Sunday, May 06, 2012


Time to discuss a couple of choice COIL sides, don't you think? Back in the dark ages, or approx. 20 years ago or so, I was a big spruiker for all things Current 93 and Nurse With Wound. I continue my fandom for both acts, although I will admit that neither "band" has graced my ears much the past 5 years or more. Still, their albums - and there's quite a few of them - continue to sit in my collection gathering dust, as I figure I will get back on the horse again in this lifetime and give them all a hardy spin. Coil, the duo of John/Jhonn Balance (sic) and ex-Gristler Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson, fit snugly within the same "scene" which C93 and NWW built around themselves, although I never went nuts for them the way I did their brethren back in the day. All three acts make music of a vastly different nature to each other, even if they have shared some manner of membership or gig bills or indeed sides to LPs in their time: Current 93 developed from being a dark, tribalistic and drone-laden "dark wave" electronic act to becoming the mouthpiece for David Tibet's eccentric, apocalyptic rants, their music being much more in the avant-folk realm of Comus, Jan Dukes de Grey and Incredible String Band than anything you'd label "industrial"; Stephen Stapleton's output with Nurse With Wound, whilst eclectic, has always hovered in the Kraut-oriented headspace for almost 35 years; and Coil? The duo does not exist anymore - Balance died whilst intoxicated in a domestic accident in 2004, Christopherson passed away in his sleep two years ago - but their music went through different stages, some which appeal, some which don't. Their output in their lifetime was fairly massive, from the soundtrack to Clive Barker's 1987 pic, Hellraiser (the music wasn't actually used on the soundtrack, but it was composed for it. The studio allegedley got cold feet at the last minute) to their "acid house" phase to their indie hit of 1991, Love's Secret Domain, to the dark drones of their later material, it's an inconsistent mix, but there's enough great stuff in there to be mighty curious. At this stage, so far as I can tell, pretty much none of it is currently in print. It's a small tragedy that no one has bothered to procure the rights to their catalogue after the deaths of both members, but I can only assume such a situation can't hold out forever. At this stage, there are few releases in their catalogue you won't find yourself bidding for on ebay, if you so please, although you can also find a swag of it to download on blogs (something I don't usually ever recommend to anyone reading this blog, being a strong believer in intellectual copyright, but then again, this material also happens to be out of print, and I'm also a strong believer that you shouldn't have to pay $100 for these things on auction sites).
Lately, as in the previous 6 months, my ears have been ensconsed in some of Coil's more drone-based works, and there's a few discs I could really recommend you hunt down in one form or another: Astral Disaster and Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 1, both from 1999, Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 2 from 2000, and both Live Three and Live Four from 2003. Their catalogue is a goddamn confusing maze, a mixture of proper studio albums, live albums, remixes, compilations, bootlegs and even those recorded under pseudonyms/aliases. If you can make sense of it, then you're doing better than me. I don't possess an extensive collection of Coil discs in physical form - 5 or 6 - and my copies of both Musick To Play... volumes are mere downloads which exist on my iphone (fer chrissake!!), but the albums just mentioned are ones which can be vouched for. You may wonder why the music of Coil has taken my fancy when most of the sounds I'm knee-deep in consists of old blues and jazz and '80s SST relics. It's because Coil's better works contain an awesome psychedelic aura which place them in the league of the best Kraut bands of yore; compositionally, both Balance and Sleazy knew the art of building up a piece of music from its basic elements into a fully defined whole which worked. This isn't rock & roll as we know it; it's more about electronic layers creating a musical narrative, and regardless of your interest in homosexual pagan rituals, Coil's best works are so much more than mere industrial music cliches, or music designed solely for depressing single males in trenchcoats. You can try spinning these tracks below for the verdict. The 22-minute "The Mothership & The Fatherland" is an excellent slab of electro-drone which could've been lifted from an early Cluster disc; and "Are You Shivering?", from both Music To Play... Vol. 1 and Live Four is as icy cold as its title and all the better for it. "Red Birds Will Fly Out East And Destroy Paris In A Night", also from Vol. 1, sees them dabbling into washes of cyclical synth notes like a late '70s Tangerine Dream score, the manner in which the song evolves an awesome thing to behold. My musical distraction with the duo known as Coil has been a very positive thing. If you haven't tried it yet, then there's no time like now.



1 comment:

Pig State Recon said...

All great records you've mentioned here, though I could pick another half dozen COIL CDs I love revisiting as well. Despite the England's Hidden Reverse book, it's important COIL are remembered for something more than just their connections to NWW and C93. They were totally singular in vision, sound, and intensity. RIP.