Sometimes longer than their albums but with less songs, sometimes less accessible than a block of mahogany encased in adamantium, these...are the Coil EP's.
In no particular order.
The Driftmix mix and "As Pure As?" stand out here, but the rest of the mixes here have that awful, lazy early-90's club mix feel. Aside from those two good ones, I found my attention slipping almost instantly. The accordion on Driftmix and the programming on APA (thanks to Balance and Drew McDowall who also worked on some mixes from Further Down The Spiral) help them to shine while everything else can be skipped.
Driving beat, blips and bloops, throw in the vocals and "Wrong Eye" sounds like an intro to a Liquid Television skit. Call me an asshole, but I feel like not too much effort went into this track*...because it's fucking boring.
Apparently, "Scope" was the result of a jam session while the band was on MDMA.
I can believe this.
Much like the previous track, it doesn't seem as if a lot of time and work went into this one either. It reminds me of one of those really early, unlistenable Manson demos a bit. It also sounds like it could have been on Liquid TV.**
How To Destroy Angels
The first ever Coil release. Side A, the title track, clocking in at over sixteen minutes. Side B, a "song" called "Absolute Elsewhere"...which doesn't actually exist, the vinyl has no grooves.
I would rather have listened to side B, for sixteen minutes than side A.
How to describe this...okay: I'm picturing Balance and Christopherson waiting as their instruments are arriving. Only some of the drum kit arrives; the cymbals. One of them wants to wait for the rest of their stuff to arrive, the other says, "Fuck that! We're COIL!!!" and thus, HTDA was born. The actual track consists of someone gently running a brush over a cymbal and then punctuating that soft silence by, occasionally, hitting a different cymbal (or maybe it's just a pipe next to a cymbal) as hard as they can.
For a quarter of an hour.
The was the world's first impression of Coil.
One thing I will admit, while there is nothing here to enjoy, musically, one has to admire the size of their balls.
ELpH*** - pHILM #1
The first track ('pHILM #1 (vox)") is the vibrations of mystic crystals and the portals they open.
A spreading warmth, like blood poisoning, seeps in while wandering, ancient phrase of notes comes in and out. A siren, distant and lonesome, not threatening, floats in the background. There is a sound of elevation before an electric tide of static flows in, slightly obscuring the crystals. The tide recedes, leaving gleaming future things that speak prophecy, but their voices disintegrate before we learn the truth and are left wondering.
Track two, "Static Electrician", is metallic, glitchy, blippy. Something reminiscent of AFX or Analogue Bubblebath. Not as dramatic or threatening as one might expect. There is still a crystal element to this, but now, they are less sacred objects and more musical instruments; being plugged into computers in order to gauge their resonance.
The final track, "Red Scratch", has that eerie dilated sound that appeared on later Coil albums such as Black Antlers. It's lazy, but lurking, it clearly has the potential to harm. There isn't a lot here, the listener is left to do the work, fill in the gaps.
A funny little mindfuck to end this paragraph: originally, this EP was only available on vinyl and the third track, only about three minutes in length, ended in a "fixed groove", meaning that, once the needle reached that point, it would continue repeating those few seconds of music until someone stopped it.
Seeing as this is Coil, I wonder how many people even noticed...
Sadness of Snakes**** - Nightmare Culture
"Various Hands" begins with pipes in a temple. Soon after that, the strings and bass are introduced. The strings try (halfheartedly) to cover up the blood, but that bass is working against them. A chrunchstomp begins which tears away away all vestiges of sanctity. There was a murder here and the last survivor is trying to hide from the killer. The bomb sounds that come in toward the end are a bit much, but they add a hint of apocalypse to this, upping the stakes, making things bigger.
Next, "The Swelling of Leeches" explodes into existence, breaking through from Their dimension to ours, polluting it with horrible nightmare things.
Then, things switch gears in a massive way and the xylophone and wacky trumpet kick in. Suddenly, the track ends and you're left wondering what the fuck just happened.
Things wrap up with "The Pope Hung Upside Down", which seems to be a call back to those horrible nightmare tings I had mentioned. Here, they are swooping overhead through an ebon sky and trying to speak...or maybe they are praying. During the prayers, some pigs start squealing and one wonders if these are dinner or perhaps, how these beings view us. Then some more awful animals noises.
This might be what the Great Old Ones listen to when they're relaxing.
The Wheel/The Wheal & The Wheal/Keelhauler#
"The Wheel" is straight up industrial. Some aspects sound like very early Nine Inch Nails demos (specifically the background programming on "Maybe Just Once"). Oh man is Balance's voice bad on this... This is a great example of early Coil. Some really cool sounds utilized on this.
"The Wheal"## seems to be an alternate, instrumental version of "Wheel". The guitar on here sounds like 80's pop, very radio friendly. Under the noise and dissonance, there's a solid pop song here. Something about the chords reminds me of "Scary Monsters" by Bowie. With some different, less aggressive production and some tweaks and polish, this could be a super-catchy, radio friendly, industrial Brit-pop track.
Which feels so fucking weird to say...
"Keelhauler" is less accessible, but not horribly so. Driving synth bass and overcrisp cymbals make up most of this. A repeated industrial clanking join in as well. It sounds a bit mischievous, specifically that bass...like the soundtrack to an old video game about a naughty porcupine trawling some abandoned mineshaft for pineapples...or something just like that. It starts to repeat itself, but isn't long enough for it to get annoying.
This was a surprisingly enjoyable set of songs.
ELpH vs. Coil - Born Again Pagans
My first utterance upon hearing the beginning of track one ("Protection") was "break out the neon fluorescent body paint!!!" ###. The dark, heavy laser bass is just amazing. When everything kicks in, you can't help but want to shake your ass. This is some really solid dark wave electronic. You can really hear Danny Hyde's Pop Will Eat Itself sensibilities on this, or, to put it another way: this track would have been perfect for the soundtrack to The Saint. Although ELpH is just an alias for Coil, this sounds nothing like any Coil I've heard. I like this song so much that, upon discovering there is a thirteen minute version of it (as opposed to this paltry seven minutes version here), I put that on as soon as I was done with this EP...and it was just a bit longer than I would have needed to sate my dance bone.
The second track, "Glimpse", is sort of a boring version of the beginning of the final track, "pHILM #1".
The third track, "Crawling Spirit" is a quick trip to the boiler room of Silent Hill, where one can find a huge piece of rotation machinery floating in outer space.
The final track, "pHILM #1" is identical to the one found on the EP of the same name, except this one doesn't have the detached, ghostly vocals drifting around in it.
This EP consists of two remixes and the album version from Love's Secret Domain.
Neither of the remixes are much to speak of; the first (the "Minimal Mix") follows your typical remix formula: hi-hat without the tom, bass without the snare, switch up the beat a bit, shuffle the remaining elements and toss in some distorted vocals and boom, and the second (the "Astral Paddington Mix") is almost exactly the same, but there is a lot of slidey, chewy weirdness thrown on top of things. It's a lot more interesting with the slidey weirdness. This one could have been called the "Drunken Rainbow On Acid Mix". Not uninteresting, not interesting, just, you know, a remix. Meh.
The Anal Staircase
Now, although the actual 12" had only one remix ("A Dionysian Remix") and then two tracks from the album, there was a second remix of Staircase released later on some so-rare-it-doesn't-technically-exist-today compilation, so I'm just going to pretend that there was a release with both remixes.
I'll assume that, since no one is still reading this, that no one will mind.
"A Dionysian Remix" is a bit like the "Minimal Mix" mentioned above in that it follows the formula: things are shifted, emphasized (the spotlighting of that bassy tuba is pretty great), muted, foreground stuff moves to background stuff and vice versa. The vocals are made clearer (and remain ridiculous). Things get chaotic as they evolve and this ends in a more interesting place than it began.
In the "Relentless Mix" some basic elements have been removed, giving the mix more space and making things more eerie. And now the lyrics are whispered, lessening the sense of silliness and incresing the sense of creepiness. This turned out to be a subtle and interesting remix.
Coil vs. The Eskaton - Nasa Arab
I'm not sure if this is meant to be read as "NASA Arab", as in, an Arabic person related to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or not, so...there's that.
The first track, "Nasa Arab" begins with light bugs. Not lightning bugs, but insects, made of light. They bounce and caper and flitter and all that for a bit, more eerie than pretty, but still pretty, and then some medieval tooting, then some hooting, then some bongos, then some bass, then some beats and then, guess what, you've suddenly got a really great thing happening. All the elements wove together beautifully. Over the next few minutes, aspects come in and go out of focus, feeling Fae one moment and industrial the next. This track feels almost like a reel or audio resume. The whole thing, once it gets going, is hypnotizing, mainly thanks to those olde worlde toots that serve as a base for most of it. After an exciting musical journey, things sour and some vaguely carnivalian sounds come in.
Then, "First Dark Ride" opens with some sharp, dark pinging and mumbled radio chatter. A moment later, a music box melody seeps in, soon joined by some sounds that Nine Inch Nails fans will find very familiar%%. After this, everything rewinds and things switch up, becoming internal. A voice sample is abused via a Kaos Pad for a few moments, then "I'm God and I've killed everybody. Now what?".
Nice. The NIN sounds flood back in along with some percussion and then the fucking beat DROPS.
At this point, I imagine what Nine Inch Nails' Further Down The Spiral might have been if they'd gone down this route...
This is some excellent dark wave dance shit.
The very end of Dark Ride seems to be a different song, one composed of crystal bells and something like chanting.
Finally, three chords played on an organ and we're out.
Very impressive EP.
Airborne Bells/Is Suicide A Solution?
The sound of wind through the teeth of some long abandoned piece of industrial machinery welcomes us to "Suicide". Balance announces that he is "the loneliest link in a very strange chain" before the watery, opium guitars float in and swaddle us in desolation and detachment. Think evil surf guitars on heroin. What follows is a recording of a friend of Peter Christopherson's% telling him how a close friend of his had just committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. He talks about how the friend left notes and broke up with his boyfriend and then goes on to ask Peter what must go through someone's mind as they're falling to their death.
To say this is dark is like saying...shit, I can't even put together a simile.
It's fucking dark.
Then, "Airborne Bells" drops us on a rattling, clanking ghost train, inhabited by skeletons playing a dark, tropical beat on drums and any other surfaces they can find. Once things get going, there is some really great percussion here and some even cooler keyboard melodies buried in the mix. The train slows down to pick up some more lost and broken souls (who also all happen to be great drummers) and then it speeds up and on into the everlasting night, leaving us to tap our feet and shiver at the same time...
Themes For Derek Jarman's 'Blue'
Some dark, echoing techno bass and...something I never thought I'd ever say with regards to Coil...the tambourines come in. After a moment of...just dealing with the fact that there are techno tambourines on this track, the beat comes in...and there are hand claps. After a moment of gay dance partying, the Coil kicks in with some razor laser and stuttery synth moans and electronic skritching. And it finally ends with something like violin Morse code. This is a very full two minutes.
The second track, 11 minutes, starts with some straight funk which is quickly killed by Coil. Then, an extended and more churchy version of the synth moans from track one come in. THEN THE DISCO FUNK IS BACK!!! They even have those violin stings from the Bee Gees!
Then, back down to the basement with those synths from the start and the Morse code strings. The first track and first two and a half minutes of the second are basically different mixes of the same song...but...after some silence...some shit goes down and Coil's nightclub music starts playing.
Infected and sounding more urban than one would expect.
There's some nice use of space and darkness on here.
Throughout the whole thing, there is a low rumbling as if a subway is passing under your feet for several minutes.
Strobing club synths make you feel like dancing while covered in sweat and glitter.
Things get a bit repeaty and unfocused and I begin to lose interest. Before they win me back, it's over.
At least the first track and start of the second were worth it.
ELpH - elph.zwölf
This EP consists on one, twenty minute track.
The beginning of this sounds a bit like the lonely, digital wind from NIN's "And All That Could Have Benn", but more shrieky. The sounds drifts back and forth between the channels for just long enough for me to worry if this is going to be the entire track, but then some blippy, gleeping beats start to flow slowly in; snow melting to revel a circuit board. Something about this reminds me of the second half of "The Beauty Of Being Numb", the muffled electronics probably.
There is also a printer jam and a modem disco.
A large...groaning...begins to overpower the bleeps as a Teletubby speaks the track's name three times.
Then, things kind of start over with that wind from the beginning, but with some other elements in there as well, like someone's cell phone going off and waking up the singing saws...the ones equipped with the sonic oscillators.
More modem chatter, some errors pitched up and down, then a brief hearing test, the cell again and then some...wiggles, I suppose you could call them.
That huge croaking pushes its way back in and, just as the listener settles in for more of the same with a few scant adjustments and additions, a distant, sandy hi-hat comes in, transforming this from a frozen tundra to a shady spot in a desert. Under the beat, everything that was still is. The beat reverses itself and some cool shit starts happening in the background, echoing notes played in a temple.
The elements drop out, one by one until we're left with some beeping.
The voice speaks again, reminding us of what we've just heard, and then a snatch of distorted (I swear to Christ) marching band/polka music carries us out.
You guys...I swear.
* Except for the artwork.
** Liquid Television aired from 1989 - 1991.
*** One of Coil's aliases, along with "The Eskaton".
**** What Balance and Christopherson called Coil before Coil was Coil.
# Two 7" singles were released in 1987, the first contained "The Wheel" and "The Wheal", the second contained "The Wheal" and "Keelhauler".
## A homonym of "wheel" which is defined as "a small, burning or itching swelling on the skin". Nice.
### Three exclamation points, no more, no less.
% I'm basing this on the fact that the caller addresses a "Peter" at the start of the message.
%% Listen to "The Downward Spiral (The Bottom)". I'm pretty sure these aren't references, but rather the actual sounds used in the remix.