Coil Presents Black Light District – A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room CD Infinite Fog 2018
Originally issued on CD and vinyl in 1996, a few unofficial versions have been issued over the years, with this new version containing original tracks and an additional two bonus tracks for good measure. But personally speaking while I more than familiar with Coil, at the same time I am far from an obsessive Coil fan, which means that I have dipped in and out of their catalogue over the years, but have not heard this particular release before now. However, of note I am aware that this album marked an important transitional period for the group, where their working methods moved towards involving new external collaborators, with this album including inputs of Drew McDowall and Danny Hyde (with a collection of others). It also seems there is an ongoing spat about the validity of this version, particularly in light of the untimely deaths of John Balance and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and the apparent lack of clarity around who officially owns and can administer the ongoing music rights (note: this release has been sanctioned by Danny Hyde).
But to speak specifically of the music, as an album A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room can be described as being within an experimental ambient style, where one constant Coil thematic hallmark is present, being that particular wonky, surrealist and disorientating edge which shadows the majority of sonic proceedings. It is perhaps these slightly more playfully weird sonic elements which do not always gel with me, and explains why I am not a Coil obsessive, but equally, it is this quite unique sonic hallmark that Coil retained over their varied output that appeals to many.
The short Unprepared Piano opens the album, which to my ear is an awkwardly jarring track and something akin to abstract jazz piano or a cat tapdancing on a piano. This is followed by the wonky and rhythmically throbbing track Red Skeletons, but it too is overtly distracted by the inclusion telephone conversation snippets. Yet the album really hits its stride on track three, which is the lengthy ten-minute Die Wölfe Kommen Zurück, which is a particular standout with its warm enveloping and intertwining drones and cyclic factory-esque rhythmic loops. Refusal Of Leave To Land is also noteworthy for its time shifting aquatic churn, which builds across its musical span and includes a short emotive vocal croon late track. After a further run of slithering and partly rhythmic experimental soundscape styled tracks, this changes with late album track Blue Rats which stands out based on its direct minimalist programmed song focused structure and whispered/ sung vocal line. Likewise, one of the bonus tracks is Lost Rivers of London (incorrectly listed on the cover as London’s Lost Rivers), is a moody song-based format with low croon and spoken vocals of John which foreshadowed the tone Coil would later explore on Musick To Play In The Dark 1 & 2 and Astral Disaster, and here is darkly moody and contains a creepy unnerving melancholia in a way only Coil can evoke.
Despite my own reservations of the more playful and purposefully weird aspects of this album (and Coil’s sound overall), equally those elements will specifically attract Coil devotes, so no doubt you will already know if this is a Coil reissue for you. A four-panel digi-pack with original artwork and 4 panel insert with new liner notes rounds out the presentation.