Saturday, 4 August 2012
Coil - Time Machines
Time Machines is Coil's landmark drone music album, released under the alias Time Machines. It consists of four tracks which are composed of a single tone, called a drone. Each tone represents a certain hallucinogenic chemical. It is similar to Brian Eno's early ambient albums, except instead of creating an atmosphere of calm, it facilitates time travel, according to band founder John Balance. Each tone was tested and retested in the studio for maximum narcotic potency. John Balance described the album as an attempt to create "temporal slips".
"We attempted to dissolve time." That's how the late John Balance, half of the now disbanded British experimental musical duo Coil, described the aim of their 1998 release Time Machines (Eskaton). Balance said this with such matter-of-factness that you hardly notice the ludicrousness of his claim. No mere sensation-hungry dabblers when it came to tearing down the doors of perception, Coil certainly had reason to stand behind their assertion. Having logged countless hours drifting in the lapping tides of Time Machine's slowly unraveling synthesizer drones, I can tell you that Balance and musical partner Peter Christopherson definitely succeeded in their attempt. Coil's m.o. with Time Machines can be best summed up by the title of Spacemen 3's 1990 demos compilation Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To (Bomp). Starting from the premise that hallucinogens can remove oneself from one's temporal reality, Balance and former Throbbing Gristle member Christopherson (with assistance from William Breeze and Drew MacDowell), set out to synthesize music that would catalyze and tease out the temporally-disruptive effects of specific chemical compounds. If that sounds a bit dry, there is indeed an aura of scientific self-seriousness to the release. Each composition is titled with the chemical name of the substance it has been designed for - track one, "Telepathine" (an earlier term for the compound found in Ayahuasca or yage, popularized by Burroughs and Ginsberg); track two, "DOET/hecate"; track three, "5-Me0-DMT"; and track four, "Psilocybin." But for Coil, science was another form of magic, something driven home by the album's cover design: a black, glossy oval that alludes to the obsidian "scrying mirror" of Renaissance magician and astronomer John Dee, who supposedly used the stone to conjure spirits. (A limited number of albums also came with a set of stickers that when placed on top of each other depicted Dee's sigil, the Hieroglyphic Monad). I should confess, with much embarrassment, that for the many times and many different contexts in which I have listened to Time Machines, I have yet to experience any of the tracks while on the substances for which they were specifically engineered. That said, the album's transportive effects are noticeable even while listening sober (and are certainly heightened by strong doses of THC). My experience has largely been subtractive: it is hard to do anything or to think about anything with much success, or even "actively listen," while Time Machines is playing. It is the aural equivalent of an isolation tank, in that you don't even notice the vessel falling away, you're so immersed. Turn it on, tune in, and dissolve.
Matt Sussman, San Francisco Bay Guardian
I still have never found a drone album that makes me feel quite like Time Machines does. The members of Coil conceived this project as an exercise in hallucinogenic time travel. The concept, on the surface level, may seem a little overwrought, especially considering the aforementioned song titles. The results are spectacular though. Oscillating sub-bass tones make up the majority of the album, and even with this limited pallet, Balance and Christopherson craft a full work capable of intense movement. Time Machines never instills a feeling of stasis, it is always traveling somewhere. In that way, the concept succeeds brilliantly. The journey may not be into the void or the farthest reaches of your soul, but it can induce a tangible sensation that most drone and ambient artists can only dream of pulling off.
It is unfortunate that Time Machines is one of Coil’s hardest to find albums. Initially planned as a larger body of work and then a reissue, the album’s current status is unknown with the passing of Christopherson in 2010. One must hope those in charge of Coil’s recorded work will give Time Machines the treatment it deserves. I know I personally have it to thank as a gateway into a whole treasure trove of outsider art. Trust me when I say youtube clips and low quality speakers won’t ever do this trip justice.
Simply mesmerising. A work that in fact is much more than it seems at a glance. Its reverberating synth drones can fill a room with low bass frequencies which kind of hypnotise you and really take you away. The louder you listen to it, the stronger the effect it has on you... beautiful, haunting and uncanny. (if you´re high, listen to it at your own risk)
Review by perigoso