I’m slumped in the study in the early morning; my fiancée is dozing in the other room, protected from the air and from any potential noise by the air conditioner. I didn’t so much wake as lurch out of meditation with a cough I was damned if I could contain. So I left, and that was a while ago, and I’ve yet to go back. For a while I was waiting for my cough to subside so I wouldn’t worry about waking her. Then I got caught up in reading, and in the new… not Nine Inch Nails album. How To Destroy Angels, he calls them. It’s named after a Coil song, or a Coil album. I don’t know too much about Coil. That was one of the NIN-related bands I never managed to sample back in the 1990s, when hunting for records was still a sport. I spent so much time researching every band that Trent Reznor had ever worked with or cited as an influence. It helped, I guess, that I knew nothing about music. So this was my indoctrination. I look back on so much of that music now, and it’s… kind of ridiculous. Machines of Loving Grace? Prick? Really? I guess this thread did lead me to Aphex Twin and, eventually, Squarepusher. I’ll mark that up as inevitable discovery, though.
Anyway, I had a time of it finding this stuff in the center of Maine, in the mid-1990s. If they didn’t carry it in the mainstream record store (it was once such a pervasive chain, and now I can’t remember the name) in Augusta, or the BMG catalog, then maybe Bull Moose records would have it. It was such a… what’s the word? It was luck of the draw, anyway, with that place. It was the closest excuse for a hip, indie, underground record shop that I knew of. They had a techno section, even. And they carried some CD bootlegs — which is where I got my copies of Purest Feeling and Demos & Remixes. Since they were rare, and who knows where they got them, the bootlegs were all pretty expensive. As were the Pigface and 1000 Homo DJs albums I eventually found. But no Coil, still. Not even in the big record stores in the Portland mall, that carried all the import stuff. No one had even heard of them, and I’m sure I hesitantly asked a few record store employees.
Later on, Napster wasn’t much more help. I could find obscure Sega soundtracks and bands that I’d never really listened to or known how to approach, like Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie. Well, I’m not sure if “bands” is the word I want there. Point is, the things I really searched for I never seemed to find; instead I’d stumble across other things I’d always hemmed and hawed over, and I would continue to hem and haw, and maybe download a song or two and force myself to listen, hoping something would click and I would understand what I had been missing and be spurred to download some more. I almost feel ashamed when I fail to like things, sometimes.
More recently we have bittorrent. And so, okay. I’ve downloaded a single Coil album. And it’s pretty good, if not a little confusing. Which normally I would rank as a virtue. I guess maybe I haven’t listened to it enough. I want to like it, but I’m not sure what I’m listening to. Usually familiarity is enough to break down that floodwall. Here, I’m not sure if that will be enough. Maybe it was the wrong album to choose.
I had always envisioned Coil as a dark, hard-edged, powerful band that contrived difficult, almost deranged industrial nightmare soundscapes. This album is a little jazzy, a little ironic. It sounds like freeform cabaret music with a clanking edge to it. Again, on paper that should be perfect for me. Maybe it’s that expectation that I’m fighting — fifteen years, nearly, of anticipation. Forget about Skinny Puppy, this was real tooth-peeling music. Whatever that means.
So. It’s named after a Coil song. And the dude, or a dude — I’m not all that up on Coil, as I’ve said — from Coil is probably going to join the band. Making them actually a four-piece thing, with Trent and Mariqueen and… that other guy. The guy who Trent often works with, and who almost seems like a part of the band by default since they’re rewriting the rules and he’s going to be there anyway.
It’s a good start for a spin-off project. The best songs, or the ones that grab me, are the non-single tracks. The ones buried in the middle of the EP, that they tried to buffer and hide amongst the more glamorous, obvious songs — the songs that sound like seven other bands I couldn’t name offhand. Somehow it’s always that way, especially with Trent Reznor. His best songs are the things like “The Collector” and “The Becoming”, that no one in his right mind would ever issue as singles. The songs I never need to hear again are songs like “Starfuckers, Inc.” and “The Hand That Feeds”. Maybe I’m just being difficult. It seems to be a hobby of mine.
My sleeping schedule is never going to be normal, I figure. Why pretend. At least in the early morning I can concentrate. Sort of, sometimes. I think the stimulation is low enough that I can turn off my runaway brain, or at least dial it down, and let my intuition pick up some of the slack. When there’s just darkness, and maybe a few nearby objects illuminated by a nearby light source, and I know that nobody is supposed to be awake except the animated or illusory dead, there’s a certain calm. The world isn’t so overwhelming, so I can relax and quit hiding inside myself and allow myself to spill out and absorb the world and start adding things up and making connections and observations without the pressure to make sense of them all.
I used to make such good mix tapes. I would theme them, according to mood or situation or whatever. This is the tape that you play in the given situation. When you’re depressed, or when you’re driving in the middle of the night, or when you’re out walking, or when you’re trying to concentrate. I’d make copies and hand them out to people I knew. And then they’d come to me and say that their friends loved the tapes and wanted their own copies, and then I’d dub them for their friends — though, now that I think of it, I don’t know why my friends didn’t just dub them themselves. Isn’t there a certain crackly prestige to several-generation-removed mix tapes, or film reels?
These days the closest approximation is playlists. That’s fine, but it’s not quite the same. And it’s harder to contrive an excuse to zip up a bunch of files and a Winamp .m3u file, and say, “here; listen to this”. I mean, there’s no social etiquette for this sort of thing. Half the people you give the file to won’t know what to do with it. Of the half that do, half won’t bother to unzip the file. Of the half that do, half will just leave it sitting in a directory forever, or until they need space and so delete it without remembering where it came from. Of the half that do listen to it, half will probably only listen to a few tracks, or give the list a single polite listen. And so on. Hell, I rarely listen to single .mp3s that people send me. I rarely click on youtube links. But if someone I only sort of knew were to hand me a cassette, and it had an interesting title, chances are I’d throw it in the boombox later that evening. Because, you know, why not.
Nothing digital has any value.
I figure it’s about time to go back to bed.