Coil, "Love's Secret Domain" (Stephen Bush)
I'll never forget my first encounter with Coil. I was flipping through used CD bins in my hometown of Austin, TX, in 2005 and came across a pristine copy of Horse Rotorvator—the 1988 CD pressing on Force & Form, alternate cover art—it was beautiful. I promptly went up to the register, paid the $5.99 sticker price, raced home, and popped the CD into my stereo to ensure it played without skipping. This was a phenomenal find—Coil's Horse Rotorvator! The next weekend, I went back to the record store and shopped again. On the way home, I swung by the Post Office and mailed Horse Rotorvator to some sucker on eBay who had paid me $80 for the privilege of finding it for him. Yesssss!
Six years later, writing for Brainwashed as a full-stop Coil fanatic, I'd kill to have not sold that copy of Horse Rotorvator. Turns out I was the sucker!
I was always an entrepreneurial kid. In high school, I offered my younger sister $10 apiece for a few retired Beanie Babies from her toy shelves, then flipped them on eBay for $50-100 each. Going into college, I kicked off my own eBay business to pay my tuition bills—a somewhat worthier cause—by reselling power tools, space heaters, faucets, and other gadgets that I cherry-picked from the Home Depot clearance shelves. I enjoyed working from home, and broken down into hourly-wage terms, the pay was fantastic.
In my spare time, between studying and selling and dating, I sank into music as a source of relief from my normal responsibilities. Looking back, it was probably the Cure's 2004 tour that sealed the deal. I'd endured my first big college break-up days before the show—and had discovered the Cure's Disintegration (which I thought was the most depressing record of all time) a few weeks earlier. It was perfect timing. Hot on the heels of Disintegration, I melted down during a two-hour Cure set in Houston. I was awestruck, and I promptly bought everything I could find by the Cure. For years, I sought to replicate the intense feeling I got from Disintegration, and that one concert, by seeking out and consuming new music at lightning speed.
Music wasn't free, though, and I didn't have unlimited resources. Naturally, as a budding music geek and a young entrepreneur, it made excellent sense to resell sought-after CDs to fund my own purchases. All I had to do was keep an eye out in the used bins as I thumbed past each disc. Out of print CDs, deluxe editions, import singles—all of it was fair game. Pretty quickly, I learned which artists attracted a fanbase rabid enough to pay top doll ar for CDs they hadn't yet acquired. Simple enough, right?
Tori Amos, among others, was a godsend—I distinctly recall selling a $.99 promotional single from her 2005 album, The Beekeeper, for a hundred bucks. Tori was also a gateway to other collector's favorites: she led me to Nine Inch Nails, which led me to Wax Trax! and industrial music, which led me to Coil... or something like that. Soon, I found out when I sold Horse Rotorvator that Coil fans were quite the devoted bunch, not to mention weird. Coil was far weirder than Tori Amos, NIN, and most other music I'd heard at that time. I don't recall what Horse Rotorvator sounded like when I played it, except that it didn't decisively grab me. It was way over my head. I had no problem selling it that day.
It turns out Horse Rotorvator would be the last Coil CD I would sell. Having made a small fortune on that sale (subsequently funding my own buying appetite for a week or so), I looked into Coil's discography, taking care to note the cover artwork, so that I wouldn't miss any gems in the used bins. Coil had a ton of flat-out weird, wonderful artwork, but one album took the cake that day: Love's Secret Domain. An erect, ejaculating penis between a pair of blue angel's wings, a skeleton and a pentagram—"Out of Light, Cometh Darkness"—it was some of the most subtly disturbing imagery I'd seen on an album cover. Intrigued, I wondered how much it would sell for. I also wondered how it sounded.
A year later, in 2006, I found a copy of Love's Secret Domain. It was gently used, a few scratches on the disc, so I didn't sell it immediately. It sat around idly in my eBay stacks. Eventually, I played it. As with Disintegration, and a small handful of other albums, my music listening has not been the same since.
I'm not sure which song caught my ear first. I would like to think it was the demented carnival stomp of "Teenage Lightning 1," the twinkling dark-ambient mastery of "Dark River," the throbbing, skewed acid-house of "Windowpane" and "The Snow," or perhaps John Balance's sordid, unforgettable vocal performance on "Love's Secret Domain." Certainly those were the high points when I re-listened to Love's Secret Domain this week, but it could have been anything. In any case, I remember being utterly transfixed by the sounds I heard that day. I could not stop listening.
A few attentive listens later, I was head over heels enamored. Love's Secret Domain was not going the way of Horse Rotorvator; in fact, it quickly found its way onto my shelf of personal favorites. No doubt many of those favorites are now gone. I have never been particularly nostalgic with music, and I have no problem letting go of albums I don't see myself ever playing again. Love's Secret Domain has stayed put. These days, it is sandwiched right in between Codeine and Ornette Coleman on a meticulously alphabetized, rotating CD shelf in my home.
As the years passed, I continued to seek out challenging sounds, even more so recently than in my college years. As such, Coil has been a trusted companion and guide. I have picked up Coil's albums as I have found them staring up at me from the used bins, and each time I hear a new one, I remember my initial encounters with Horse Rotorvator and Love's Secret Domain. There is much Coil I have heard that is indispensable, and much I have yet to hear, but none I remember so fondly as Love's Secret Domain, which remains my favorite.
Love's Secret Domain led me to hear Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Nurse with Wound, Current 93, and other favorites of the Brainwashed community; a wide spectrum of industrial, electronic, ambient and experimental music; and plenty of odd sounds to which I'd have been less receptive without its influence. It's also safe to say that Love's Secret Domain, and the path of discovery I have traveled since, eventually led me to writing for Brainwashed this year. Most importantly, though, Love's Secret Domain remains its own thing: a massively successful piece of Coil's history; a brilliant, forward-thinking collection of industrial-dance tunes; and a perennial favorite listen in my home. (For me, at least, not my wife—she prefers when we play Sade.)
Six years later, I still haven't found a second copy of Horse Rotorvator. I haven't heard any of its songs since my pointless, inattentive listen in 2005, and it may be another decade before I hear it again. And that's okay. I can wait. I have my beat-up copy of Love's Secret Domain, and a half-dozen other Coil albums, to keep me company until the day it returns to my stereo.