It’s been over ten years since I first discovered Coil’s Time Machines, but I still find myself consistently coming back to it year after year. Of all places, I found the record in a chain book retailer that was trying to branch into other media. Trying to stock their shelves with import collector’s items to seem, you know, “hip,” Time Machines was filed alongside Nine Inch Nails. I mean, it kind of makes sense, but not really. Being the angst-ridden devilocked 14 year old I thought I was, I picked it up sight unseen.
I don’t remember if I enjoyed the album upon listening to it for the first time. I was probably disappointed it lacked lyrics relating to my perceived 14 year old male failures with the opposite sex. Still, the packaging was enticing and the track titles were obviously some sort of drug reference (and if there is one thing a middle class suburban youth likes to fantasize about…) I forced myself to listen to it repeatedly and was drawn into an experience I still try to recreate with every listen. Initially unnerving, after repeat listens Time Machine became a strange comfort, much in the way a cycling refrigerator or a heating unit might. Its density fills space but not in an oppressive manner.
I still have never found a drone album that makes me feel quite like Time Machines does. The members of Coil conceived this project as an exercise in hallucinogenic time travel. The concept, on the surface level, may seem a little overwrought, especially considering the aforementioned song titles. The results are spectacular though. Oscillating sub-bass tones make up the majority of the album, and even with this limited pallet, Balance and Christopherson craft a full work capable of intense movement. Time Machines never instills a feeling of stasis, it is always traveling somewhere. In that way, the concept succeeds brilliantly. The journey may not be into the void or the farthest reaches of your soul, but it can induce a tangible sensation that most drone and ambient artists can only dream of pulling off.
It is unfortunate that Time Machines is one of Coil’s hardest to find albums. Initially planned as a larger body of work and then a reissue, the album’s current status is unknown with the passing of Christopherson in 2010. One must hope those in charge of Coil’s recorded work will give Time Machines the treatment it deserves. I know I personally have it to thank as a gateway into a whole treasure trove of outsider art. Trust me when I say youtube clips and low quality speakers won’t ever do this trip justice.