Hmm. A likely story, this. If it’s to be believed, the man behind Coconut Dealers is one Konstantin Shkolnikov, a “rogue naturalist” from the Russian Federation who, in 2011, was gifted a wealth of field recordings by an oceanographer and went on something of a creative spree with them the following year, releasing some of the least Russian-sounding music you can imagine. If it’s not to be believed, well this is still a heck of a collection… and some of the least Russian-sounding music you can imagine.
If you can remember Komodo Haunts, the woozily creepy project of Lincolnshire, UK sound artist Ollie Tutty whose small clutch of tapes were released by Hooker Vision, Sangoplasmo, J&C and the like back in the early 2010’s, then you’ll get some very lucid flashbacks as this self-titled collection warps and washes its way over you. So similar does it sound, in places, to Komodo Haunts releases such as Dance on the Serpent’s Neck or Atoll Plasma that you will be forgiven for thinking Tutty has returned from what would be a 6-year hiatus. Interesting side-fact: the only picture you’ll find of Tutty performing as KH (check his discogs) was taken by yours truly at a show in Lincoln one night with Hering Und Seine Sieben Sachen (God, these memories, man… see what this Coconut Dealers is doing to me. Those were the days, eh?)
Well, all that aside, I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that this is fucking great. The tracks are long and slow; moist with sweat and gritty with sand. But this is not idle background music; close listening reaps multiple rewards, unveiling layer upon salted layer of harmonic bloom as myriad drifting motifs collide and intertwine like so many playful, snaking eels, sending prismatic flashes through cool and musky jungle enclaves.
The tracks here don’t so much develop as proliferate, and the settings and surrounds are abundant with colourful life. “Tropical Miasma 1” glugs prettily, a concerto of raindrops plopping as the chirp of birds echoes on a breeze of splashy tape hiss; “Papaya Waterfall 1” opens beneath the titular stream, cold and clean before emerging slowly into a droplet-spattered scene of verdant mugginess. Here comes Coconut Dealers’ only overt use of percussion, as a dubby tribal beat bounces in from somewhere unseen, no more than the merest hint of humanity carried on the haze to dissipate likewise, like Coral Club (hmm…) wading through thick sheets of perspiration. Cooler is the dock-edge leg-dangler “Island Haze I,” which breathes sea air and watches briny droplets race down bronzed, sand-speckled backs. Inland, “Tropical Miasma 2” crackles with tape hiss, mimicking a million scratching insects in the trees, and wind chimes clank forlornly over avian whistles. There’s so much of it all, all the time – the tracks are saturated both literally and figuratively, drifting by and by from one idyll to another like blown-out slides flickering across a threadbare projection screen.
It’s for this reason that Coconut Dealers’ music is sometimes less immediate than that of, say, Dolphins Into The Future, whose exploratory disposition and tropical stickiness this album shares (and whose first LP was also for Not Not Fun… hmm). Lieven Martens often worked in situ, giving his recordings a kind of stranded authenticity this release can only dream of, and that is precisely the point. On one hand, Coconut Dealers approaches his islands like a man who saw the Bounty advert a couple of times on knock-off VHS; these are facsimiles of fantasies of the far-flung, their heady syrups spilling onto the sand like over-sweet cocktails from hollowed-out husks. But conversely, his sea-faring sojourns, such as “Island Haze 2,” are quite masterful in their evocation of the rhythms of ocean life, bringing to mind bright, silky anemone ribbons waving serenely beneath surging waves. It’s this vaguely out-of-kilter edge – this nagging sense that somehow the backdrop might loose its moorings and fall to the ground – that makes this collection such a mysterious joy.