In the not-untrue words of an affable, Trinidadian-lilted cartoon crab named Sebastian: "Darling, it's better down where it's wetter (under the sea)."
That's probably why Colin Foord and J.D. McKay have spent the better part of 13 years mulling over highly creative ways to protect Miami's fragile coastal ecosystems and their surreal beauty as the experimental art collective Coral Morphologic.
Released August 28 on Discosoma Records (Foord and McKay's label for distributing local sounds), Coral Morphologic 2 is the pair's latest tribute to the entrancing underwater worlds of Biscayne Bay, adding to a colorful catalog of films, prints, music, and merch dedicated to presenting corals' "wonder and beauty amidst all the doom."
While putting together their collaborative audiovisual album with Animal Collective in 2018, "Colin and I started to refine what our coral movies look like, putting a heavy emphasis on the illusion of scale," McKay says of the new album's origins. "We always had the intention of making a sister movie to Tangerine Reef, so I set about creating soundtracks for a future movie with an underwater, outer-space sound."
Homing in on Coral Morphologic's now-signature wide-angle coral images that transform tiny sea creatures into vast, psychedelic landscapes, Coral Morphologic 2 continues the exploration of that space. The droning, 18-minute album was inspired by corals' "cosmic ability to synchronize their lives to Earth's daily rotation upon its axis, the Moon's monthly trip around Earth, and Earth's yearly orbit of the Sun." It takes cues from sci-fi novel book covers and original Coral Morphologic photography placed around the studio.
Like 2018's CM 1 (reissue coming in early October), CM 2 features nine tracks presented as a singular listening experience, with each track flowing into the next. The intention is to create soundscapes for a future CM movie soundtrack.
"So each song, or rather scene, is designed to accompany our coral imagery," McKay explains.
Recording, mixing, and mastering took around two years, with hurricane seasons dragging out the process.
The bass is deep on CM 2. Mastered by Adam McDaniel at Drop of Sun Studios in Asheville, North Carolina, it's intended to sound just as undulating and crisp streaming over the internet with headphones as it does booming from a home hi-fi.
"Until the proper movie is released, the best way to listen to these jams is in a dark room with Coral Morphologic videos cast onto a wall," McKay says.
An apt visual accompaniment to CM 2 might be Coral City Camera, the team's live video feed of an active reef in Biscayne Bay launched in the earlier stages of the pandemic. Currently, all of Coral Morphologic's fundraising (including new album sales) goes to the project, the maintenance of which has swallowed up most of their time in quarantine.
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At any given moment, 250 to 500 viewers are tuned in to Coral City Camera from around the world, chatting on YouTube about what they see and posting timestamps of different wildlife the camera catches, McKay says. Since beginning the project, Foord has also collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to test a few of his long-running scientific hypotheses about the urban corals living in Biscayne Bay, "with some really amazing results," according to McKay.
The digital version of Coral Morphologic 2 is available for download and unlimited streaming for $5. Collector's editions include an 18-by-24-inch poster version of the album artwork created by Robert Beatty ($25) and a set of nine five-by-five-inch Coral Morphologic photographs, each of which represents a track on the album ($35).
"Our whole approach to environmental conservation is to inspire the public via pop-culture staples like movies, art, and music, and CM 2 is an example of how all these mediums mesh," McKay says.
And, as with all of Coral Morphologic's efforts to elevate mysterious, hidden underwater worlds, with CM 2, the duo hopes that "people's curiosity and empathy will compel them to take direct environmental action to help save the world's reefs."