Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Coil
Love's Secret Domain


Released 1990 on Torso
Reviewed by fwump bungle, 08/07/2000ce


Strange choice for me this, considering that I number Coil's second album 'Horse Rotorvator' in my all-time top ten. But - after Julian's head-steady, temperate guidelines - I'm approaching this from a Coil-virgin perspective.

Coil (based around the two core members: John Balance, and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson) have always been challenging, their first release was the one-sided 12" 'How To Destroy Angels' recorded in 1984. A 17-minute percussive improvisation subtitled "Ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy" - not really the kind of thing you'd pop on to kill a few idle minutes, or for a family sing-a-long for that matter. The first album 'Scatology' was equally challenging, but offers more in the way of aural-stimulation - and if you haven't heard the cover of 'Tainted Love' (ground down to half-speed) then it's worth hearing just for that. 'Horse Rotorvator' followed and seemed to benefit greatly from Balance and Christopherson gaining a little focus in their endeavours.

While 'Horse Rotorvator' holds several unquestionable jewels (such as the haunting 'Ostia (the Death of Pasolini)', the nervy and unsettling single 'The Anal Staircase', and great instrumentals such as ‘Ravenous’), it was on this much later album (recorded at the close of the 80's, from 1988 to 1990) that the whole Coil-ethos seems to gel, pulsate and envelop.

'Disco Hospital' kicks things off with a rhythmic sworl of unidentifiable samples and a catchy little synth line, giving way to the pre-programmed polka beat and low-techno synth hits of 'Teenage Lightning' (which pops up again later in the album in two different guises). Then just as the listener is beginning to feel at ease, 'Things Happen'. This intensely exotic and erotic track begins with John Balance screaming somewhere in the distance "Kill the creator/Send them the bomb", and then unexpectedly gives way to the sultry vocal talent of Annie Anxiety-Bandez, who proceeds to share the intimacies of an everyday evening with a man from Ohio with us (actually, it's the voice which provides the intimacy, and not the lyrics...)

The album's second single follows, 'The Snow', now this may sound quite tame now but it's basically a techno-instrumental from a time when there really were no techno instrumentals of this ilk (just get hold of 'The Snow EP' for further evidence of this). All the insipid Sash's and DJWhatever's in continental Europe were in diapers when Coil were doing this kind of thing: leading from the Underground, once again. 'Dark River' is beautiful - another instrumental, but oh-so evocative. And its sister track, 'Where Even the Darkness is Something to See' - resplendent with didgeridoo - continues the vein (it's worth pointing out that this is one of the few didgeridoo's I've heard on record which hasn't caused me to shrivel up like a dying slug). Laid-back (prone) headtrip music for late nights alone, or with a few select heads - but try to keep it intimate.

Another 'Teenage Lightning' (even more jaunty this time around, with a nice bit of Spanish guitar to round things off), and we're into the album's 'hit' single, 'Windowpane' (well, 'hit' insofar as the video was played on BBC2's SNUBtv at least once). Another dark techno classic, again years ahead of its time and with lyrics which still get my head spinning now: "If you want to touch the sky/Just put a window in your eye... Gold is the sky/In concentrate/Power in its purest state". Dammit man, just give me some NOW. Oh, and try not to jump when the reversed-reprise jumps back in.

Return to the action ('Further Back and Faster') and we've jumped back on the thundering techno train, only to leap off in favour of the didgeridoo again, and something far more low-key and intense: a narrated tale of LOVE/HATE tattoos.

Marc Almond's back on 'Titan Arch', the album's most disappointing track as the vocals just serve to temper the freakout which is going on in the backing. Hint: listen to the backing track, cut out the vocals with a little aural surgery. Alternatively, just skip forward to instrumental of two halves 'Chaostrophy' (one half freakout, the other a moving and lush full orchestration). My thesaurus has run dry of synonyms for unsettling and seductive - so you'll have to insert your own here.

The final 'Teenage Lightning' comes in the form of the Mediterranean sounds of 'Lorca Not Orca', and then its time for the album's crowning moment, the kiss-off, the sinister and Blake-inspired title track. To me this is Coil's ultimate moment, the point at which it makes sense - but makes sense in such an intense, and creepy way that you have to smile - it even begins with a drum roll for chrissakes. John Balance has never sounded better, he's never sounded more dangerous, and he’s never sounded more rock! "Oh rose, thou art sick...UGGH!" Whoa.

‘L.S.D.’ (you mean you hadn't noticed?) is certainly less challenging than both 'Scatology' and 'Horse Rotorvator', but only insofar as it's easier to listen to (and since when has that been a crime?) and the reward it affords is most certainly equal to both.

'Out of Light Cometh Darkness', screams the cover. And out of both, screameth Coil.


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