Sunday, 10 February 2008

Coil - Live In Porto

This is an authorised bootleg of a Coil gig on the 21st June 2003 in Porto, Portugal. Coil for this show was Peter Christopherson, Thighpaulsandra & Ossian Brown. Jhonn Balance was too ill to attend so we instead get an (almost) instrumental set. The Cds come in three different coloured covers with a plastic disc the same size as the CD in clear plastic with the track titles written on it. I believe there were a total of 600 of these made. A number of them (they haven’t said how many) have been “discovered,” and are on sale from the Coil website.

With out Jhonn Balance you really are missing a vital ingredient of Coil and I think this shows on a number of tracks. First up is Blue Rats. A very different sounding Blue Rats to the one on the Foxtrot album. 18 minutes long and sounding more like a number of other tracks played together. I’m sure I can hear bits of Sex With Sun Ra in there. This doesn’t really come together until the last five minutes when it starts to sound more like Blue Rats and the synths get a bit more lively.

Next up is Triple Sun. This is a much more in your face version than the Mutek one from a week earlier, powerful, punchy and with more bottom end. You really do miss the vocals here. Listening to the versions of this on “And The Ambulance Died In His Arms,” and “The Ape of Naples,” you get a much more complete piece. This is followed with the mournful sounding Radio Westin a piece that with its’ short repetitive refrain would work well as film soundtrack material. You get some very low in the mix vocals going on here. Few words, mostly a sort of humming along. I’m guessing by Peter Christopherson. Track four Drip Drop is rather uninspiring and has the audience talking through most of it until what sounds almost like bagpipes make an appearance. Unfortunately their arrival isn’t really enough to save a lacklustre track and this one is very forgettable. The performance is rounded off with a much longer though fairly faithful rendition of The First Five Minutes After Death from” Horse Rotavator.”

Even after taking into consideration the lack of proper recording facilites used for this recording it still comes across as a bit of a patchy and substandard release, possibly one for completists only. Triple Sun and Radio Westin (and possibly The First Five Minutes After Death) make it worthwhile hearing but really without Balance Coil only come across as a fairly decent group than the force they really were.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

COH - Strings

COH is Ivan Pavlov a Russian who lives in Sweden. He’s been having work released since 1998 when “Enter Tinnitus” came out on Raster Noton.

Ten years on from that first release and we get what is described as an “attempt to reconcile the aesthetics of digital sound with that of the more traditional music instruments and to enrich the respective domains with the qualities of each other.” I’m not sure that they necessarily enrich the respective domains of each other. I can see how the traditional sounds are used to enrich the digital domain but not really the other way around.

Various source materials are used here. A Yamaha Grand Piano, A Red Musima Elektra V Guitar and improvised recordings of a Saz and an Oud.

Three of the four pieces that make up Part 1 and Part 2 sound much like familiar COH territory, the hard pulsing rhythmical sounds you’d expect are very prevalent. Track one is noticeably different in that it’s very obviously a piano based track where the sounds of the piano haven’t been manipulated too far beyond their origins. It works as a nice gentle introduction and as a nice counterpoint to the second track of Part 1. Part 2 is made of two tracks that use a guitar that Ivan purchased in the USSR in 1988. You can hear the basis for the track in the distorted guitar sounds but they’ve been played around with enough to give it feel not too dissimilar to what you think of as a COH sound. Maybe not a million miles away from Pan sonic at their heaviest.

The last two tracks on this first CD are where you really get the sense of Ivan trying to mix the traditional with the digital. Particularly noticeable here is that he’s given the Oud and the Saz the main part of the stage and is using the digital elements very much as a means of complimenting them rather than just incorporating them into his COH sound.

CD 2 is made up of one piece called SU-U which was first recorded as a quadraphonic installation piece for Sonar 2006. It’s 17 minutes long and again uses the Oud and the Saz. The first half of the piece is very mellow, very ambient, the sort of sounds you’d expect in an installation really and it’s hard to spot any of the Saz or Oud. About 8 minutes in when the digital sounds get slightly heavier and more insistent you then have some Eastern sounding tunes being played out on one of the two instruments. The last few minutes of the track again descend into ambient territory with the Oud or Saz (I don’t know which is which) taking prominence.

A nice idea here combining the digital and traditional and trying to get them to compliment each other. But as good an album as it makes to listen to I’m not entirely sure the experiment is a total success. To be so would require more of the original sounds getting more involved rather than those acting primarily as accessories.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Angels of Light - We Are Him

I lost interest to a large extent in Angels of Light after the second album. From then on it seemed to become very folksy (for want of a better word) not particularly exciting or dynamic and the whole essence of what I liked about Michael Gira seemed to have disappeared into complacency. I could of course be very wrong and perhaps he was putting his all into what he was doing but it seemed to my ears to be a second rate Gira we were hearing. So when I heard “Black River Song” from “We Are Him,” I was surprised. The passion, energy and dynamics that I felt had been lost had returned and the sound was fuller more powerful and certainly worth exploring.

It’s a much richer sound, there’s power here not dissimilar to what you’d have expected from a Swans album around the time of “White Light…” It opens with Black River Song which is centred around a powerful 4/4 thud with Gira reciting his lyrics over a repetitive riff with a bass sound reminiscent of Algis Kizys time in Swans coupled with female backing vocals exceedingly Jarboe like. It’s an incredible opener. We switch immediately to a much mellower country-ish almost track but the dramatic change in pace and intensity work well. The whole album seems to be a mixture of hard followed by soft rather like the Children of God album.

This is a side of Gira I really enjoy. I much prefer this to any of the recent Angels of Light albums that seemed too much to want to head down the road that Devendra Banhart had travelled. I always found Gira’s intensity was what drew me in to his music and he seemed to have tried to move away from that. I’m glad he’s moving back in that direction again.