Musick to Play in the Dark  – Coil (1999) – Review

Entering the sonic domain of Coil is a venture not to be taken lightly, and their album “Musick to Play in the Dark” is no exception to this unwritten rule. John Balance and Peter Christopherson, the core members behind this avant-garde project, consistently showcased their ability to create soundscapes that are as challenging as they are rewarding. With this album, they crafted a nocturnal journey that guides listeners through shadowed alleys and moonlit spaces, offering a meditation on the delicate balance between darkness and light.

From the onset, the album feels like an intimate invitation, but one riddled with uncertainty about what awaits. It’s a liminal experience, placed firmly in the ambiguous space between wakefulness and dream, between comfort and unease. The tracks, though distinct, flow seamlessly into each other, creating a continuous tapestry of sound that’s meant to be absorbed in its entirety rather than in fragments.

“Are You Shivering?” begins the album, a question poised in an ambient setting, gently nudging the listener into the soundscape Coil has designed. The slow, deliberate pace is paired with atmospheric synth work and Balance’s unmistakable vocals, evoking images of cold, starry nights. It’s a piece that invites introspection, setting the tone for the rest of the album.

“Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East and Destroy Paris in a Night” is one of those tracks that showcases Coil’s expertise in crafting tension using sound. It’s a slow build, a crescendo of electronics that feels like a storm gathering on the horizon. There’s a sense of foreboding, of impending drama, and yet, it never feels chaotic. There’s a method to the madness, a narrative arc that’s subtle but present.

The haunting beauty of “Broccoli” stands out in stark contrast. The piano melodies, juxtaposed against the electronic backdrop and interspersed with snippets of vocals and sounds, conjure a melancholic and contemplative atmosphere. It’s a testament to Coil’s artistry that they can elicit such deep emotions with their abstract soundscapes.

“Strange Birds,” on the other hand, feels like an ode to the mysteries of the night. There’s an eerie, yet captivating quality to the track. The chirping, the echoed whispers, and the slow, almost heartbeat-like rhythm draw the listener into a hypnotic trance.

But perhaps it’s “The Dreamer Is Still Asleep” that best encapsulates the ethos of the album. It’s a piece that lingers, that haunts, long after its final note has been played. The reverberating notes, combined with the ethereal vocals, give a sense of floating, of being suspended in time and space.

“Musick to Play in the Dark” is not background music; it demands your attention. It’s an album that requires immersion, a willing descent into its depths. It’s not always an easy listen – there are moments of discomfort, of unease. But therein lies its magic. Coil has always been about exploration – of sound, of emotion, of the spaces in between. This album is a testament to their prowess, a showcase of their ability to evoke, provoke, and inspire.

Listening to “Musick to Play in the Dark” is like embarking on a nocturnal pilgrimage. There’s a sacredness to the experience, a feeling of being privy to something profound. It’s a journey into the unknown, guided only by the flickering light of sound. And for those willing to embark on this adventure, the rewards are manifold. Through the darkness, through the silence, Coil offers glimpses of beauty, moments of transcendence, and echoes of the infinite.

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