass) and I had played together in Arbouretum, the Anomoanon, and many other projects.

The first session was recorded by Chris and Mickey Freeland on a Saturday in September. "Abyssinia" was the only song from that day I had written a melody for. Everything else was more or less composed on the spot, with the only verbal directions being references to tempo and key. Out of a full day of recording, we chose roughly 1 1/2 hours of music to go through later and edit. The mixing and editing was done first with Mickey Freeland, and later with Rob Girardi at Lord Baltimore Recordings, in the course of various sessions that spanned several months. Much care was taken to preserve the spirit and feel of the original takes, even as effects were added to the original tracks, instruments were brought in and out of the mix, and performances were cut and spliced.

We were then left with about 30 minutes of music – not quite enough in our view to qualify for a release in its own right. A second session was arranged, this time at Lord Baltimore, and based around a melody I had come up with in a Lydian mode. We did three takes, the third one which appears on the record as "Dolphins in the Coil Sea". The track, envisioned as an homage to jazz/noise legend Sonny Sharrock, is unique to the album in that it's almost untouched from the original recording in regard to use of outboard effects or mix automation.

With the record's content all recorded and mixed, the one remaining task was for us to sequence the songs and have them segue into each other, making for a continuous listening experience. There was a momentary hitch when we couldn't get the transition from "Revert to Dirt" quite right, until I remembered that we'd recorded an ambient noise segment in the first session specifically in case such a contingency should arise. This was brought in and cross-faded between the two songs, which created the desired effect and completed the album.