Coil - Stolen & Contaminated Songs
Stolen & Contaminated Songs was announced in 1991, delayed and when it finally did arrive in 1992 this initial subscription only edition featured no track titles, they didn't come until the revised reissue, released a year later in an effort to usurp the bootleggers.
Coil always had alternate takes and visions, often on a par and sometimes better than their parent releases. Definitive editions of tracks seemed futile when there was so many competing ideas to get down on tape. Gold Is The Metal With The Broadest Shoulders followed the official albums Scatology and Horse Rotorvator. It was described as featuring "various 'raw materials' - hallucinatory fragments - unrealized - unreleased - un-finished - un-relenting - rediscovered - remixed - scrambled and collaged Coil pieces, including working stage version of songs from the two official albums..." It's a description that fits Stolen & Contaminated Songs too, which was announced as comprising of "both new and previously unreleased tracks, compiled and re-composed, expanded and restructured from material that went towards the Love's Secret Domain album sessions." It was a release that went beyond the "ambient side-line" that it was first announced as in a Coil information sheet.
Love's Secret Domain was released at a time when Coil were submerged in hedonistic ecstasy fuelled nights in London clubs. That energy seeped into their experimental sounds, providing derangement and sensation. Love's Secret Domain fizzled to, what boiled down to and Coil termed, electricity and drugs. Although less cohesive Stolen & Contaminated Songs vibrated within a similar frequency too.
Naturally many of the tracks had their origins in Love's Secret Domain. Opening with 'Futhur' a variation of 'Further, Back and Faster' with its stuttering synths and myriad of disorienting chopped, spliced and cut-up tapes. Shorn of the psychedelic mushroom samples from Nic Roeg's and Donald Cammell's film Performance and the Charles Laughton narration of The Night of the Hunter which made the original so sinister, this earlier take evolves to a series of samples - "What is real?", "Are you aware what reality is?" - questioning reality, over secreted recordings and overarching layers of rhythms. An alternate take offering alternate reality, a disorienting hallucinatory reality.
Coil's work with classical arrangements, like 'Cardinal Points' and 'The Golden Section', were always serene, mournful and special. Sometimes it was hard to believe this was a group still classed as industrial. In truth, Coil were working on multiple levels and their music was often genreless. The inclusion of 'Original Chaostrophy' here bringing the strings to the fore is just sublime. Subjecting haunting oboe solo and arrangements of classical strings to backward spinning processing and treatments it is beautiful, ominous and unnerving like the best Coil. Channelling poetry from William Blake and lyrics from Roy Orbison, 'Love's Secret Domain (Original Mix)' featured a rawer orgiastic exploration of lust when compared to the version which appeared on the self-named album. Maybe he'd taken singing lessons to strengthen his voice to provide more force and form but on this version Balance's voice is tentative, sketching out the vocal in what would become a Coil favourite and with its Blakean references helped place Coil in the tradition of the English outsider.
'Corybantic Ennui' excerpts the beguiling oboe solo from 'Chaostrophy' and due to an indexing error here it sinks into a labyrinth of distended creaking of the following track, 'Her Friends The Wolves.....'. It's the longest track here and the most industrially abstract with dark creaking textures, chugging electronics and slowed down muffled vocals offset by electronic treatments and effects. It's a fine slice of Coil's dark sinister electronics and atmospheres.
On the parent album Love's Secret Domain tracks like 'Windowpane' and especially 'The Snow' where Balance and Sleazy much to Stephen Thrower's chagrin, allowed the influence of dance music to seep into their sound experiments confused many of Coil's long time followers at the time. Coil were almost defensive claiming they didn't do dance music intending the sounds to be psychoactive and made for listening to on drugs. That may be true but despite their protestations for many it was clearly dance and techno influenced. 'Nasa-Arab', co-wrote with co-producer and engineer Danny Hyde, was a near 11-minute gliding workout of spaced out electronica shuddering and shivering to a wobbly, grooving bassline with overarching layers of rhythmic patterns. Filled with alien and eastern flourishes its intricate and complex arrangements took Coil's interest in techno and acid house into transcendental territory. The subsequent appearance of 'Nasa-Arab' as a single, marked the first release from Coil to fully credit Drew McDowall as a member.
Stolen & Contaminated Songs offered fragments of wilful experimentation, new sound avenues for Coil to pursue and provided some of their best offerings. 'Who'll Tell?' is the first original track. Opening with field recordings of a ritual context so beloved of Coil, along with hand drums and bells it diverges into dizzying synths peppered with samples, distorted, slowed down and spoken. Interestingly, and I didn't know this before, but those questioning voices asking "Whose to tell", "Now John never, never tell" were also taken from Charles Laughton's narration of The Night of the Hunter, taken not from the famed film starring Robert Mitchum and the sole film that he directed, but from a vinyl recording of a reading of the story from the book by Davis Grubb.
On Scatology and especially Horse Rotorvator death was a constant fixture. They joked that Love's Secret Domain was the party album but even though Stolen & Contaminated Songs was born from those sessions there's nothing funny about 'Who'll Fall?'. Couched in mournful reverbed guitar and embellished with dialling tones and clicks, 'Who'll Fall?' is based around a message left on Peter Christopherson's answerphone by a close associate reflecting on their friend who had just committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. It remains just as devastating, as how John Balance termed it, as when I first heard it. Subtle, sombre and sympathetic it's no wonder they sought to rework it as as a single, released under its new title, 'Is Suicide A Solution?'.
'Omlagus Garfungiloops' offers a wonderfully surreal sound Coil never really followed up on. The track seemed set in a late-nite Burroughsian Interzone film, directed by David Lynch as "exploding frogs" samples abound amidst jazzy drums, Twin Peaks bass, airy, flighty synths and melodic clarinet. For a group so singular, maybe there were too many obvious references. Coil were always about the unexpected discovering sounds free of associations, and many of the tracks on Stolen & Contaminated Songs definitely did just that. 'The Original Wild Garlic Memory' has an understated elegance, looping slicing strings with jabbering synths. Unfurling like a processional folk song sucking up electronic noises and firing off arcade game tones. Listening now this is a track that could have been reworked with the electronics and pipes of Black Antlers. 'Wrim Wram Wrom', meanwhile, is all about tones, long before Drew McDowall proposed the idea of Time Machines. Unleashing an unrelenting, repetition of tones over industrial hum as synths eke out additional tones and timbres. It lasts only 3 minutes or so but this could have gone on forever. The airy sucked up synths of 'Light Shining Darkly' which sound taken from 'Teenage Lightning' draws Stolen & Contaminated Songs to an end before snippets of sped-up vocals drift into a distorted mangling of 'Chaostrophy'.
After the release of Stolen & Contaminated Songs, Coil seemed to be at a crossroads unsure of which direction to pursue. The following years hardly saw a full Coil release. A press release at the time signalled releases from a number of offshoot projects like ELpH, The Eskaton, Black Light District, Rosa Mundi and Wormsine. Sure there was a remix album of How To Destroy Angels and a release of the soundtrack to Derek Jarman's The Angelic Conversation and some singles but most other releases were credited to Coil vs The Eskaton, Coil vs ElpH, Coil Presents Black Light District and so on. Nothing from Wormsine, created for heavier, acid-like music, ever surfaced. Stolen & Contaminated Songs reflected Coil in that hinterland leading up to Love's Secret Domain and beyond in a period when they were contracted to Nothing Records to provide an album which would eventually become Backwards.
Stolen & Contaminated Songs offers a snapshot of where Coil were following the release of Love's Secret Domain and where they could have gone before they went off under various aliases following musical and experimental tangents eventually reconvening as they entered their lunar phase resulting in the pagan occult and Kosmische influenced Music To Play In The Dark volumes. It's a great album and a worthwhile addition to the Coil discography.
Stolen & Contaminated Songs is reissued on CD and on double vinyl in black, bone and bronze editions. A vinyl edition is gratefully received since the much promised vinyl edition of Stolen & Contaminated Songs from Coil was never realised until now, and thankfully so as my original CD like many from the time is browning and subject to disc rot. Recommended. For more information go to Cold Spring
Coil - Stolen & Contaminated Songs