Zos Kia/Coil: Transparent


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!

Coil: The Anal Staircase EP


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.

Coil: Musick To Play In The Dark, Volume 2

Musick To Play In The Dark

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.

Coil: Musick To Play In The Dark, Volume 1


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.

Various Artists: Not Alone


Durtro Janana 2006.  Durtro Janana 1963


I’ve been listening to compilations a bit lately, mainly because I usually neglect them and forget the hidden gems they contain.  This one is a bit of a beast; five full CDs and 75 artists, so it is a bit overwhelming but there’s so much interesting stuff it’s essential if you’re into the offbeat.

It was put together by David Tibet (of Current 93) who obviously has a hell of an address book as a benefit for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).  While it lacks the stylistic coherence of most of the compilations I’ve posted here in the past, the quality is mostly very high, and some effort has been made to make to album flow.  Realistically, you’ll never play the whole thing in one sitting, so the CDs are made to work pretty well as standalone albums.

It’s so vast and so varied I don’t really want to attempt a description – I’ll be typing all day.  I bought it for the Bonnie Prince Billy track, but soon realised it’s full of stuff I like, or at least stuff I would like if I’d heard it.  There are the avant garde names you’d expect, but also people representing his interest is the weirder end of folk, such as Bill Fay.

Really the best thing to do is look at the tracklisting below and to trust me that there’s very little filler.

Posting a charity album here might seem like a really bad idea, but it is sold out now.  If you enjoy it, you could assuage any guilty feelings you might have by donating to Medecins Sans Frontieres here.  They do really useful stuff providing medical help in places where it wouldn’t otherwise be available.


Various Artists: Macro Dub Infection Vol 1

Various - Macro Dub Infection Vol. 1

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.

Various Artists: If You Can’t Please Yourself, You Can’t Please Your Soul

Various Artists - If You Can't Please Yourself, You Can't Please Your Soul

Some Bizzare 1985. SBZCD1


Some Bizarre’s second compilation from 1985 is an important musical document, containing as it does seminal tracks from a number of bands, most of which I guess you’d call industrial, who went on to have significant careers.  It’s also really strong musically; there really isn’t a duff track here, and it’s quite a CV for whoever their A&R guy was.

The cover is suitably disturbing, although the vinyl issue, which I also have but can’t be bothered to rip is much more interesting:


It includes a number of weird inserts, including a folder printed with “Today’s Government’s Plans Towards Utopia” which contains a blank piece of paper and another sheet which is probably an early attempt at cover art because it includes the album’s original title.

utopia waste

Most of the tracks here are exclusives (Coil for example) , others impossibly rare (The The), so it’s worth having even if you’re only interested in one or two bands.

Here’s a tracklisting (with thanks to Discogs)

Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel – The Only Good Christian Is A Dead Christian 3:27
Cabaret Voltaire – Product Patrol 4:19
Test Dept. – Total Nervous Phenomonom 3:41
Marc Almond – Love Amongst The Ruined 6:36
Psychic T.V. – Twisted 7:57
The The – Flesh And Bones 4:00
Coil – The Wheel 2:42
Yello – The Roxy Cut 4:30
Virginia Astley – Waiting To Fall 3:27
Einstürzende Neubauten – Wardrobe 2:40


Coil: Colour Sound Oblivion 4 (Moscow)


Still not able to do vinyl rips, so here’s something a little different.  This is the soundtrack from DVD 4 of the huge (and insanely expensive) Coil boxed set Colour, Sound, Oblivion recorded live in Moscow in 2001.

The boxed set was put together by the late Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson in the period after the death of John Balance, almost as if he knew his own end was not so far away.  It compiles on 16 DVDs all their live performances for which reasonable quality audio and video exist.

I’m rarely at a loss for words to describe music, but I’ve always struggled to explain why I like Coil so much.  Others have no such problem, but what they write is usually enough to put anyone off.  I guess it comes down to the emotional engagement which is at the heart of all great music, and while their recorded output is at times unlistenable, there’s always a rawness to it which is compelling.  Here though is a blog which deals with the problem of writing about Coil unusually well.

In life, Coil were never very good at making their music available, and in death it’s got a lot worse.  Their web operation, Threshold House still exists but these days there’s very little to buy.  Of note is The Remote Viewer which seems to be the only CD now available, and the download of Worship The Glitch.