Coil - Time Machines

by Jeff Penczak Rating:8 Release Date:2017-10-13
Coil - Time Machines
Coil - Time Machines

There’s a Spacemen 3 collection of demos from 1986 that was released under the punny title Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To. They also released a collection of drones satirically entitled An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music. In 1997, Coil (John Balance, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, and Drew McDowall) recorded four long tone pieces (drones) named after hallucinogenic drugs, each track attempting to simulate the temporal experience under the corresponding narcotic. They insisted on releasing the album under the name Time Machines to distance it from previous works (so I am adhering to their wishes in my review).

Balance explained the intent was to produce a temporal slip while listening to the music, such that the listener would lose all sense of time – you could have been listening to a track for five minutes or 25 minutes, but the perception of time passing would be lost. In a sense, you’d become so focused on the tones, you would not experience the passage of time.

Of course, it is legally impossible to test Balance (and partner)’s theory, for even in the comfort and privacy of your own home, ‘7-Methoxy-β-Carboline: (Telepathine)’ [aka yagé or ayahuasca], ‘2,5-Dimethoxy-4-Ethyl-Amphetamine: (DOET/Hecate)’ [a type of psychedelic amphetamine], ‘5-Methoxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine: (5-MeO-DMT)’, and ‘4-Indolol, 3-[2-(Dimethylamino)Ethyl], Phosphate Ester: (Psilocybin)’ [magic mushrooms] are illegal.

All I can attest to, is that the timelessness effect worked on me. ‘Telepathine’ flows by for over 23 minutes, but time stands still. It could have lasted another 23 and I wouldn’t have gotten tired…or bored. ‘Hecate’ was more disturbing; the tones were harsher and I had the feeling I was in a car racing through the West Country in the dark with no lights on watching the skies for alien encounters. The hum of the tires on blacktop creates an hallucinogenic buzz that continues long after the track ends.

There are stories circulating the internet about electrical hums that some people hear in the walls of their homes. I’m one of them. It sounds like the neighbor in the next unit is blasting his stereo, and I can feel the electronic pulses throb as they ebb and flow inside my head. Except there’s no one home and there is no “music” being played. I’ve written it off to electrical wiring or the main circuit box outside my home “humming” in a myriad of patterns that only a few in our building can hear. Spacemen 3’s Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music (and to some extent, Sonic Boom’s offshoot Experimental Audio Research’s Data Rape, featuring sounds made by a collection of Speak & Spell toys) are close approximations of that sound in my head, and here, ‘5-MeO-DMT’ replicates that disturbing buzz. Puns about “catching a buzz” are accepted!

The centrepiece of the album is the nearly half hour magic mushroom trip, ‘Psilocybin’, which emulates the vibrating hum of an Aboriginal didgeridoo crossed with SETI-like signals for alien life in the universe. After five minutes, you may run screaming from the room or collapse in a catatonic state of euphoria…and there’s still 20 minutes to go! This is the most hallucinogenic (sans mushrooms) piece in the set, as all temporal signposts are eliminated in deference to the brain(wave)-frying hum that will get stuck in your head for days. Probably best listened to in the comfort of your favourite (indoor) set and setting (to quote Dr. Leary). The birds and dogs in my neighbourhood were squawking for hours, so you can imagine what it did to my brain.

Sadly, Balance and Christopherson have both left this plane of existence, but they also left an enormous body of work behind. This is one of the more unusual experiments in a discography defined by its experimentation. Your mileage will definitely vary, but I’m putting this on repeat and going off to watch Enter The Void. Wish me luck!

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