Coil x Zos Kia x Marc Almond
How To Destroy Angels (Cold Spring; CD/LP/DL)
With a disc out on 8/3 and a platter expected 9/10 it’s one of those rare moments in time when a seminal label digs up a thirty-five year-old gem in all it’s dusty profound glory. Combining the triad of underground talent between Coil (John Balance + Peter Christopherson), Marc Almond and Zos Kia (aka John Gosling), we have, for the first time, a remastered and exclusive, complete live recording of A Slow Fade To Total Transparency (Air Gallery, London, 1983). This has been broken into three tracks, not to be confused with How To Destroy Angels (which is the subtitle in this context), the Coil EP released in 1988 on Belgian imprint L.A.Y.L.A.H. These three unique acts, each on their own have experienced varying levels of success to cult status, in and out of their respected fields of cabaret, experimental, hi-art performance and even pop music. Here, at least the main track, is dirty, dank and delicious.
What’s more? Cold Spring is going to be faithfully dramatic with the releases themselves by unleashing vinyl in a red splatter pattern (they will also press a general edition in simple black) as well as a six-panel digipak for the disc. But I digress from the sounds encapsulated within, here goes:
Opening with the full throttle twenty-three minute raw performance of How To Destroy Angels presumably to an unready audience. A man yells ‘mangia’ over an encrusted dark club-like din. Incoming is Almond with his spirited spoken word rallying on about various encounters in a one-way rant, spitting out lines like a spurned lover after a domestic spat. In the background Coil + co. are conjuring a music box of ghostly little melodies to the vocal echo. Almond, himself a radical poet (and the other half of Soft Cell) seems to be reciting, acting out his own work. ‘Razor blades, crutches and vallium…plotting and steaming…angelic beauty…John Wayne’ he continues blurting, listing and otherwise delivering with vitriolic release on the visceral nature of drugs, sex and everyday life. The mix, though mottled and vintage-feeling brings the reading to center stage and the industrial psychedelia of noise and an enchanted, wispy chorus as a moody backdrop. In the final moments it falls apart in what sounds like a physical altercation and a punctuated gunshot-like ending.
Next up is an eight minute Zos Kia remix of the same track. A determined tribal groove is designed for maximum remodeling effects here. In fact, the original is nearly obliterated in favor of something that fuses a funky well-rounded acid house-like vibe with a trance-inducing techno rock edge. Think early Meat Beat Manifesto and you are on the right track. By using the glassy backdrop and distilling some of the finer elements of the original Gosling balances a whirlwind effect and randomized percussion into a post-prog rock blitz. The silences are effective and heady, the pacing shifts at his pleasure and a motor stays idle as he plays with the delicate in-between. Towards the end I’m reminded of the incidental music from the original Blade Runner. It leaves you in a breathless cold sweat, dizzy as if you’ve just gotten off a major thrill ride.
The final piece here is Baptism Of Fire that starts with a broken, whirring timpani of sorts. It’s an unreleased recording of Zos Kia and Coil at Recession Studios in London (circa ’83) and it may be short, but it’s certainly to be reckoned with. A voice in howling squeals through incantation utters something about secrets to synthy broken bobbles. It’s an off-putting marching beat to an obliterating drone. Bing-bong, repeats and retreats to a zip hum and screech.
In the end I can definitely appreciate the capsule quality of this work for its time period, particularly the main track, as it recalls a lost understanding of the true underground of the era. Those like the players here along with compadres Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and The Cramps, to name a few, really understood the thrill of unabashed performative freedom without repercussions. This recording provides an unmasked look into the hard-edged intersection between live performance, poetry and sound for what it was, packed with unfiltered, raw energy. That and two bonus works that offer a completely surprising inverse look into this collaborative work that is way before its time. These elusive sound nuggets are definitely worth regular replay.