|Coil Presents Time
Julian Cope's Cornucopea, Royal Festival Hall, London
For two nights Julian Cope, Ur Pagan, Krautrock devotee and author of the Modern Antiquarian, held court at the Royal Festival Hall, London, assembling a line-up that included Groundhogs, Skyray, Ash Ra Tempel and various members of the extended Cope family includingThighpaulsandra, Anal and the unveiling of Cope's new bubblegum trio, Brain Donor. The most surprising and least expected addition to the bill was the inclusion of Coil, who were stepping out of the darkness to perform live as their hardcore minimalist alter-ego, Time Machines. Until April 2 2000CE Coil's last live event was with Zos Kia in 1983. Coil's inclusion was a real scoop for both Cope and the Festival Hall.
Tonight, Coil as Time Machines, which John has previously described as "hardcore La Monte Young" were to present a piece called "The Industrial Use of Semen Will Revolutionise the Human Race". The nucleus of John Balance and Peter Christopherson was extended to include new recruit Thighpaulsandra and Cyclobe's Simon Norris. With a history of hermeticism, occultism and their overall dark demeanour no-one could have predicted that when the 4 members took to the stage they would be dressed in what has been described as virginal gonks, or pagan teletubbies (sans handbags). With spherical mirrors attached to their outfits and the glare of the fluorescent lights at times they appeared almost pink.
Perhaps the outrageous outfits were a reaction to the greyness of TG, the bleakness of post-industrialism, Thighpaulsandra's love of fake fur, Sleazy's latest fetish. Or perhaps it was the inevitable consequence of having four gay men on stage. Balance had warned about the energies they may create. It did cause universal smiling throughout the hall.
The keyboards were set in a semi circle placed in front of a backdrop of John Dee's glyph. Symbols were emblazoned on sheets draped over tables where the keyboards sat. Each member stood behind a keyboard, Sleazy appeared to take the pivotal role whilst Balance veered between keyboards and microphone. When vocals did appear they would be phased and looped and fed back into the mix. The actual equipment looked like it could be packed and stored in suitcases.
The sounds produced were pure electronic. The keyboards buzzed, bleeped, droned and at times sounded almost ELpH like as they pounded the Festival Hall at a tremendous volume. Occasionally the vibrations were so intense it felt as thought the sounds were coming from within. More importantly it sounded alive. As Balance paced the stage, the others hunched over their consoles looking like fluffy astronauts on a lunar mission. While Sleazy and Thighpaulsandra continued to unleash their electronic drones, Balance and Norris flanked the side of the stages. Kneeling down each holding a spherical mirror the reflective glare of the lights was projected at the audience. As the lights were shone over the faces of the audience it appeared that everyone in the Festival Hall was part of a mass ritual. Magick was at work within the Royal Festival Hall. Towards the end of the hour-long set the electronic sounds dimmed and were replaced by the sounds of electronic twittering. It was the sound of birdcalls. The four now hooded, huddled together in a group hug. Balance then sloped off from the group towards one of the wings, ascended a speaker stack and lay in a foetal like position with one hand dangling over the speaker. Then, like a proud peacock, he sat upright chest thrust out and posing.
And then it was over, but not before all four members took a well deserved bow to rapturous applause. The crowd appeared to be stunned. Coil appeared to have loved it and so they should have. Earlier that evening Balance had quoted the famous Aleister Crowley maxim that "Every Man and Woman Is A Star". Tonight Coil were by far the brightest.
It was a hard act to follow so it was hardly surprising that Julian Cope wanted to open the night. When Cope appeared on stage he was, as ever, decked out in fur patterned lycra leggings and tight fitting top. A hideous pair of platform boots and his unwieldy hair completed the image. Fashion never was one of Julian Cope's strong points.
The previous night he'd launched his new bubblegum pop trio, Brain Donor. Tonight was to be Cope in solo mode. Opening with Pristeen, a lovely Mother Earth metaphor from the great Peggy Suicide album, things were evidently looking good but then Cope went weird on us. Julian Cope became George Clinton, the Festival Hall (Cope a fervent anti-Royalist ditched the Royal part earlier on) became a spaceship and we were off flying across London and transported to Wiltshire and the standing stones of Avebury. This was Julian Cope's very own Journey To Avebury.
When Cope did return to earth he alternated between his ancient Mellotron keyboard, and a selection of guitars generally favouring a doublenecked guitar as it provided the necessary wah-wah sound most appropriate to the night. With his poetic tales and fearsome guitar Cope informed the audience that he was now the personification of the Viking God, Odin. And as this was Mothering Sunday all songs were dedicated to Mother Earth. As much as I love Julian's books and enjoy his spoken word nights sometimes, like tonight, you just wish he'd shut the fuck-up and play.
On the whole this was a frustrating performance from Julian Cope but he managed to salvage his set with a selection of great songs including 'Jerky Pop Perky Jean', The Great Dominion' and a revival of the Teardrop's 'Sleeping Gas' with Skyray and ex -Teardrop's Paul Simpson pumping the Festival Hall Organ and a casio keyboard. Cope for all his strangeness and love of Krautrock is basically a great pop (song) writer and it's one of his main strengths. It's something he should stick too.
Threshold House - www.thresholdhouse.com
Coil - www.brainwashed.com/coil
Other Compulsion online Coil reviews:
Coil at the Barbican, London.
Coil and Foetus at the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Photography by P6.