MOON'S MILK (IN FOUR PHASES)
Original Issue: 2001 Eskaton (ESKATON 23) Buy it here and here!!!
Margot-meter: 4,5 moons / 5
First Phase: Spring Equinox
1-01 Moon's Milk Or Under An Unquiet Skull (Part One) (8:29)
1-02 Moon's Milk Or Under An Unquiet Skull (Part Two) (8:09)
Second Phase: Summer Solstice
1-03 Bee Stings (4:55)
1-04 Glowworms/Waveforms (5:54)
1-05 Summer Substructures (8:07)
1-06.1 A Warning From The Sun (For Fritz) (4:57)
1-06.2 Untitled (5:03)
1-06.3 Amethyst Deceivers (Live In Europe 2001) (6:33)
Third Phase: Autumn Equinox
2-01 Regel (1:15)
2-02 Rosa Decidua (4:53)
2-03 Switches (4:43)
2-04 The Auto-Asphyxiating Hierophant (5:55)
2-05 Amethyst Deceivers (6:42)
Fourth Phase: Winter Solstice
2-06 A White Rainbow (8:52)
2-07 North (3:46)
2-08 Magnetic North (8:50)
2-09 Christmas Is Now Drawing Near (3:26)
It has always been very difficult to pin down Coil stylistically, since their blend of John Balance's dark-wave-ish vocals and the band's vast musical background, which included everything from neo-classical music to the most brutally distorted noisescapes, threw shapes too strange for most listeners.
One had seen hints of what was to come with the more ambient-oriented nature of the band's mid-'90s output, but little could have prepared the average Coil listener for the stunning „Solstice and Equinox" series back in 1998. Four years later, „Moon's milk" finally does the logical thing of combining the four individual and now out-of-print EPs into one fantastically packaged and attractively priced double-disc set. There's not only no other Coil album quite like „Moon's milk", the music also has very few comparisons to anybody else's work, perhaps apart from Dead Can Dance's late-'80s output and In The Nursery's more recent ventures. Despite the quite predominant images of suicide („A warning from the sun", for example, is dedicated to a friend of the band who took his own life), darkness, loneliness, pain and despair, the overwhelming pattern throughout the four parts of the series is a sort of meditative flow - not in a particularly relaxing but rather otherworldly and spiritual way.
Indeed, if „Black light district" were the calm before the storm, then „Moon's milk" is the closest we have to a post-apocalyptic soundtrack!
Disc 1 opens with two 8-minute pieces from the „Spring Equinox" release, and although the combination of dirge-like atmospherics, churchy organs, choir-like vocals by John Balance, and William Breeze's web-like violin lines is pretty fascinating when you're in the right mood, it's musically the weakest and most unadventurous part of the series. Admittedly, a better name would be „Season of Death".
Fortunately, the „Summer Solstice" EP with its four tracks brings energy and liveliness to this album, serving a dreamy though shadowy panorama of ambient soundforms. „Bee stings" sets the scene wonderfully; it's built around a humming noise loop which shimmers deep in the background while John's excellent vocals bring further suspense to the piece. „Glowworms/Waveforms" works in a quite similar vein as John recites an endless series of questions over dark droning layers of electronics. The 8-minute „Summer substructues" is a little more dramatic in comparison, with John narrating a text that seems to focus on feelings of longing and Breeze playing some truly beautiful violin parts towards the end. By complete contrast, the already mentioned „A warning..." brings out much more randomness: Violent sweeps and and electric buzzings which almost sound like a radiation storm rush across the scene, coupled with some really overdone vocals and bright harmonics which seems to come from a processed slide guitar - a vast sea of rolling turbulence which is nevertheless strangely engrossing.
From here, things become even more interesting and abstract with the 5-track EP „Amethyst deceivers": In „Switches", fountains of white noise periodically erupt from a sea of electronic burblings and are then swept away on the soundstream. „The auto-asphy..." is also pretty fascinating with its massive, almost medieval drum pounds (quite reminiscent of Dead Can Dance's „Enigma of the absolute"), while the slow-cooking „Rosa decidua" offers a hauntingly beautiful Balance/McDowall duet. The real highlight, though, is the the 7-minute title track - it's utterly unlike anything I've ever listened to: The pieces builds very well, from its slight beginning to a fragile acoustic guitar line, which is soon joined by a swooshing synth loop, melodic synth chords, and processed vocals.
The remainder of Disc 2 is taken from the „Winter Solstice" EP and returns to the overall sound design of the „Summer Solstice" entry; true to their avant-garde roots, Coil seldom establish a melodic threat, but instead add touches of harmony and a delicate tranquility to such pieces as the 9-minute „Magnetic north" and the McDowall-sung „Christmas...". The hidden bonus track on Disc 1 features a live performance of „Amethyst deceivers" which differs radically from the studio version in that it eschews the great instrumental interplay in favor of some slightly outdated sequencer patterns.
Overall, those with an interest in experimental ambient music will more than likely be familiar with Coil already, but otherwise you should rush out and buy this disc set immediately. Like many other Coil discs, „Moon's milk" is proof that John Balance and Peter Christopherson explore the outer extremes of sound-exploitation with their musical partners-in-crime, but rarely have they produced an album which is so consistently exciting and fascinating from start to finish.