Indie rock namesake Sparklehorse, led by the late Mark Linkous, and glitch artist Christian Fennesz combined their disparate sounds to an amazing effect for this installment in Konkurrent’s Fishtank series.
Opening track “Music Box for Snakes” also stands as the album’s strongest, where a simple music box melody stands as the centerpiece for swirling ambient sections. The song swells and fleshes itself out around this skeleton, meandering for a few minutes until it expertly blossoms before the five and a half-minute mark. At this point, ethereal synths break through the seemingly directionless atmosphere and truly open up the color of the track, making for one of the most beautiful moments on the entire album.
While “Music Box for Snakes” may be the release’s strongest track in my opinion, the rest of the album certainly measures up. “Goodnight Sweetheart” is a terribly sad track that focuses on Linkous’ tender, fragile vocals and the heartbreaking manta of the track’s name repeated over and over. “Shai-Hulud” bounces around jarring glitches until it eventually finds a slanted groove that eventually gives way to an echoing noise section that feels simultaneously damning and warm. Clocking in at 11 minutes, “NC Bongo Buddy” is the most rock-oriented In the Fishtank 15 gets, trading off sections of distorted electric guitar for Fennesz’s robotic glitches and noise. The track may be a bit long, but it feels like the first moment Sparklehorse truly breaks through the haze of ambient soundscapes and makes the album feel like a balanced collaboration.
And the fact that Fennesz seemingly overpowers Sparklehorse does make this album feel a bit lopsided. However, the music that results from the collaboration is still brimming with emotion and ingenuity. Ultimately, In the Fishtank 15 is far from a perfect release, yet it is a lovely asterisk in the careers of two different yet beloved artists.