Coil

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Scatology

Coil - Scatology ©1984 Some Bizarre
1. Ubu Noir
2. Panic
3. At The Heart Of It All
4. Tenderness Of Wolves
5. The Spoiler
6. Clap
7. Restless Day
8. Aqua Regis
9. Solar Lodge
10. The S.W.B.P.
11. Godhead=Deathead
12. Cathedral In Flames
13. Tainted Love

For those who don't often crack open dictionaries, the word "scatology" refers to poop. Given that, Coil's first official LP, Scatology, is a far from excremental release and is in fact one of the more compelling releases in the 80s industrial/experimental realm of music. Coil, which was essentially the brainchild of John Balance and Peter Christopherson, had some roots in the early noisefest of Throbbing Gristle. On their own, Coil created a mixture of bizarre, eerie musical effects and skewed pop (with the pop elements so incredibly diced up and haphazardly thrown about that only a fool would suggest these guys were on par with Duran Duran), very well evidenced on Scatology.

The album wanders between strange sound effects and soundtrack passages (although they lack a cinematic feel, instead offering a sterilized, but effective sonic vision), intertwined with percussive, sinister songs. The vocals, when offered, are rasped and foreboding. Occasionally Coil accidentally almost becomes song oriented, as evidenced on the weird "Restless Day", which almost could be tuneful, except the treatment makes it utterly deviant. The CD bonus version of "Tainted Love" reduces the song from a 80s pop staple to a mournful dirge.

In some respects, Scatology nearly suffers from a somewhat disjointed sequence of sounds and songs. However, that ironically provides the album's strength, the unpredictable nature of the music itself. Scatology rarely makes sense, yet there's no real reason for it to be easily figured out.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2007

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How To Destroy Angels

Coil - How To Destroy Angels ©1984 L.A.Y.L.A.H. Antirecords
1. How To Destroy Angels
2. Absolute Elsewhere

One of Coil's very earliest releases is a 12" called How to Destroy Angels, subtitled, "ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy". The release features the ambient, minimalistic title track and a "song" on the b-side that is actually just a monotone that lasts over twenty minutes (at least for the version I have). It's not something I'd suggest for easy listening. In fact, it'd take the discipline of a monk to sit through it all. Anyhow, the a-side is one of Coil's more freeform experiments, with quiet echoing tones mixed in with a little fencing sound effects for good measure. It mostly provides weird background noises and certainly does not fall into the realm of a "song", but that was the entire point. Various pressings have various different methods for the b-side to make it unlistenable. It was the intention of the band to be as such. Variations on "How to Destroy Angels" have shown up on Unnatural History and the collection of remixes and re-recordings with the same title.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2008

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Panic/Tainted Love EP

Coil - Panic/Tainted Love EP ©1985 Some Bizarre
1. Aqua Regis
2. Panic (remix)
3. Tainted Love

A somewhat superfluous EP, the 12" (and eventual CD single) Panic/Tainted Love revists Coil's Scatalogy album. Of the three tracks, only "Panic" offers a different take compared to the original album versions. The remixed version is only moderately different, being a bit more beat-heavy and slightly minimalized. Needless to say, this EP probably garners its most attention from the "Tainted Love" cover, which still offers a pretty bleak and odd take on the 80s New Wave staple. The 1990 Wax Trax CD edition offers up a little extra artwork compared to the original 12" LP on Some Bizarre. This single is probably best acquired by Coil completists (and boy, do you guys have your work cut out for you) as it doesn't necessarily add any important elements to the Coil catalogue on the whole.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2007

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The Anal Staircase EP

Coil - The Anal Staircase EP ©1986 Force & Form
1. The Anal Staircase (A Dionysian Remix)
2. Blood From the Air
3. Ravenous

This EP features three tracks of considerably disturbed music from our favorite British madmen, Coil. All three tracks appear in somesuch form on the Horse Rotorvator, so the EP is slightly superfluous. The title track is noisy, warped synthpop (as thrown through a cuisinart) and still ranks as a rather provacative song title. "Blood From the Air" is a more stoic track with spoken vocals and music that ultimately gets noisier and disjointed. "Ravenous" is more in the ambient realm with a somber, twisted feel. For the more casual fan, if such thing exists with Coil, this EP isn't necessary, but for a dedicated Coil fan, The Anal Staircase is a good companion 12" to the Horse Rotorvator full length.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2008

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Horse Rotorvator

Coil - Horse Rotorvator ©1986 Some Bizarre
1. The Anal Staircase
2. Slur
3. Babylero
4. Ostia (The Death Of Pasolini)
5. Herald
6. Penetralia
7. Ravenous
8. Circles Of Mania
9. Blood From The Air
10. Who By Fire
11. The Golden Section
12. The First Five Minutes After Death

On the second Coil full length (or perhaps third...the band's convoluted discography is quite difficult to follow), Horse Rotorvator, the experimental outfit continues to confound and spin all expectations into a twisted rollercoaster ride of bizarre music. The band's homoerotic imagery makes an appearance here (what does the song title "The Anal Staircase" suggest to you?) and Coil is also joined by fellow experimental music makers Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell and Marc Almond.

As with much of Coil's early output, Horse Rotorvator often exists just to the side of "normal" music and puts up a funhouse mirror to their songwriting. The results are a wobbling, offset skewed take on music that should serve to baffle most listeners. If Horse Rotorvator still has the ability to confuse in 2007, no doubt it was even more bizarre upon its 1986 release. There are moments that some of the music dwells in the same sinister region as Foetus (which only makes sense, with Thirlwell adding some of his evil touch to "Circles of Mania"). "Blood on the Air" probably most easily sneak onto a Foetus record and not sound misplaced.

Horse Rotorvator is a very strange record that will constantly keep the listener unbalanced. There are quite a few rewarding moments within the album and stands out as one of the more necessary Coil releases in their discography. Just don't expect any hippie feelings of world peace and love afterwards.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2007


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The Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser (The Consequences of Raising Hell)

Coil - The Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser (The Consequences of Raising Hell) ©1987 Solar Lodge
1. Hellraiser
2. Box Theme
3. Main Title
4. Airline 1
5. Liqueur
6. Perfume
7. Video Recorder
8. Airline 2
9. Natural Gas
10. Cosmetic 1
11. Cosmetic 2
12. Analgesic
13. Road Surface
14. Accident Insurance

Originally, Coil was commissioned to score the soundtrack for Clive Barker's classic 1987 horror film, Hellraiser. However, Barker ultimately rejected the material Coil submitted as being perhaps too scary and settled on Christopher Young to provide the soundtrack instead. The material Coil created ended up being issued on a 10" record, paired up with a series of brief instrumentals called "Music For Commercials". The three Hellraiser tracks are ironically not particularly scary or "bowel churning" (as Barker supposedly put it), but still visually evocative in a suitable cinema fashion. The short "commercial" tracks range from somber piano passages to weird sound effect laden pieces such as "Road Surface". Some tracks bleed into one another while others are more stand-alone, albeit exceptionally brief. On the whole, the release wanders quite a bit throughout its short duration (less than twenty minutes) but provides a nice take on soundtrack styled compositions.

The CD version that came out in 1990 features a significantly different track listing than the vinyl and cassette versions. Most of the tracks end up being compiled on Unnatural History II and III.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2008

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Unnatural History

Coil - Unnatural History ©1990 Threshold House
1. Various Hands
2. The Swelling Of Leeches
3. The Pope Held Upside Down
4. His Body Was A Playground For The Nazi Elite
5. Homage To Sewage
6. Here To Here (Double Headed Secret)
7. S Is For Sleep
8. Dream Photography
9. Comfortable
10. Never
11. Penetralia II
12. Sicktone
13. How To Destroy Angels

The aptly titled Unnatural History is a collection of compilation appearances and various odds'n'sods tracks Coil recorded during the 80s. The collection of unreleased material and hard to find tracks is a strange trip, even by Coil standards. Even the song titles are quite disconcerting: ""His Body Was a Playground for the Nazi Elite" is right up there for the weirdest song title competition. "Homage to Sewage" certainly won't evoke images of unicorns and happy puppies dancing merrily in a flower garden. In many cases, songs on Unnatural History are disjointed soundscapes and sound effects and removed from the twisted take on pop music some of their other 80s material contained. Vocals and voices are somewhat rare throughout the recordings, although they do make appearances from time to time. They certainly are not prominent aspects of the songs here.

Despite wandering between calm ambience and jarring sonic paintings, Unnatural History has a bizarre sort of cohesiveness that one wouldn't necessarily expect from such a collection. The mood the album creates is often one of tension, as well as some quite serious concern over just what is being presented through your speakers. Played at higher volumes, the material gains an intensity that more traditional forms of music don't easily match. The selection of songs may come from many different sources, but when put together as a whole, Unnatural History becomes a quite prominent display of Coil's experimental brilliance. The album is apparently quite difficult to find in its physical format, but Threshold House has made it available for digital purchase.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2007

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Love's Secret Domain

Coil - Love's Secret Domain ©1991 Wax Trax!
1. Disco Hospital
2. Teenage Lightning 1
3. Things Happen
4. The Snow
5. Dark River
6. Where Even The Darkness Is Something To See
7. Teenage Lightning 2
8. Windowpane
9. Further Back And Faster
10. Titan Arch
11. Chaostrophy
12. Lorca Not Orca
13. Love's Secret Domain

On Love's Secret Domain, Coil ventured into the world of acid house, which probably more emphasis on the former than the latter. In fact, clever types out there might note the acronymn for the album title is - that's right - LSD. My experience with the musical world of acid house is as limited as Mozart was with the blues. Okay, that's a bit of a lie. I once worked with a guy who played all sorts of electronic music during his shift and it's worth presuming that some of that might have been acid house. But rather than get embroiled with such minor details, it probably would serve this review best if I called the music precisely what it is: pretty darned weird.

The experience of Love's Secret Domain is, on a whole, a fairly strange one. However, this is essentially par for the course with Coil at most any point in their existence. A handful of songs here are jarring sound collages, such as the album opener "Disco Hospital" or "Where Even Darkness is Something to See". There are also songs that tend to fall into more of a softer ambience mode, although far from tranquil music one would play when one wants to experience "the beach", except with synthesizers. Marc Almond makes yet another guest appearance on "Titan Arch", which is a tension filled number sure to creep out any horror movie monster out there. Annie Anxiety offers an odd narrative on "Things Happen", which apparently has something to do with Ohio. Songs such as "Window Pane" are almost danceable. The title track feels like experiencing a pop song in a hall of funhouse mirrors.

The intricate weaving of various approaches to electronic music works quite well on Love's Secret Domain. The changes in mood and approach keep the listener guessing and often feeling just a bit out of sorts. A definite highlight of Coil's career.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2007

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Stolen And Contaminated Songs

Coil - Stolen And Contaminated Songs ©1992 Threshold House
1. Further
2. Original Chaostrophy
3. Who'll Tell?
4. Omlagus Garfungiloops
5. Inkling
6. Love's Secret Domain (Original Mix)
7. Nasa-Arab
8. Who'll Fall?
9. The Original Wild Garlic Memory
10. Wrim Wram Wrom
11. Corybantic Ennui
12. Her Friends The Wolves...
13. Light Shining Darkly

Stolen and Contaminated Songs can be seen as a companion piece to Love's Secret Domain as this CD features outtakes and unreleased tracks from that session. Taken on a whole, Stolen and Contaminated Songs is as viable and intriguing piece of work as the original material released from the session. The CD features a wide variety of approaches, with short soundscapes, samples, mildly jazzy moments and sections that remind me a bit of the equally odd Legendary Pink Dots. It's somewhat astounding to think of the high quality of material that came from that session.

For a Coil album, this is actually one of the more accessible and possibly a good jumping-in point for newer listeners. Although the band's patented strangeness is fully intact, it's presented in a way that confounds the listener in a pleasing way. The two longer tracks, "Nasa Arab" and "Her Friends the Wolves" tend to go on a bit longer than necessary, but it's only a minor complaint. The journey the songs take on this CD is remarkable. Some tracks tie in together, such as "Who'll Tell" and the Pink Dots-esque "The Original Wild Garlic Memory". Others tie into the sister album, as the original mix of "Love's Secret Domain" does. For the record, that song is as equally creepy (and not terribly dissimilar) as its counterpart.

Stolen and Contaminated Songs ranks as one of the better albums in Coil's discography with a great deal of musical depth to explore.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2008


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How To Destroy Angels (Remixes And Re-Recordings)

Coil - How To Destroy Angels (Remixes And Re-Recordings) ©1992 Threshold House
1. The Sleeper
2. Remotely
3. The Sleeper II
4. Tectonic Plates
5. Dismal Orb
6. How To Destroy Angels II
7. Absolute Elsewhere

One of Coil's original releases was a 12" single called How to Destroy Angels. In 1992, a collection of remixes and re-recordings came out under the same title. The seven song album (technically, "Absolute Elsewhere" is a silent, one-second track, so don't expect it to appear on your local radio station anytime soon) consists of six tracks of mostly deconstructed, minimalized sounds and ambient effects. Any traces of actual song structure are completely wiped out by the remixing process, giving a listener a nearly hour long experience of minimalistic soundscapes. Quite a bit of is softer, sticking to echoing tones and waves of sounds. "Techtonic Plates" deviates into a noisier approach, giving the cumulative effect of recording engineers throwing things around the studio and then mixing it with plenty of distortion. I personally would have used more flange, but frankly, I've been told to stay away from mixing boards.

How to Destroy Angels would be one of the last places for any newcomer to Coil to visit. Unless, of course, the newcomer is a big fan of unstrucured ambient music. But those kind of people tend to worry me. I also suspect that anyone who listens to this album on headphones while drifting off to sleep may ultimately suffer from a very distorted REM stage.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2007

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Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 1

Coil - Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 1 ©1999 Chalice
1. Are You Shivering?
2. Red Birds Will Fly Out Of The East And Destroy Paris In A Night
3. Red Queen
4. Broccoli
5. Strange Birds
6. The Dreamer Is Still Asleep

Coil existed for approximately two decades in the experimental industrial/electronic musical realm and produced an outrageously prodigous discography during that time period. The band, generally the duo of John Balance and Peter Christopherson, explored a vast landscape of sounds and concepts. With any band with so many albums in their back catalogue, the best thing to do is pick a point and simply dive in. My choice for reviewing Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 1 is simply that it was the first album to really catch my ear.

To put things simply, Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 1 is a Coil album that won't instantly cause a neophyte's eyes to roll back in his or her head and cause strange brain trampoline bounces. The album lives up to its title by being an appropriate recording to play when the lights are dim. Chances are controlled substances might help in the appreciation process, but even straight edgers can find enjoyment in this. (Assuming straight edgers ever venture very far from their Earth Crisis collections.) The highlight of the album is the lengthy and provacatively titled "Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East and Destroy Paris in a Night". Based on arpgeggios and transcendental keyboard tones, the fluid track is instantly captivating. Other tracks feature minimalistic approaches, with clicking sounds, low tones, hints of voices and weird effects. "Strange Birds" (apparently our feathered friends were an inspiration for this particular release) is mostly deconstructed, which rather fits the title. The album closer "The Dreamer is Still Dreaming" is a bit more of a "song" with vocals and a soothing but still eerie musical backdrop.

Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 1 strikes me as a fairly uncomplicated entry into the world of Coil, one which entices listeners to explore even further. It is an album that sets and sustains a mood throughout and provides evocative musical textures.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2007

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