Coil: A Cold Cell
ix minutes of funereal undulant keyboard with John Balance’s plaintive choirboy prayer penetrating the empty icy air with cloudy breaths. The kind of static stately sombre piece of music that wouldn’t seem out of place at some grave occasion. Rising and falling melodic lines form a dark introspective mood piece at the points of convergence that seem oddly both cold and emotive.
While his vocal and presence are placed firmly at the heart of the song, he only appears for just under three minutes before bowing out with a repeated “amen”. While the original theme / imagery of the song was is allegedly about a Russian youth prison or work camp, recent events have utterly altered the song’s very essence. The difference between Coil on the 12th of November and Coil on the 14th of November will undoubtedly fill books (its already filled inboxes, blogs and websites). Like an alchemical reaction, a moment’s action has turned “A Cold Cell” into something far more reflective, far deeper and more tangible.
But it isn’t his lost lonely vocal or the dark and possibly fatidic lyrics that offer the most powerful moments here: piercing the thick synths and trickling through the headphones come discomfiting broken oral sounds which in the shadow of Balance’s recent departure take on an ominous tone; like a multitude of voices pushing to be heard. Theses sounds appear to be scratched and sliced into whispering slivers, syllables and half formed words (did I catch a snatch of the Lord’s Prayer?) are heard and lost in an instant. These attempts at communication don’t sound anguished, just lost between here and there (wherever and whatever “here and there” may be).
Under these sibilant intrusions comes the sound of an arriving train, a rattling metallic machine that squeals slowly to a halt. Whatever the original intention of this FX was, and I presume it may have been the arrival of the soon to be interred; it becomes something inextricably linked to Balance’s departure. As the train stops and starts off again, the cycles continue, the world still turns and blood still flows. Leaving behind a body, in death a cold cell.