Artist Spotlight: Coil

Coil was a transgressive band born of the fine English tradition of visionaries, weirdo magicians and perverse madmen. They took inspiration from people like William Blake, Austin Osman Spare, Alexander Shulgin, Ian Sinclair, Aleister Crowley, even William Burroughs (although he was American) and obviously Genesis P-Orridge (more on that in a moment), while using “cut-up technique, ritual drug use, sleep deprivation, lucid dreaming, tidal shifts, John Dee-like methods of scrying, instrument glitches, SETI synchronization and chaos theory” (thanks Wikipedia) and apparently a lot of gay sex for inspiration (Christopherson and Balance went through some apparently wild hedonistic phases). How you feel about that list may well mirror your reaction to Coil. Coil’s music ranged across a number of genres, creating something for shamans, lotus eaters and the debauch-tronauts, and – best of all – rewards close listening like few others bands. “The best moment of any concert, whether it’s a Coil concert or any other band or even a classical concert, is the moment when you lose yourself. You become unaware of your surroundings, totally absorbed by the music.” – Peter Christopherson

My interest in Coil came by way of Throbbing Gristle and, briefly, Psychic TV. Back in the day when still flush with youth and a small paycheck I could safely fritter away, I often wasted both down at a Denver indie record – uh CD – shop called Wax Trax that’s been around for forever and still sells the latest forms of music wrapped into a coil. Wax Trax staff had a habit of annotating the plastic cards that divided the Nick Caves from the Nine Inch Nails, listing on them other bands related by style, shared members, etc. – so that Throbbing Gristle’s divider card listed Psychic TV and Coil (among others). It was a good marketing idea and it worked: I bought my first Coil album in 1990 or so, probably, Horse Rotorvator.

I was already attempting “noise”and Industrial experiments of my own and probably burned hundreds of hours at my low-fi hobbyist level. Coil manipulated sound in ways I’d never heard before and that I’ve rarely heard since, and often made actual music out of them too (which always seemed to me should have been the ultimate goal for musique concrete). Coil was way out of my league technology-wise, but I managed to learn a lot from them, and what I learned helped me explore and appreciate their work more in turn. “It’s like when you haven’t been to sleep for several days and you’re always seeing stuff out of the corner of your eye that you don’t see when you look at it directly – but in a musical sense. Quite how it works I don’t really know.” – Peter Christopherson

Over the years, Coil swept through many different planes and orbits, waxed and waned through different phases, fancies and fetishes, so that trying to pin down their “musical style” is a bit like the blind men describing the elephant. Listen to one track and you might think Coil were just hacky noisemakers, a second track might cast them as drone autopilots, a third as ecstasy-fueled ravers, a fourth as purveyors of morbid goth, and that fifth track would just defy normal categorization and end up dumping Coil into the wide and deep “experimental” dustbin. All of these genre labels though – trunk, ears, body, legs, tail – applied across the years at one time or another, one album or another. Many tracks are songs although many are not. Some are short, some long, some beautiful, some ugly, some harsh, some sad, some ecstatic, some spaced out, some rhythmic, some not. Coil was all those and more. Well, it was, but not any more. The two main members and driving force behind Coil, Jhonn Balance and Peter Christopherson, are both dead now. Balance became an out of control alcoholic and died at 42 in in 2004 when he fell from a second floor balcony while drunk (which I realized only just now is ironic when you consider his assumed name of “Balance” and that his last song was “Going Up”). Peter Christopherson moved away to Thailand and then slipped further away while asleep at 55 in 2010. You can hear the bones humming.

Quick Origin story: Throbbing Gristle broke up in 1981 after five years of inventing “industrial music,” a coin apparently first termed by member Peter Christopherson. He left Gristle with Genesis P-Orridge to Psychic TV with some other people, including a Gristle fanboy named “Jhonn Balance”, an assumed name I’ll stick with here. Balance also had solo side project of his own that Christopherson soon hooked up with, and they soon left PTV to become Coil some time around 1984 as best I can tell. They put out material for just under 23 years and spanned a lot of styles, so let’s dive right into the woods and try to get lost. There’s so much more I could have told you, but what’s important now is the music.

Two notes before we begin: First, I’ve left off discussing a number of albums I’m not terribly familiar with, such as Astral Disaster (1999), Queens Of The Circulating Library (2000), Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 2 (2000), The Remote Viewer (2002), Black Antlers (2204), and more. Coil was pretty prolific and I still have a lot to check out (I’ve barely looked into all the later live recordings, for example). I tried to skim some of these for this write-up, but found it pointless try to skim Coil and really understand what’s going on with each release, so I’ve cut the ones I felt my brain hasn’t gelled around yet. Do note however that I found them all pretty listenable and worthy of further exploration, as I don’t think Coil ever got stuck in a rut. Secondly, “Notable Tracks” are based on my subjective opinion, of course; others may feel differently.

How To Destroy Angels (1984)

Accessibility: Pretty esoteric, unless one’s into magick I suppose.

Overall musical style: Not so much music as ritualistic gongs and slithery metallic sounds.

Observations: How To Destroy Angels was Coil’s first release and was a single over fifteen minutes long that “…tried to produce sound which has a real, practical and beneficial power in this modern Era. Specifically, it is intended as an accumulator of male sexual energy.” Approximately a trillion versions of this are kicking about thanks to Coil’s relentless remixing urge, but the version I heard on the end of Unnatural History (see below) didn’t do much for me or my male sexual energy, but whadda I know, I’m a dilettante when it comes to “magick.”

Notable Tracks: N/a

Scatology (1984)

Overall musical styles: Post punk, morbid goth, industrial, noise. Something of a rough draft for what was coming, Scatology is perhaps more the mud that true life would arise from, or the alchemical shit that would become gold.

Accessibility: Middling, although pre-existing fans of Psychic TV, JG Thirlwell and post punk should be able to find something to enjoy.

Observations: Coil’s first proper album, Balance later said that producer Jim Thirlwell “had quite a lot of impact.” I’d go as far to say Thirlwell may as well have been credited as a member of the band. I only just discovered that Thirlwell produced this record, but it was an epiphany, you can hear his fingerprints all over many of these tracks.

Coil came along just as sampling became a common-ish thing for someone with several thousands of dollars or access to a corporately-funded studio (Coil was the in the latter camp). And boy did they run with it. Scatology’s sampling is a bit primitive or dated by now, but going forward, Coil put it to much more complex and layered use than anyone else had before. Tinkerer that he was, Christopherson went on to delve into all sorts of other technologies and techniques as they became available; ever heard of granular synthesis? I hadn’t, but thanks to Coil, I instantly recognized the effect when I looked it up. But that’s in Coil’s future, not here.

Notable Tracks: Coil’s cover of Tainted Love from 1985 didn’t originally appear on this album’s vinyl version. but was added later to fill out the space of a CD. Their somber take was the first musical release dedicating its profits to AIDs research and drew Mark Almond (from Soft Cell) into collaborating in Coil for the next couple of albums. The industrial “Sewage Worker’s Birthday Party” gives life to the album title, along with the vinyl’s center label photo of a naked man lying in uhm, some kind of muck; for some reason the title was changed to “The S.W.B.P” for later releases on CD.

Horse Rotorvator (1986)

Overall musical styles: Nightmare military marches, goth, panic and mania personified, melancholy. Despite a bit of a wide sweep, it hangs together very well as a unified work.

Accessibility: Pretty good. The rougher edges of Scatology have been burred off to reveal a more refined sound and confidence in the technology, as well as a stronger, more lyrical bent.

Observations: Jhonn Balance said “Horse Rotorvator was this vision I’d had of this mechanical/flesh thing that ploughed up the earth and I really did have a vision of it—a real horrible, burning, dripping, jaw-like vision in the night … The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse killed their horses and use their jawbones to make this huge earth-moving machine.” The album, a coin stamped with panic on the obverse and mania on the reverse, lives up to that monstrous vision. Balance also said “Horse Rotorvator was as near to ‘songs’ as I wanted to get and I had that deliberately in my mind this time… no way did we want verse – chorus – verse – chorus, so it’s more open ended…” Even though ‘songs’ would factor less into Coil’s output as time went on until near the end and their new found interest in live shows, there are still a number of very, very good ones coming up.

Notable Tracks: Nearly all of them, choosing just a couple is so tough! Ostia was “a tribute to a friend of ours who passed away… Dover came into the picture because another friend of ours jumped over the cliffs. And this brings in the subject of beaches. [Italian film maker] Pasolini was murdered on the beach of Ostia. Ostia means sacrifice, in English it means a bone; the mixing of places.” Balance again. There’s also a great and appropriate Leonard Cohen cover and the title of final track, The First Five Minutes After Death was a friend told me, derived from a Zen koan where a student asks his teacher, “when do we stop learning?” “Five minutes after death” his teacher replies. The instrumental Penetralia, with it’s bravura combination of noise, music, rhythm and studio wizardry, may best embody Balance’s horrific vision related above.

The Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser (The Consequences of Raising Hell) (1988)

Overall musical style: Ominous and creepy movie soundtrack music with wind-up music boxes.

Accessibility: A good introduction to what Coil was up to around the time of Horse Rotorvator but without words or as much genre-hopping as it’s clearly a movie soundtrack.

Observations: Clive Barker during the 80s described Coil as “the only group whose records I’ve taken off because they made my bowels churn.” Barker meant that as a compliment, so of course after Christopherson loaned him the piercing magazines that inspired the Cenobite designs, Barker asked Coil to score the first Hellraiser film. The movie studio heads rejected Coil’s work though to hire on a friend; I’ve read that a little of Coil’s stuff did get “worked in” somehow. In the meantime, Coil went ahead and released their Hellraiser soundtrack themselves. Christopherson had already done a fair amount of commercial work by this point and I think they handled the movie scoring considerations well.

Notable Tracks: Main Title is probably the strongest track; I recall most of it was more like incidental music.

Gold Is The Metal With The Broadest Shoulders (1987)

Overall musical style(s): Industrial, some tracks more musical than others.

Accessibility: Probably low as none of these tracks are songs and they all tend to be rather noise based. On the other hand, a couple of remixed previous tracks may hold the interest of casual Coil fans. On the third hand, it ends with How To Destroy Angels (see above).

Observations: Coil’s first compilation of outtakes, side-takes on pre existing tracks, and oddities that just never really became something but were still interesting nevertheless. This one’s said to be leftover flotsam that never made it into the three previous albums. More than a few tracks are offshoots from Horse Rotorvator material and worth the price of admission alone, not to imply the rest of the disk is just filler. Think of it like flipping through someone’s sketch book: it’s in no way a finished work in and of itself, but there’s something new and interesting to see on every page.

Notable Tracks: Nearly everything, especially if you’re already a fan of Horse Rotorvator. To give you some insight into Coil’s way of working, the third track “Thump” is a nearly-there track that never actually got there, with a field recording of a Thai boxing match tossed on top, and it’s quite listenable. Red Slur (using elements from Horse’s Slur) opens with what sounds like a squeeze toy or a duck being strangled then becomes a sampling chaos set to Slur’s original rhythm track; probably little more than something tossed off for chuckles, but damn, sometimes I think they were incapable of making something unlistenable. I was wrong though, as you’ll see later, but more importantly, I was almost 100% correct.

Unnatural History, vols. 1 (1990), 2 or “Smiling In The Face Of Perversity” (1995) and 3 (1997)

Overall musical style: These three disks collected tracks that Coil contributed to multi-band compilations (which included some remixes of previous work) and and other stuff that just never ended up anywhere else, again There’s even some short tunes for television commercials that Christopherson composed, and never has anodyne music sounded so ominous in context.

Accessibility: Scattershot as the styles jump all over the place. Coil fans will probably be happy though.

Observations: I’ve only heard the first one and found it a pretty good for Coil’s more noisier, rougher styles; it also includes the great title His Body Was a Playground for the Nazi Elite. Boyd Rice (“NON”), a noise-friend of Throbbing Gristle, contributed to a few of the tracks (Rice also did at least one good album called Easy Listening For The Hard Of Hearing, but later became something of a fascist which lead Coil to drift away from him). Chris And Cosy, fellow Throbbing Gristle alums, did some collaborating on the third disk.

Notable Tracks: The first disk has a great slightly different mix of Horse Rotorvator’s Penetralia called Penetralia II, and the final cut is How To Destroy Angels.

Love’s Secret Domain (1991)

Overall musical style(s): Acid house, industrial, goth, a little flamenco guitar, a bit of baroque.

Accessibility: High. The songs sound like the best experimental pop that could ever hope to be, while the aural explorations never risk your snoozing. You could do much worse that start here if you’re new to Coil but find the idea alluring. I would advise however that you avoid their not-precisely-but-oh-so-very-damn-much-NSFW video they made for O Rose Thou Art Sick if gay bothers you (plus because I feel it’s somewhat lazy “get on a stage and lip sync the song” style is unworthy of the song’s aural complexity).

Observations: L.S.D. (get it?) is arguably Coil’s most consistently great and accessible album, I could probably dissect it track by track and fill as much space as I’m already wasting here (true of many of their albums, really). During its recording, the band famously shared visions of Babylonian kings and holy men, Aztec and Amazonian warriors crowding the studio. One might speculate this was due to due to their drug use (“if you want to touch the sky, just put a window in your eye” as Balance sings on Windowpane here) and sleep deprivation, but Stephen Thrower, a Coil member during their early years, claims they really did share those visions. “Balance and I found that we were seeing each new figure in perfect synch with each other.”

Coil quite often tinkered with otherwise completed tunes and track orders, which I would normally be OK with, but it’s also frustrated me more than once, such as with this album. It was common back in those days to release an album on both CD and vinyl and often the CDs contained more material because they had more space to. I originally had L.S.D. on vinyl on found it a much tighter set than the CD version, which includes a near-filler remix bit of Teenage Lightning that dilutes the song’s impact when it rolls in later (now called Teenage Lightning II), and a less pure, more acid house version of The Snow; I’m still trying to find the album version and so far I think I’ve got, perhaps like an Eskimo, five variations on the same thing. On the other hand, there are also a couple of great tracks that weren’t on the vinyl. Did any definitive Coil ever actually exist, or was it more an obscenely slippery, living presence? Christopherson planned to make one huge release of everything Coil had ever done later on, but passed away before it happened. So give thanks to Pan that YouTube and exist! Blow his horn, drink his wine!

Notable Tracks: Again, nearly all of them. Windowpane was a single, but it actually doesn’t do so much for me. If I had to choose some, I’d say O Rose Thou Art Sick (a song about obsession that, yes borrows some words from William Blake and Roy Orbison) and Teenage Lightning, which is a sharply written metaphor for puberty.

Stolen And Contaminated Songs (1992)

Accessibility: Pretty high, as Coil wasn’t quite done with acid house EDM-style tracks just yet and it jumps genres, so everyone should be able to find something to like.

Overall musical style(s): Post L.S.D. out-takes and side-takes, like Gold Is The Metal above, so it’s a range of acid house, slower paced woozy listening, experimental electronic and ambient noise.

Observations: It almost makes you giddy to see how good an album can be made from just the outtakes from another album. Coil never really hit this high again though, and went on something of a hiatus after this album didn’t generate much interest or sales. Despite a dud or two, Stolen is effing wonderful, like a flip side dream to L.S.D.’s more rational universe (not that anyone would actually accuse L.S.D. of being rational). I’ve already said too much and nearly ruined this spell.

From here on out, Coil’s work tended to move from more rousing work into more meditative realms, although that’s not a hard and fast rule (nothing could be with Coil).

Notable Tracks: The opening typo-named track Futher is a granular synthesis take on L.S.D.’s Further Back And Faster, the jazzy, languid Omlagus Garfungiloops asks if you’ve been exploding frogs again while Her Friends The Wolves subtly echoes a grinding that coalesces in unexpected ways for eleven minutes, and the final, unclassifiable ending track Light Shining Darkly sounds like an ascension of some kind.

Elph vs. Coil: Worship the Glitch (1995)

Overall musical style(s): Ambient, minimalism.

Accessibility: Probably low, unless you’re open to this sort of thing.

Observations: This album disappointed me when it was first released as I was hoping for something more complex like Love’s Secret Domain, but pulling it out recently, it’s grown on me a lot. Elph was a name Coil gave to random glitches and oddball sounds that their instruments and systems sometimes seemed to generate on their own. “Elph, yeah, it’s channeling,” Balance said in 1998, “… Someone else said this is entities being channelled by you, and I had to say yes because it really did feel like that … something opened up above us and poured into us. We were constantly inspired and then it finished transmission .. Bit like that bit in Close Encounters where he’s making mountains out of potato.” That conjures up John Dee and Edward Kelley in the late 1500s, Tim Leary and Robert. Anton Wilson in the early 1970s, and Alan Moore today, doesn’t it? This is music that dreams itself into being in a deep underground cave and echoes through the darkness like waves in a pool. I wouldn’t call it Coil’s best, but I’m beginning to consider it a high point of a different, otherworldly calibre if you can tune into its wavelength. It also features snippets of Lea Hirsig, Aleister Crowley’s wife, singing a pop standard of her day.

Notable Tracks: Anything That Flies is probably the most complex piece on this dreamy album, but the whole thing well coheres as a single entity, really, as many of these tracks seem to be variations on one another, or at least feel that way.

Coil vs. Elph: Born Again Pagans (1994)

Overall musical style(s): Unlike the previous, the first track is very acid house, then shifts back to more ambient minimalism like the other Elph album – something of an abrupt tonal shift.

Accessibility: See above, although the single acid house influenced track might find more fans.

Observations: Some tracks are attributed to Coil, some to Elph. I think the single acid house track is out of place and not Coil’s best acid house even. The rest of it’s in league with what the other disk was, and is pretty good too, but I found Worship The Glitch much stronger and more cohesive if nothing else. This one is also only just over twenty-one minutes, almost exactly half the length of Glitch. Maybe we needed more time to get this part of Elph’s message, but the medium can’t be the message if the spirit goes silent.

Notable Tracks: Protection is the acid house track that opens this disk and it’s decent enough, but my interest lay in the rest of the disk.

Further Down The Spiral (1995)

Overall musical style(s): Industrial

Accessibility: Pretty good if you’re a Nine Inch Nails fan, also if you’re not too much of one.

Observations: “If it’s not immediately obvious: Horse Rotorvator was deeply influential on me. What they did to your senses. What they could do with sound. What Jhonn was doing lyrically. The exotic darkness of them permeated their work.” – Trent Reznor, who had Coil and others do a number of remixes of his own work. Further Down The Spiral remixed the Downward Spiral, and included work from other luminaries such as Aphex Twin and J. G. Thirlwell. I’m not much of a NIN fan, but it’s good. Reznor got to meet Coil by hiring Christopherson (“Sleazy” to his friends, and I am not making that up) direct Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails movie “Broken,” which I hear features (despite the jokes you might make about NIN’s music) a man forced to watch NIN videos and being tortured between in between them. Both Christopherson and Reznor thought they had gone too far with the film and never officially released it, although there were official-ish leaks over the years; Vimeo’s pulled it from Reznor’s channel a couple of times recently too, if the internet has any authority on this story.

A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room (1996)

Overall musical style(s): Electronic, experimental

Accessibility: Probably a bit low, but very worth the effort.

Observations: This record is one my favorite Coil works and a good starting point if you like more atmospheric, non song material. Originally released under the band name Black Light District, this weird record was described as having “a subterranean earth-tree-dreamers perspective”, whatever that might mean; I’ll agree it like something from a dream and subterranean, in that it seems to be like something beyond human understanding, like some bizarre ancient artifact unearthed. Balance told Wire magazine in 2000 “The overall Coil symbol was the black sun, and we’ve deliberately decided to go from solar to lunar aspect. We just decided to become completely open to whatever happens: make more reflective music. It seems a logical step… moon music.” That shift in style was why they distanced it from being an “official” Coil releases by using the new moniker.

Notable Tracks: This first track, “Unprepared Piano,” refers to the ‘prepared piano technique’ created by John Cage, although I don’t think they actually used it here (obviously). A deep listener on YouTube also pointed out that it’s made up of a piano sample that’s repeated three time within the piece and that, although it sounds something like a cat on the keyboard, it’s actually pretty carefully composed. But this is far from the most interesting track on the album, I’m just telling you all that about a throw-away track to demonstrate some of the thinking and composing that Coil put into things. The first two thirds of this disk is amazingly good, culminating in the stunning pair Stoned Circular and Stoned Circular II; my girlfriend cannily described one of the sounds in the second as “one of those deli meat slicing machines cutting into my brain.” Unfortunately, the disk then sinks beneath the pointless Green Water – sorry Coil, but you’re really better than this. The disk manages to right itself before it’s all over though.

Time Machines (1998)

Overall musical style: Minimalist drone.

Accessibility: Oh wait, you’re serious, let me laugh harder. Nobody likes drone except me.

Observations: Time Machines is one long drone, four bleed-through tracks that last over an hour. Each one titled after a type of drug, “7-Methoxy-β-Carboline: (Telepathine)” for example. Balance described it in The Wire as “One of the interesting things … is that there’s a handful of responses which we’ve had where what happened to the listeners was exactly what we intended to happen. There would be some kind of temporal disruption caused by just listening to the music, just interacting with the music. The drugs thing is actually a hook we hung it on – it originally came out of me and Drew talking that some of the types of music you listen to – sacred musics like Tibetan music or anything with a sacred intent which often is long ceremonial type music which could last for a day or three days or something. There are periods of time in that where you will come out of time. That’s the intention of it to go into a trance and achieve an otherness. We thought can we do this sort of electronic punk-primitive? We did demos with a simple monosynth and we managed it. We sat in the room and listened to it loud and … you suddenly get this feeling, the hairs on the back of your neck, and you’d realise that you’d had some sort of temporal slip.” I’ve found after just one listen that this disk does kind of rob you of your sense of time. The cover features a large black circle for scrying like John Dee, maybe I should try that next.

Notable Tracks: n/a

Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 1 (1999)

Overall musical style(s): Woozy cabaret, creepily intimate, keyboard flights, found sounds, perhaps some goth sensibilities.

Accessibility: A quieter album like this might turn off some folks, but it’s subtlety can also get it further under your skin if you give it a chance.

Observations: This well-titled album is much more… well, “sedate” is wrong, that makes it sound comfortable somehow; it’s much slower paced and often very spooky. Many of the tracks are songs again.

Notable Tracks: Most of them. The Tangerine Dream- or perhaps Vangelis-like Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East And Destroy Paris In A Night instrumental (the title’s a Nostradamus quote) is a great psychedelic keyboard night flight. Strange Birds isn’t exactly music, but it’s a weirdly wonderful recording. The Dreamer Is Still Asleep is probably one of their better slow songs ever, plus it sounds so funereal now, like much of their work these days. Many of the tracks are long (some perhaps a bit too), the shortest is over seven minutes, but I find it all works.

Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil (2000)

Overall musical style(s): Unrelenting noise.

Accessibility: I’d say nil, but the album does have a few fans. Not me though.

Observations: A live show recording, from New York City I believe. “The performance lasted only an hour, and by the end of it, the audience looked as though they’d just been put through an abattoir.” I bet they did! I bought a copy of this back in the day sight unseen because it was Coil and and can’t stand its unrelenting wall of gnarled electronic noise. It’s the only Coil album I actually hate. Although Coil had moved into doing a number of lives shows near the end, I think they were far better at their careful tinkering in the studio. But I haven’t listened to a lot of the concert material so I might change my mind on this later.

Notable Tracks: I Am The Green Child is less terrible than the rest.

The Ape Of Naples (2005)

Overall musical style(s): Goth, but it’s hard for me to say for sure as I’m not too familiar with it yet. I couldn’t leave it out though, as you’ll see.

Accessibility: Decent, as most of it’s songs rather than noise or industrial.

Observations: After Balance died, Christopherson sat down and reworked some leftover material both previously used and unused, and put this together. Despite that backstory, it holds together really well. It was going to be called Fire Of The Mind originally (see below). I don’t know it well, but it’s a good send off for Balance, “the beautiful 17 year old genius I had first met, and fallen in love with 20 years earlier, [who] slowly drank himself away from Joy, Awareness, Hope and finally, Life itself. – Christopherson, who declared Coil done with this album after Balance’s death. But of course it wasn’t, not really…

Notable Tracks: Fire of The Mind is the one that stood out for me (see below).

Backwards (2004)

Overall musical style: Industrial, disordered EDM

Accessibility: Pretty good as it’s mostly recognizably songs that aren’t too long.

Observations: Backwards was a demo for the album that was to have followed L.S.D. but instead ended up being lost in limbo due to label legal problems, although it did leak a few years after Balance died. Some of it was recorded at recorded at Trent Reznor’s Nothing Studios in New Orleans, “Peter was a lovely guy. We had a respectful relationship. Him and Jhonn came and stayed with me in New Orleans for a while. I was in a dark place at that time and those guys were too, to be honest. Three addicts basically trying to pretend that it was fine and it wasn’t.” – Trent Reznor. Some parts remind me of The Legendary Pink Dots. The album was later remixed to hide its origins as “that one under wraps due to label woes” and was released as The New Backwards (2015 I think?), which is possibly even better than the old Backwards, but it’s too early for me to say for sure. “Don’t judge Backwards as the best of Coil – it’s probably not – but what it most definitely is is the stepping stone between Love’s Secret Domain and the Musick To Play In The Dark series.” – Danny Hyde, producer and one time member of Coil brought back to finish this disk. My take on it may be colored by the fact I only just picked it up, but I think he’s right, it’s not the best Coil as the genre hopping is more limited and it does sound more like a demo than a finished record, but it’s still pretty good.

Notable Tracks: Backwards, a cry of anger and alienation that almost sounds like it could have been fit back on Scatology (probably thanks to Reznor’s presence in the studio) and the elegiac Fire Of The Mind which had been previously released on The Ape Of Naples in fact. AYOR sounds like something that that street band from The Nightmare Before Christmas might play.


If any of the above sounds intriguing to you, searching out Coil for yourself will most likely be worth your effort, maybe more than you could have imagined. If you don’t like one track, try another. Preferably with headphones. If you can listen in the dark, even better. I’ve recently found that much of Coil’s output it available on, so if you want to deep dive, that might be a good starting point. Sadly much of it is out of print.

“I think it’s quite possible to over-analyze Coil. It’s just the noise, sometimes. As simple as that.” – Peter Christopherson