Friday, April 15, 2005

Coil ...and the ambulance died in his arms - CD review


'I take a sip from a cup of Mercury' - Jhonn Balance

The album starts after a short electronic intro of rhythmic strands filled with nocturnal clicks and mandible chatter, then the audience cheers. Awash in the proceeding ambient glow, Balance's vocal moans break through with the sonic backing bending to his vocalisations. Digital debris fills the sky, tiny bell sounds give a spiritual theme as the song 'Snow falls over military temples' appears out of the musical miasma - I would have loved to see this performed live - delicate vocals surrounded by swelling sounds.

As an album it is constantly in flux somewhere between improvised and the pre-determined, like all the best Coil performances. Soundscapes drift abstractly along until the lyrics draw the focus with their blurry, lingered nature melding mimetically to the whole. Most of the lyrics here are expanded in shuffled repetition to create a set of gentle songs, that for the most part have a strong anti-war flavour - a topical (at the time) protest at the invasion of Iraq perhaps?

'Slip in the Marylebone Road' with it's hypnotic draw is a favourite of mine - the undulating quality of the sound that moves through Balance's words gives extra emphasis to the tale that's being spun. I like the way the ordinary loss of a notebook becomes a gateway to another dimension. The fragments of Thai (I guess) and ethnic chanting adds to the experience.

‘Triple sons’ is a real gem of a song - that will hopefully find itself on the final Coil album 'The Ape of Naples' (fingers crossed). The glycerine quality of the sound envelops, the melodic tune a mirror calm ocean in slight ripple,the vocals a reflection skating across the surface, and the lines 'I swallow the one yew berry' transforming into 'I swallow the one's you bury' is just pure poetry, simple but very effecting.

The last track is a re-working of 'The Dreamer is Still Asleep' from the album 'Musick to Play in the Dark Volume One' with a new ‘somnambulist in an ambulance’ introduction that has a 'Sufi' like quality in its repetitiveness. The tempo of the song is reduced to a skeletal pulse, the lyrics interspersed with fresh ones and all under pinned by an attractive rhythmic hook floating on a statically charged backdrop.

But that was Coil for you, always surprising, with a need to express, that was consistently matched by their creative outpourings onstage or in the studio - they will be sorely missed.

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