Posts Tagged ‘Coil’

Cold Spring – 23rd October 2020

The reverence for Coil amongst their fanbase – which if anything has expanded in recent years, and particularly following the death of Peter Christopherson – is quite remarkable. Emerging in 1982 following the demise of Throbbing Gristle, Coil became the primary vehicle for Christopherson and partner John Balance after contributing to the early Psychic TV releases. And perhaps one of the reasons Coil are held in higher esteem than PTV is that their output, while still substantial, was less in volume but subject to a higher quality control, as well as pursuing esoteric experimentalism while largely managing to avoid cringe-inducing indulgence. That, and the fact they pushed so many musical boundaries without being massive tossers in a musical field crowded with individuals whose creative genius was tempered by tendencies toward major-league assholism: P-Orridge should require no real qualification now, and similarly, the shady characters of the industrial and neofolk scenes, not least of all Boyd Rice and Douglas Pearce have long been exposed. And the fact that both members suffered premature deaths only compounds the way their work resonates with fans, who can only contemplate what cuold have been

Everything around the rights to the Coil catalogue is spectacularly complex, and the origins of this compilation aren’t even entirely straightforward, having originally released by Russian label FEELEE, featuring tracks from all their major albums (barring The Ape of Naples which was released after Balance’s untimely death). They were hand-picked by Coil to represent their best work and originally released to mark their first performance in Moscow in 2001.

Subsequently out of print on CD for almost two decades, this edition courtesy of Cold Spring spans Coil’s entire living career, with A Guide For Beginners – The Voice Of Silver and A Guide For Finishers – A Hair Of Gold being made available together in one deluxe set.

As Nick Soulsby observed of Balance and Christopherson, writing for thevinylfactory.com, ‘As Coil they had embarked on a wild ride from industrial origins originating in the post-Throbbing Gristle outfit Psychic TV, through a spell as dancefloor-channelling experimentalists, onward to their destination as the respected priesthood of pagan rite electronica’. And with a career spanning three decades and eighteen studio albums, it can be daunting to know quite how best to make inroads, so a ‘Best of’ makes sense.

Disc one (A Guide for Beginners) spans their later career, while disc two (A Guide for Finishers) delves deeper towards their origins, and together, in a slightly mixed-up reverse chronology, we’re able to trade their development, and what’s most interesting and apparent is their range and their willingness to explore.

Singling out tracks from a collection that spans twenty tracks and a monster running time, but emerging from the swathe of brooding dark ambience and esotericism, ‘Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)’ stalks brooding neofolk territory, dark, stark, and portentous, but without any of the nationalistic bullshit that often typifies the genre, while ‘Where Are You’ is the soundtrack to psychosis, an eerily minimal backing creeping uncomfortably behind a monotone monologue that’s unsettling and uncomfortable.

Brooding piano and shrieking woodwind and horns forge haunting soundscapes while elsewhere, minimal two-note organ and trilling electronic extranea provide the backdrop to mesmerising spoken-word narratives. Cut-up samples and fragments drift in and out (no surprise for a band photographed with William Burroughs, who had an album released on Industrial Records in 1981) and the thing that really comes across most powerfully from this compilation is that while so any ‘experimental’ and ‘industrial’ acts were – and are – pretty dull, Coil were consistently engaging, focuses on tone and resonance, and ever-evolving.

It would be hard to improve on a selection picked by the artists in terms of what can be considered the best representation of their output, and bias aside, this is hard to fault by way of an introduction.

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COIL A Guide For Beginners - A Guide For Finishers - Lo res album cover for web

Hallow Ground – HG2001 – 28th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Electric Sewer Age began as a collaborative project between Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, and Coil) and Danny Hyde, who continued the project together with John Deek, who subsequently passed away in 2013. It’s perhaps only natural that a sense of bleakness, of darkness, of a certain sense of grief permeates Electric Sewer Age, as a project strewn with loss.

Contemplating Nothingness is the third release by Electric Sewer Age, and the second one that Hyde finished alone, following on from Bad White Corpuscle, originally released in 2014, and re-released in 2016.

Contemplating Nothingness is pitched as ‘a lysergic tapestry culled from the deep end of the collective pop cultural unconscious’. It begins with some spaced-out trippy, doodly interweaving drones and some disorientating analogue latticeworks and shuffling electronic judderings providing the backdrop to some reverby, echoic vocals before transitioning into woozy dance territory, a stammering heartbeat bass beat fluttering beneath shifting layers of disquiet which collide with elliptical elisions to dance tropes.

‘Got some bad news this morning / which in turn made my day’, Hyde wheezes in a distorted Al Jourgensen-style vocal on ‘Whose Gonna Save my Soul’. I try not to wince too hard and the grammatical error and instead focus on the dark atmospherics the song conjured. Moreover, this single line encapsulates the contradictions which stand at the very foundations of this album, and the track itself delves into swampy dark ambience, dominated by a rhythmic wash, with Eastern motifs twisting in and out sporadically amidst a lower-end washing ebb and flow while the vocal, half-buried, is detached, distant.

Like its predecessor, Contemplating Nothingness is dark and difficult. Slow beats that land somewhere between heavy hip-hop, trip-hop and industrial drive ‘Chebo’, a delirious drag of chimes and electronic ululations. ‘Surrender to the Crags’ plunges into dark, dank, murkiness, but retains that eastern vibe that calls to mind both The Master Musicians of Joujouka and the otherness of the Tangiers scene in the 50s and 60s as depicted by William Burroughs.

‘Self Doubting Trip’ brings a dark intensity that will likely resonate for many: it’s claustrophobic and uncomfortable, and stands as something of a highlight in the way it attacks the psyche. You hate yourself enough already, but there’s a slight comfort in knowing your self-flagellation is not unique as you chastise yourself for simply living.

It makes the last track, ‘Dekotour’, feel like an electropop breeze by comparison, the chiming synth tones more early Depeche Mode than anything, but they bend, warp, twist and weave across one another to create a difficult knot of noise, with a thick, gloopy bass rising into the increasingly tangled textures.

There’s a certain nihilism at the heart of Contemplating Nothingness, which extends beyond merely the title and its implications of introverted emptiness, but it’s paired with a less certain and altogether less tangible levity which lifts it above dark ambience and into a space that’s given to contemplation and awakening. While ultimately minimal, there is variety and depth on display here, making for an album that deserves absorption and deliberation.

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Electric Sewer Age – Contemplating Nothingness

Editions Mego – 1st November 2019

The 80s was an exciting and revolutionary time, and UK label Some Bizzare gave a platform to some of the more unusual exploratory and experimental acts around the middle of the decade, meaning that while acts like Depeche Mode and Soft Cell were mainstays that brought in funds, they were able to release albums by Soft Cell offshoots like Flesh Volcano, as well as work by Foetus, The The, Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Cabaret Voltaire. Their reputation may have slipped in later years following various stunts and a major falling out with Neubauten over unpaid royalties, but the legacy very much remains strong.

The Elbow is Taboo was Renaldo & The Loaf’s fourth and last album of their initial phase prior to their return in 2010, which was released by and Some Bizzare in the UK and Ralph in America in 1987. Marking a significant expansion and evolution on their previous outings in compositional and instrumental terms, and the result of three years’ work, it’s considered to be ‘the definitive statement by the group in this early period’.

There was a 2016 reissue, with a stack of ‘elbonus’ material and I’m sold on the pun alone, but this Editions Mego reissue has to be the ultimate, as in addition to the elbonus stuff, the first 300 vinyl copies and digital editions also include bonus bonus 7” tracks ‘Hambu Hodo’ live and a remix, ‘Hambu Hoedown’, which ultimately sees the album’s original nine tracks expanded to twenty-two. Comprehensive is the word.

But is it any good?

It’s leftfield, weirdy and experimental: the album’s first piece, ‘A Street Called Straight’ melds medieval folk with tribal drumming and something pan-pipey and hints at neofolk but then goes off at some odd tangents, before ‘Boule’ does some kind of quirky somersaults across traditional Japanese music and sparse, clattering electronica. It’s the stuttering, busy-yet- rattly percussion that defines the oddball and off-kilter compositions, from the wonky country twangery of the title track to the marching Krautrock groove of ‘Hambu Hodo’ that lands somewhere between the pulsing electro of DAF and the zany mania of early Foetus. ‘Critical/Dance throws some jazz and atonal bleepings into the mix. It’s this offbeat eclecticism paired with an emphasis on rhythm that renders The Elbow is Taboo simultaneously compelling and bewildering.

The slew of bonus material on Elbonus ranges from fragmentary loops to fully realised versions and songs, spanning disorientating sound collage to audio collisions which are simply dizzying, not to mention quite inexplicable.

If ever an album qualified as a lost classic, it’s The Elbow is Taboo. So if the 80s underground is your scene, you need this. And if it isn’t, then it’s time to get educated.

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Renaldo & The Loaf – The Elbow is Taboo

Finnish noise rockers Throat who are set to release their highly anticipated and Aural Aggro approved second album, Bareback on August 31st via Svart Records have shared a second track. ‘Born Old’ is described by vocalist/guitarist Jukka Mattila as ’a deliberate effort to break some formulas we always fall into when writing music. To most people it might sound like the same drivel we always do and in spite of the fact that they’re probably right, we’re proud of our song. Lyrically, ‘Born Old’ is about feeling bad in every which way possible. Feeling good is overrated anyway. Plus there’s a Coil reference in the lyrics, see if you can spot that!’

Listen to ‘Born Old’ here:

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Cold Spring – CD 3rd August 2018 / LP 10th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

There are so many moments lost in the annals of history. This particular one has been languishing, unheard and unreleased for some 35 years. As collaborations go, this one is particularly special, and captures the spirit of the underground scene in the early 80s, with the original Coil lineup of John Balance and Peter Christopherson joined by John Gosling and Marc Almond. Although renowned as a pop singer, both solo and with Soft Cell, Almond has a raft of interesting collaborations to his credit: his work with JG Thirlwell as Flesh Volcano is a persona favourite, the pair amping up the sleaze and grime to deliver something quite dank and slimy. Better still, their live rendition of ‘Ghostrider’ for the BBC. And, lest we forget, undocumented save for some (painfully) ropey bootlegs, The Immaculate Consumptive, a short-lived live project (just three shows in three days in October / November ‘83) which featured Almond, Thirlwell, Nick Cave, and Lydia Lunch.

‘How to Destroy Angels’ was recorded shortly before The Immaculate Consumptive broke Brian Eno’s piano, on 24th August 1983, at the Air Gallery in London. And the recording has languished ever since, until now, emerging cleaned up and consumable. Although it’s still pretty raw, and if truth be told, sounds little better than some of the recordings of my own spoken word performances recorded on my phone. Of course, this has rather more cultural significance and wider interest.

As the liner notes observe, ‘the music bears only scant resemblance to the ‘How To Destroy Angels’ 12” that Coil would release as their debut vinyl the following year.’ And so the performance which would preface Coil’s studio debut was very much an experimental effort, a collaborative piece born of happenstance and a coalescence of creative fermentation that was bubbling around the time.

It’s Lunch’s influence that seems strongest on Almond’s contribution here: his narrative – a bitter tirade against an ex-lover – is full of bile and expletives as he spits the words quickly and abrasively against an eerie, unsettling dark ambient backdrop. Challenging is the word – but then, that’s entirely the point.

The Kos Kia remix of ‘How To Destroy Angels’, which whittles 23 minutes of audio to just over eight, feels a little redundant here. It’s not bad by any stretch: in fact, as weirdy ambient remixes go, it’s pretty good. It’s just a question of fit.

‘Baptism of Fire’ is an unreleased recording of Zos Kia and Coil at Recession Studios, London: dating from 12th October 1983, it’s contemporaneous with ‘How to Destroy Angels’. It’s the shortest piece here, and concludes the set with four and a half minutes of battering percussion, howling ululations and clanking, clattering noise that’s very Throbbing Gristle and very uncomfortable indeed.

While so many archival recordings and onus cuts on anniversary reissues – often of bands who were only of limited merit in the first place – feel like sloppy cash-ins, digging out second-rate demons , acoustic versions, remixes outtakes and live recordings of well-known studio tracks, this is a real rarity, which sheds new light on the origins of band whose effect has been significant and enduring. Moreover, it’s not only vastly illuminating in context of the nascent Coil sound, but a document which joints a number of dots in the wider context: and for that, this is an essential release.

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COIL ZOS KIA MARC ALMOND - Lo res album cover for web

Ici, D’ailleurs – 22nd June 2018

I find myself increasingly drawn to album covers that evoke a sense of desertion, emptiness, and which are oddly plain, bald. French avant-garde specialists Ici, D’ailleurs are particularly good in housing albums in covers of this type, with their ‘Mind Travels’ series, of which this is number eleven, being particularly noteworthy (and the tri-fold cover with a thick spine is especially nice). On the one hand, the cover art gives nothing away. On the other, it created a certain sense of emptiness and foreboding, which perfectly describes the music it houses.

Mysterium Coniunctionis – the product of a collaboration between Thighpaulsandra (who featured on many Coil albums) and Massimo Pupillo (who built his reputation as bassist with Zu, and has continued to expand it working with Eugene Robinson and as part of Triple Sun) – is dark and foreboding, and more.

The press blurb explains the album’s purpose neatly, so I shall quote: ‘Mysterium Coniunctionis makes direct reference to the eponymous and testamentary work of the psychiatrist Carl Jung, subtitled An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychiatric Opposites in Alchemy. It clearly reflect the duo’s intention to create particularly immersive and meaningful music from supposedly opposing materials’.

Mysterium Coniunctionis contains two tracks, each around the twenty-minute mark in terms of running time, and corresponding with one side of an album apiece. Halfway through the first, ‘Sagyria’, my wife wandered into my office and said she was worried there was something up with the motor on the dehumidifier before realising the uncomfortable humming was emanating from my speakers. Humming, throbbing, deep and resonant tones dominate both compositions.

There’s minimal movement across the album as a whole, and listening digitally the tracks bleed together to form an extended, expansive soundscape that pushes discomfort, a sense of disquiet and tension. Always tension. Some fourteen minutes into the second track, ‘Solve et Coagula’, the sounds reaches a shivering, spine-tingling level of intensity and density. It’s all in the frequencies, as the midrange and treble loom to the fore and get uncomfortable – really uncomfortable.

The ‘opposing materials’ which form the fabric of Mysterium Coniunctionis are the digital and analogue: in combination, they forge a dense and unsettling sound that eddies and whirls and tunnels into the inner regions by stealth.

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Hallowground – HG1607 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Danny Hyde is probably best known for his work producing and remixing Nine Inch Nails and Coil, Depeche Mode and Psychic TV, amongst others, although he also remixed Adamski’s ‘Killer’ and has co-produced Pop Will Eat Itself. A varied career, and no mistake, but one which has always leaned toward the darker side of the musical spectrum. He’s also operated a handful of his own musical projects, and Electric Sewer Age is his outlet for creating ‘contemplative mood inducing’ music, as he phrases it on his website. Bad White Corpuscle is the second album under the Electric Sewer Age banner, and is being re-released on vinyl and as a download (with different cover art) after being discreetly released by Italian label Old Europa Café on CD only in 2014. Its predecessor, Moon’s Milk in Finale Phase featured the late Peter Christopherson of Coil, and perhaps not entirely surprisingly, it’s being hailed as a continuation of his work with Coil or even as evoking the spirit of a ‘lost Coil album’. But regardless of associations, Bad White Corpuscle is a strong – and extremely dark – album which stands on its own merit.

The cover art is, however you look at it, pretty grim, in a ‘what the hell is that?’ sort of a way, and the music it houses is equally sinister and inhuman. Chthonic voices whisper and growl blindly in the darkness. Occasionally spiralling out into gravity-free galactic drift, with twinkling synths providing minuscule points of light on ‘Corpuscular Corpuscles’. The ‘Amber Corpuscle’ turns slowly in suspension, insect flickers echo before the ‘Rising Corpuscle’ brings forth booming bass frequencies and nagging, rippling. I find I’m beginning to feel quite spaced out and nauseous: no, I’m not hungover: the frequencies are low, and the sound possesses an uncomfortable, gut-rumbling density which resonates mentally and physically. The experience is sinister and vaguely terrifying.

There’s no escaping the album’s theme as rendered explicit through the track titles. What is Hyde’s obsession with blood? Specifically, the notion of a ‘bad white corpuscle’? The white blood cell is the cell of the immune system: what can be bad about a blood cell which defends the body from invaders? I’m drawn to the idea of the mutant and he virus, perhaps the deficient white corpuscle which fails to fulfil its duty as sentry, or otherwise the virus in disguise, the bad guy dressed as a good guy or the mutating virus which sustains itself while sapping the host undetected. I’m speculating, of course, while the dark sounds drag me down… down.

The soundscapes are simultaneously vast and microcosmic, evoking cellular shapes from a microscopic perspective; traversing the corpuscles, the listener becomes the cosmonaut of inner space. The mangled digital vocals on the alien synthpop incantations of the title track float, disembodied through an analogue circuitscape of liquid metal.

The vinyl-only track, ‘Redocine (Death of the Corpuscle)’ does mark something of a departure with the introduction of more readily identifiable moments of melody – countered by extraneous noise and echoed, distorted robotix voices – propelled by some powerful, stop/start beats and building a deep, dislocated groove. Beneath the shine, the synaptic explosions and dark rumbling vibrations are symptomatic of cellular collapse.

Bad White Corpuscle mines a deep, dark sonic seam, and does so with a real feeling for unsettling sonic terrains. There’s certainly no inoculation against the effects of this album.

 

Electric Sewer Age

House Of Mythology – 26th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

So, House of Mythology released two albums simultaneously in August, and having exhausted myself dissecting the David Tibet / Youth collaboration, Create Christ, Sailor Boy under the Hypnopazūzu moniker, it’s taken me a while to steel myself for this.

It’s important to be clear that this is a very different kind of album, the three (or four*) long-form tracks manifesting as darkly ambient instrumental works, which build layers of dissonance and feedback over textured drones and rumbling lower frequencies. While flickers of pan-cultural influence emerge from the thrumming layers of sound, Remoteness Of Light is entirely devoid of any of the trappings of pseudomystical bullshit.

And while ‘Agents of Altitude builds layers of sound which unsettle and unnerve, ‘World of Amphibia’ which follows, is altogether more sparse and delicate, and corresponds more obviously with the nots which accompany the album and situate it in the deep submarine world, which remain every bit as intriguing and unknown as outer space.

In describing the journey of a deep-sea dive (‘Dive a kilometre into the ocean and you leave all surface illumination behind… Descend another ten and luminous forms flicker and burst through the endless black’), The Stargazer’s Assistant contextualise Remoteness Of Light. Of course, the tribal drumming and whining pipes aren’t a literal representation of the underwater experience, but they convey the strangeness of the deep-sea world and the excitement of the decent.

Moreover, there are essentially three areas which offer endless fascination, but have been wholly inadequately explored: space, the oceans, and the human mind. Remoteness Of Light delves into, and connects with, all of these:

The droning, sonorous and subtly rhythmic sonic turnings of the title track are, at times, so quiet and careful as to be barely present, but as ever, dark and unexpected, and it builds o a wheezing, whining, moaning undulation of sound, with a long, slow playout of heavy, echo-drenched percussion and a log-tapering drone. Credit where it’s due: this s sonically and texturally interesting. With a lot going on, it conforms to no specific gene, but engages the listener in unexpected ways, and the varied textures and shades of light and dark unquestionably have the capacity to tweak at the psyche.

* Track 4, ‘Birth of Decay’, is a live recording only available on the double vinyl edition, or as a download for people ordering directly from the House of Mythology web site. It wasn’t included in the digital review copy we received, so it might be awesome or utterly shit, but if it’s on a par with the rest of the album, it should be pretty good.

 

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Black Sun Productions – Toilet Chant / Dies Juvenalis

Christopher Nosnibor

Self-styled ‘artivists’ Black Sun Productions had already established a reputation for themselves in Switzerland and Italy, but found a much wider audience after they were discovered by Coil in the early noughties. Touring their performance piece ‘Plastic Spider Thing’ on tour with Coil, they also engaged in collaboration with the seminal industrialists and were signed to their label, Ekstaton.

These two releases – reissues of albums dating back to the mid-2000s and previously released on CD-R on their own Anarcocks label, are interesting for a number of reasons, with the fact that they are Black Sun Productions albums being an obvious starting point. That they’re receiving their first vinyl and digital releases means this rather clandestine work may begin to filter through to a wider audience and be accessible to fans who’ve simply been unable to track down the originals. The choice of these two albums is a shade curious, in that they represent the first and last of the Anarcocks releases, with four other releases separating them.

Given the range of media they’ve worked in and pushed the parameters of, it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to learn that they’re fairly challenging. That said, these are not brutal or ugly albums. Musically, they’re certainly interesting, and will hold inevitable appeal for fans of dark ambient, avant-garde and music from the more experimental end of the industrial spectrum. I’d argue that true industrial is experimental by its very nature, in the tradition of Throbbing Gristle, and, continuing that trajectory through Peter Christopherson, Coil. And fans of coil will be keen to note that ‘E2 = Tree3’ on the Toilet Chant album features the vocals of ‘Jhonn Balance’ which will make the first of these two albums of particular interest.

Toilet Chant (2004) may sound as though it should have humorous connotations, but the title track which opens the album, but its haunting whale song echoes are far from ribald. Distant, rumbling percussion lumbers in the murky background. ‘Anarcocks Rising’ works on the interplay between unstructured rhythmic pulsations, heaving groans and rolling, bass-orientated, notes. Synths flicker and scrawl, their sparking electronics bringing a starkly manufactured aspect to the more natural sounding sonic body over which they expand. It’s alien and other-wordly, as is the aforementioned ‘E2 = Tree 3’, as thunderous roaring solar winds blast over exotic, eastern-influenced instrumentation and shards of pulsing analogue fizz. The album builds tension across the six tracks, via the Curesque ‘Yesterday’s Dream’ and the spaced-out wibblesome tones of ‘Glüewürmilitanz, culminating in the thirteen-minute ‘Spermatic Cord’. An extended exercise in creating dark, weighty atmospherics, it’s an uncomfortable, queasy listen. Grating bass drones croak and funnel. It’s a dark, insular experience.

 

 

Black Sun Productions - Toilet Chant

2007’s Dies Juvenalis contains just three tacks, and immediately a different tone is apparent. A swelling organ sound screeds and undulates against pulsating beats on ‘Percettive Riflessioni’. The experimental leanings of Toilet Chant are still in evidence, but the focus here is on dynamics, with dramatic changes in volume and the tonal contrasts adding depth and texture. The presence of definite, regular rhythms also marks a significant change, with elements of Krautrock and psychedelia informing the sound. This was 2007, remember: no-one was digging Krautrock or doing synth-based psychedelia in 2007. Busy xylophones weave the fabric of the title track, while a deliberate, slow, dubby bass beat leads ‘Veneration XXX’ into glitchy, stuttering drum ‘n’ bass territory, while disembodied voices bend and melt over the stammering fills.

Black Sun Prooductions - Dies Juvenalis

 

 

I would lean towards Toilet Chant as being my preferred album for listening purposes, Dies Juvenalis offers a greater push on innovation and musical progression. In tandem, they provide an intriguing documentation of the workings of a unique act.