It's really a testament to a groups ability that they can stay together for nearly 20 years and still manage to sound relevant. It's even more amazing when you can listen to a lot of their older work and it has stood the test of time, sometimes sounding like it hasn't aged at all. Along with Brian Eno, David Bowie, and perhaps a few other people, Coil is one of those groups. They were doing industrial music before there was even a name for it and have worked to score films (The Angelic Conversation, the never-used but still amazing Hellraiser themes), as well as releasing a steady stream of music over the course of the years to a smaller but dedicated fanbase (while picking up new fans all the time).
After last years hit-and-miss (in my humble opinion) Equinox singles and their Time Machines project, they're already back with this new release (as well as a rumoured upcoming full-length on Nothing records and a 5CD Time Machines box set early next year). They're a group that seems to be constantly recording new material, but Music To Play In The Dark - Volume 1 is a very solid release for the group, focusing mainly on tracks with vocals, but also trying out a couple new things as well. While there are only 6 tracks on the release, the total time for them adds up to almost 60 minutes, yet none of the tracks really feel stretched too long.
"Are You Shivering" starts out the disc with a very sinister tone before dropping off into a strange little gurgling pulse and some cut-up vocals. After another segment where the tone makes its presence known again, some spoken-word vocals come in over the creepy backing. Just to make things a little more atmospheric, what sounds like a distorted childrens choir is added quietly over the top of the track finale. Nope, they haven't lost their touch at all. Things go in a bit different direction on the second track entitled "Red Birds Will Fly Out Of The East And Destroy Paris." Inspired by a Nostradamus prediction (according to the official Coil website), the track kind of reminds one of an old Tangerine Dream track (in a good way, definitely) with it's almost algorithmic, trancy progression and sound. If it weren't for the darker sounds at the beginning, those Coil glitchy sounds throughout, and the blaring feedback at the end, I might have mistaken it. OK, so really it's just one part that reminds me.
Again changing gears, "Red Queen" is sort of a dark, coffee-shop swagger of the likes I've never heard from the group. Fueled by some nice offset piano playing and a really weird sounding shuffle-beat, the almost spoken word vocals fit perfectly into the mix. Also, like first track on the disc, the lyrics are almost as much a part of the mood as the sound behind them. Coming up next, "Broccoli" simply throbs with a low-end unlike anything I've heard in quite awhile. Sounding somewhat like Pole's glitches on his CD1 and 2 releases, there's an omnipresent static and little pops over it all (but then again, Coil were sort of the originators of this type of noise). Some quietly sung vocals make their way into the track before a spoken word version of the same ones come in louder over the top, turning the track into sort of a twisted round.
"Strange Birds" harkens back to the more experimental side of the group, throwing bird noises (of course), static, and all kinds of other strange noises into one big pot and stirring them around for awhile. As the shortest track on the album, it still meanders just a bit too much. The album closer is the excellent "The Dreamer Is Still Asleep." Although it is super-long, it goes back to a more traditional song format while still keeping all the great things intact that make it a Coil track (and make the album fit its namesake perfectly). Overall, the disc is very solid, whether you're a fan of the group or not. It has a couple more experimental tracks, but is also an easier album to digest if you're just getting into the group (or even if you haven't heard them and are looking for something to get started with). The only bad thing is that the disc was released in fairly limited qualities, so if you're interested, you'd better hop to it and order one right quickly. Like their other stuff, it's an instant collectors item.