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COIL, "BLACK ANTLERS"

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Threshold House
Jhon Balance and Sleazy are no longer partners. Sleazy's moved to Thailand, and Jhon's moved to London. The physical location of Threshold House, where Coil used to live and record their music, has been abandoned. Jhon Balance has a new lover and collaborator, artist Ian Johnstone, he's grown a D.H. Lawrence-style beard, and seems to have fallen once again into a vortex of substance abuse and insanity. Both Jhon and Sleazy have announced that they are now working on non-Coil side projects. Despite all evidence to the contrary, however, Coil have continued to insist that they are not breaking up. The first evidence of this came with their recent mini-tour through a handful of European cities, their so-called "Even An Evil Fatigue" tour. At each of their concert dates, they've been selling this CD-R entitled Black Antlers. With the exception of a new version of "Broccoli" and a song called "Tattooed Man," (apparently destined for inclusion on the long-ago scrapped Dark Age of Love LP), the songs on this disc mirror the setlist of the recent concerts. In fact, the barebones packaging and low-fidelity recording of Black Antlers leads me to suspect that it is nothing but a glorified concert rehearsal captured on record. According to various sources, Coil have plans to re-record and re-mix this material, and will eventually give it an official release. Therefore, I should probably withhold final judgment on these songs. However, it's hard not to notice the under-produced, impromptu nature of the music and vocals. There is a loose, improvisatory feel to these tracks that I'm not altogether convinced is the final word for these songs. Jhon Balance's vocals are given too much prominence in the mix, overwhelming the Sleazy's laptop programming and Thighpaulsandra's vintage synthesizer squalls. However, approached as a series of "works in progress," the album has quite a lot to recommend it. "The Gimp (Sometimes)" is a spooked, melancholic lament by Balance, set against an eerie backdrop of distorted synthesizers and scattered percussive elements. "Sex With Sun Ra (Part 1 - Saturnalia)" is the best song on the album, Balance narrating an erotic fantasy partly based on Sun Ra's "black folks in space" prophecies as explicated in John Coney's film Space is the Place: "He dreamt of color music and the machines that make it possible/He took me for a ride on a space ship powered by natural music." The music bears no resemblance to the cosmic free jazz of Sun Ra, veering closer to Musick to Play in the Dark-era Coil: gurgling synthscapes with slow, percolating rhythms. "All The Pretty Little Horses" is an unexpected cover of the traditional British folk song made famous (to Brainwashed readers) by Current 93. Coil's version is quite lovely, with expertly played marimba as accompaniment for Balance's best attempt at crooning. "Teenage Lightning (10th Birthday Version)" resurrects and expands the LSD track, giving it a more open-ended, organic feel than the original. "Black Antlers (Where's Your Child)" ends the disc on a high note, a druggy rave-up full of queasy samples and chopped, distended vocal samples. With a little finessing, this album has the potential to be one of Coil's finest.

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Last Updated on Monday, 29 August 2005 11:12  


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