On The Turntable: Coil's Time Machines September 13 2017
The art of Coil involves a confluence of the surreal, the deviant, the magical and the psychedelic, all stemming from their inception within Industrial culture in the early '80s. Time Machines was conceived by Coil's John Balance, Peter Christopherson and Drew MacDowall back in 1998 as a series of audio hallucinogens, constructed by means of method acting. The zeitgeist of Time Machines is the very same as Spacemen 3's early compendium Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To, while the compositional sensibility travels down a very different path. For Balance, the concept to the album reflected the notion of hallucinogens as means of time travel, as he posited, "they can conjure up histories of yourself and/or act as predictors of the future. In any case, they can remove you from 'temporal reality.'" The four tracks are named after four powerful chemical compounds with hallucinogenic properties, with each track presumably engineered both for and through those exact chemicals. Such is deeply rooted in the tradition of kosmische electronica and psychonaut minimalism. La Monte Young, early Tangerine Dream, Nurse With Wound and certainly Coil stand at the pinnacle of a tradition for lysergic music that transcends the need for drug-taking to embrace the full experience.
Time Machines remains one of the few truly successful pieces of electronic music in this liminal oeuvre. Slow oscillating tones gird vibrating patterns, and black-hole echoes of rhythm slither in the distance behind slightly dissonant saw-tooth drones. This simple structural sensibility belies the investigative and imaginative prowess that Coil have long mastered. You can't just turn on a synthesizer and have these sounds spill from the circuitry. In Coil's calibration of electricity with chemistry, this immersive pool of sound is a stark document of their power in dissolving time.