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Coil - Black Antlers

One of the bonuses arising from Coil's return to live performances was the release of CDs and CD-Rs issued to coincide and accompany their tours, resulting in releases such as Queens of the Circulating Library, Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil, Selvaggina: Go Back Into the Woods, and the newly reissued CDs, Black Antlers and The Remote Viewer.

Black Antlers originally appeared to accompany Coil's Even An Evil Fatigue live series and these rough mixes were regarded as a "work in progress". This reworked and remixed version of Black Antlers gains an extra track in the form of 'Sex With Sun Ra - Part 2', the title track gains an unnecessary apostrophe and replaces the Montreal version with 'Wraiths and Stray of Paris'. Black Antlers marked a departure for Coil moving away from pure electronic sound to the inclusion of acoustic instruments. With the release of The Ape of Naples, a somewhat muddled affair cobbled from sessions some 13 years old, Black Antlers is perhaps a more accurate reflection of Coil's latter musical direction cut short as it was by the tragic death of Jhonn Balance. Given that only one of these tracks surfaced on The Ape of Naples then these may yet become the definitve versions of these tracks. There are some real gems to be found here. 'Sex With Sun Ra - Part One Saturnalia' has gained mythic status in Coil circles. Listening to the insistent buzzing electronics, with marimba accompaniment, as Balance relates an imaginary conversation with the visionary jazz pioneer it's clear why. In hindsight, Black Antlers is strewn with veiled premonitions of Balance's impending fate no more tellingly than on 'Sex With Sun Ra' where he casts off the comment that "most accidents occur at home". The queasy electronics of 'The Gimp (Sometimes)' where the layered and effected voice of Balance expresses a deep sense of self-loathing in the lines "sometimes I hate myself". There's also the emotive reading of the Appalachian lullaby, 'All The Pretty Little Horses' where Balance delivers a powerful and mournful vocal take to the marimba backing that is almost swallowed up by the searing and soaring electronics. It's a beautiful song and its poignancy cannot be missed.

'Teenage Lightning 10th birthday version' is an enjoyable enough organic rendering of the Love's Secret Domain track performed on marimba and piano, laced with flickering electronics and intercut with processed rhythms. The 10th birthday version tag has always confused me though. The title track is Coil at their most disorienting, a gnawing, grating track of insistent beats and bleeps, while 'Sex With Sun Ra - Part 2' is more of a reprise, with a greater emphasis on the electronics and Breton pipes. It takes sometime to gel but by the time Balance's vocal arrives it deems itself a worthy addition to Black Antlers.

The second disc comprises new material by Peter Christopherson and Danny Hyde written in Bangkok this year. The first is a fine slice of dark electronics borrowing fragments of Balance performing 'Brocolli' live somewhere. Parts of 'Brocolli also turn up on 'Things We Never Had' along with material from 'Black Antlers' and 'Sex With Sun Ra'.

Despite its low key status Black Antlers is essential for those who enjoy Coil's more song based excursions and those, like myself, lucky enough to own original CD-R versions, should snap this up as it's a more complete package in elegant digipak with enough new material to warrant a repurchase. For more information go to www.thresholdhouse.com