Label: Threshold House Format: CD
The last Coil album proper, The Ape Of Naples marks a tragic end point, a conclusion to one of the more remarkable groups to grace the annals of electronic and deviant music. Completed under the direction of his longtime collaborator Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and bringing together tracks recorded in many locations over the last decade or more, this album marks the last such resting place for the polymorphous talents of Jhonn Balance, killed in a tragic fall down the stairs of his home in November 2004. As Coil was Balance’s creation, there can be no more new material, and The Ape Of Naples was assembled painstakingly from pieces completed or otherwise in the difficult months following the accident.
There are glimpses everywhere of the Coil which was and is now done, marked out in 23 years from 1982-2005 by the sleeve notes and in the reprise and returns to the “Teenage Lightning”, in the shuddering walking bass of the “Last Amethyst Deceiver”, shivering at the memory of “A Cold Cell”. The hints and references to places Coil have been before are refracted by Sleazy into a memento, a memorial and a celebration. There is much hidden joy which twinkles softly everywhere in Jhonn’s timestretched voice, Balance muttering and wailing, yes and screaming too, of the animal Man on “Fire Of The Mind”, the angels and the demon drink, the bloodstream and the heavenly scars which come from “Heaven’s Blade”; and always death, death, death. The mystery and exposure of all too human frailties are found too in the treated electronic Coil sound which Sleazy, Thighpaulsandra and Ossian Brown generate together, in the drone of a hurdy-gurdy and in each sequenced groan and wobbly offset bass tone or muted cornet spark: the sound of the possible spaces between hallucination and realisation, where the words have as many multiple meanings as the music(k).
Already as the CD spins past again on a second journey, The Ape Of Naples feels familiar, speaks in patterns which have their limits defined but not set; the promise of exploration is sparked by the forgotten accordion. It is a certainty that each listen will reveal more than the first, second or third. This may be the final Coil album, but some of their best were collections of the out-takes and fragments in any case. There is something of that feeling about the CD, but perhaps only through knowing that it was completed posthumously. The surprises emerge somewhere or other on each track, perhaps in the Waltz time drama of “The Tattooed Man” or Thighpaulsandra’s discombobulating orchestrations throughout, maybe in software renditions and extrapolations, in the placement of a vocal effect or the braying of horns and the keening of a chorale to an unexpected rhythm – but this is Coil after all, and who could ask for more?
The last notes and marimba tones fade to the most peculiar (partial) cover Coil have ever done, a repositioning of sitcom-flavoured campery whose dissonance is best appreciated by discovery and enjoyable recognition, concluding The Ape Of Naples with a solemn cello drone. But the humour which was always there is still present, implicitly and explicitly, amid each and every sorrowful sigh and sussurus, every worshipful glitch and the secreted domains of love.