Threshold House 1997 (Original Cassette Release 1984, but recorded earlier) . LOCI CD 13
This is probably the most difficult listen of anything I’ve posted so far, being closer to performance art than it is to music. It was recorded when Coil was a side project for John Balance and Peter Christopherson when they were still with Throbbing Gristle, here working with John Gosling (Zos Kia) and an unknown female vocalist.
I find this an almost unbearable listen, not because it isn’t really music in any conventional sense of the word, but because it’s deeply unsettling. This was a characteristic of much of Coil’s music and is partly why I like them so much, but here the intensity, and the lack of light relief in the form of music makes it rather an ordeal. I suspect that it also suffers from the absence of visuals, but I wasn’t at any of these performances, so I’m guessing.
The track Rape (originally Violation) I found to be completely unlistenable, but I guess a track on such a subject should be unlistenable. If you’re into Coil it’s interesting to hear the seeds of what they’d later become but it’s the sort of thing you probably won’t play more than once.
This was a request from “Music Lover”. Hope you enjoy it!
Force & Form 1984. ROTA121
I’ve spent a fair chunk of the last 25 years listening to Coil, but there’s not much of it here because it’s mostly on CD. This early EP, a kind of prequel to their second album Horse Rotorvator is an exception.
All Coil’s music has a dark, menacing, mystical quality to it, regardless of the different styles they’ve adopted over the years. The sound on this EP fits that description and is solidly industrial in style. It was groundbreaking back in 1984, but such was Coil’s influence, that it has a certain familiarity now. Even though others followed Coil down this path, theirs was a singular vision which their imitators never managed to emulate.
I don’t know what an Anal Staircase is, despite the helpful photo on the cover. I think it’s best if it remains that way.
There’s very little Coil material currently available, partly because they were never that good at that side of things, and because the mainstays of the band, John Balance and Peter Christopherson are both dead. Have a look at my other Coil posts for links to what is still for sale.
Chalice 2000. Graal CD 005
Having posted the first volume of this series yesterday, it seemed only right to post the second today. They work superbly together – it’s a shame to have one without the other.
That this doesn’t work quite as well as volume one is hardly a criticism. It means that it’s the second best Coil album, and for me the second best electronic album of the 90s – still essential listening.
It ploughs the same dark furrow as the first volume, which it does more effectively than any other artist I’m familiar with. Standouts for me are Something and Ether.
Chalice 1999. GraalCD003
I’d intended to put much more Coil on this blog than I have. I love Coil and have most of their catalogue, but the problem is that I find them very difficult to write about.
Many people say this is their best album, and today, I’m inclined to agree, although tomorrow I’ll probably have a different view. It’s not as industrial is much of their output – you could even describe it as pretty easy to listen to. Stylistically, it’s very varied. Sometimes it sounds like early Tangerine Dream, sometimes it’s much darker electronica, but always with an intense humanity. This is dark, otherwordly music which is best listened to, as the title suggests, in the dark with headphones. Is it one of the most important electronic albums of the 90s? Well I think so, and it was certainly influential. However typically for Coil it was pretty hard to come by at the time, and much more so now, so few have ever heard it.
My copy is a second edition, which has different (but still terrible) artwork. The music however is the same. I’ll post Volume 2, which is an essential comapnion to this another time.
Virgin 1985. CVM1.
I guess you could call this an album – it’s actually two 12″ singles, but the total playing time is almost an album. Actually the 2×12″ format is superb because the sound is better, especially with music like this.
It represented an interesting transition for the Cabs, between the obstinately experimental sound of their earlier records (like Nag Nag Nag) and the more commercial sound they’d later embrace. So it has that heavy industrial sound and chanted lyrics they were known for but with dancefloor friendly bass heavy riffs. At over 8 minutes per side they’re perhaps a bit long, but it works for me.
It is apparently the soundtrack to a video called Gasoline In Your Eye which I’ve never seen. My copy is mispressed – according to Discogs all the UK copies were, so I’ve corrected the tagging to reflect what is actually playing rather than what the label says. I’ve sequenced them in the order they appear on the cover.
Temple Records 1985. TOPY S 009 + TOPY H 009
Discogs: double 7″
For some reason I have both the 12″ and the double 7″ of this release, but it is a favourite. Godstar is about the late Brian Jones who died just before the Stones famous 1969 Hyde Park gig and has since been credited with all sorts of mystical powers. I wouldn’t know about that, but it’s certainly the sort of thing you’d expect Psychic TV to pick up on.
The cover claims that it’s from the soundtrack of a forthcoming film, although I’ve never heard of it actually being released or even finished. The title track is very Stones inspired, which is quite a departure for PTV, although they do a really good job of it, especially on the 7″ version which is by far the best. Hard to imagine such a listenable track was created by someone who was a founder member of Throbbing Gristle. The remainder is a bit patchy, but the Hyperdelic mix works well.
More recently, Psychic TV founder Genesis P Orridge has become better known for his attempt to create a hybrid being with his wife, which involved him having radical plastic surgery in order to look like her. She died a few years back, leaving his project not just bizarre to everyone else, but also tragic.
Mute Records 1978. MUTE001
A few days ago, I posted the first ever 4AD release, and today it’s the start of another iconic label, Mute. Unlike The Fast Set, this is not only a great single, it was really groundbreaking and its influence was huge. The Normal is actually Daniel Miller, founder of Mute so it’s a surprise that this was his only release. What it has in common with the Fast Set is primitive electronics and, as a result, a record very much of its time.
TVOD was actually the A side, but I’ve ripped it the other way around because it was Warm Leatherette which got the attention and airplay, and which appears on the front cover. The song is based on JG Ballards novel Crash, since filmed by Cronenberg, which Miller wrote an unfinished screenplay for, and explains the Motor Industry Research Association cover of crash test dummies being, well, crashed.
The music is utterly minimal, repetitive, sinister and robotic. It packs a punch now – what must it have sounded like in 1978? I’m afraid I’m too young to have bought it back then…
According to Discogs, my copy is a first pressing, and it looks it. It has a rough textured label and those serrations around the label so you could pile lots of singles on an autochanger. Truly from another age.
Rough Trade 1979. RT 018
This is the Cabs second single, ripped from an original 7″. Nag Nag Nag is relentlessly lo-fi, both in terms of the gear they used and the recording, but it works really well. I’m not enough of a techie to say much about it, but to my ears it sounds like the most primitive drum machine imaginable, although I guess in 1979 there was nothing else available, with other backing from crude electronics which sound to me very home made. The vocals are similarly lo-fi – they sound as though they’re coming through a megaphone with flat batteries. In a way it reminds me of watching the original series of Star Trek – a vision of the future which never came to pass. It’s a deeply weird record, but Nag Nag Nag is also a great tune.
The B side, as the title suggests is 5 minutes of pointless noodling, made bearable by more retro sounds and, surprisingly the copious vinyl crackle which is largely absent on the A side.
Virgin Ambient 1995. AMBT 8
I seem to be having a weekend dominated by Kevin Martin, but I suppose there are worse things. This is Martin as musician (alongside Justin Broadrick of Napalm Death and Godflesh fame) rather than curator; here we have his second album under the moniker Techno Animal, another release in the Virgin Ambient series.
At the time, this was a ground breaking album, so much so that it stands up pretty well 18 years down the line. It’s dark, sinister and slow with a distinctly industrial feel; it reminds me very much of Burial’s material over the last couple of years (I’ll be posting some Burial vinyl here at some point), which is perhaps not surprising as Martin currently records as King Midas Sound for the same label: Hyperdub. It also has elements of hip-hop, and is even sometimes psychedelic. This all sounds like a horrible mish-mash, but it works together superbly and is for me one of the best electronic albums of the 1990s. Just don’t listen to it alone, late at night.
More music? Well I’ve never heard Kevin Martin put a foot wrong so anything you find would be worth getting. In terms of what I have that’s still available, Waiting For You by King Midas Sound is fantastic.
Virgin Ambient 1995. AMBT 7
This is another installment of Virgin’s excellent Ambient series from the 1990s. Like Jazz Satellites, this was compiled by Kevin Martin, aka The Bug, Techno Animal amongst others. Martin is always worth listening to; always innovative, always interesting.
There’s not much on this album you’d call dub in a traditional sense. What it’s about is artists using dub ideas in other genres, in other words, the legacy of dub rather than dub itself. A project like this is of course spoilt for choice given the overwhelming influence dub has had in experimental music, so the success of this compilation lies in Martin’s skill as a curator. It spans electronica, hip-hop, jungle and even jazz, but what it all has in common is a spacey feel, thundering bass lines, and elements of the tracks, especially vocals swinging in and out of the mix.
Standouts are Tortoise, Bedouin Ascent, Coil and Spring Heel Jack, but what makes this a great compilation is how it hangs together.
It’s a double CD ripped as though it was a very long single because it plays better that way.