Continuing our Halloween month theme, we turn to masters of post-industrial, electronic brilliance Coil and their Musick to Play in the Dark series. With these albums, Coil announced, they were leaving behind their old style of "sun music" and transitioning towards "moon music." I'm sure that makes sense to someone, but I will not worry too much about it because the music on both these albums,, solar or lunar, is among the strongest of their extremely impressive career.
There's definitely an atmosphere of the sinister here, and they spare no expense in creating spooky atmospherics throughout. The opener, "Something," is just the title word spoken in a whisper again and again, slowly fading in surrounded by wind sounds and subtle electronics. The second track is a full fledged electronic workout that bears all the hallmarks of later-day Coil hired gun and analog synth wizard Thighpaulsandra. His utterly unique approach to playing the synthesizer is endlessly entertaining and a regular feature on most Coil albums from this period. Think of a more demented Tangerine Dream and you get the basic idea.
Te showstopper on the album is the eleven minute "Ether." Its arcane references to the creepy, old-fashioned drug are chilling enough, but towards the end it becomes downright terrifying when John Balance intones the line "I'm going upstairs to turn my mind off... to turn my mind off... to turn my mind off" over a gradual fading backdrop of dark ambient sounds until only his desperate rasping remains. It's tremendously effective and one of the scariest songs I've ever heard.
The rest of the album remains strong throughout. Volume One of the series was a little uneven, and it's nice to see that that mistake has not been repeated here. The closer, another eleven minute track call ed"Batwings: A Limnal Hymn," is oddly the most sedate and straightforward track here, with no vocal processing for Balance and minimal instrumentation, yet it's strangely effective. It's unsettling without being over the top, and send the listener off into the night feeling just a little unnerved and eager to get home to a safe, warm bed.
No other band has ever really sounded like Coil, and it's wonderful that they have such a prodigious and varied discography. It's only a shame that the members died so young and were unable to leave us with even more great music.