Posts Tagged ‘esoteric’

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

Hyperdelia – HEX002

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems to be something almost unique to the world of experimental and avant-garde music, that the titles are directly descriptive, functional, literal. Imagine if the practise was adopted in the genres of rock or indie. How would releases like Angsty shit ripping off the Foo Fighters, Adolescents who are pissed off because we can’t get laid and Ten three-minute derivative jangly guitar-based songs about life in college be received? Actually, they’d probably still sell infinitely more units than releases like this, but the point of differentiation is that this is art, and commercial considerations really are not leading factors in determining the work or its release into the public domain.

We learn that Womb is ‘a musical narration for abstracted ears and bodies – engulfing a listener simultaneously in subaquatic sonic environments, distant dreams of childhoods, memories and voices from the unknown: where time and space fold into each other.

The initial material of field-recordings of nature and body sounds, interviews and compositions has been re-recorded and re-amped underwater in a swimming pool – and has been re-arranged (partly by way of the impulse responses of the pool) now for stereo home listening.’ And so we’re very deeply into literal territory here.

It’s watery and muffled, womb-like every second of the way. ‘Cocoon’ sounds like someone typing – quite slowly, unsteadily – while slow ambient music with whale song and slow, arrhythmic beats pulse, all heard with cotton wool in one’s ears. ‘The Garden’ is a long, slow ebb and flow of elongated dronage, spiralling contrails of vapour and mist, an eddying vortex of mid-range that twists ethereal, occasionally rent with bulbous belches of sound which echo out beyond the reaches of perception.

The beats are glitches, pulses, crackles and thudding heartbeats, incongruously urgent and pacey and at odds with the sedate sonic swirls that hover and hang, Samples, muffled and heavily filtered, are abstracted amidst twittering birdsong, wide-sweeping drones, ominous fear tones and unsettling extranea.

The focus is beyond soft: it’s submerged, out of reach. Everything about Womb is warm, supple. There is a sense of depth – immense depth that extends beyond sound to the absolute core of being. A slow immersion that works its way inside, Womb is both meditative and introspective, and while it’s very much conceptual, it succeeds independently as a soundwork.

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Kajasa Lindgren – Womb