My aim with The Eye is to shine a light on music, film and literature that deals with landscape in a multitude of ways.
The space below will be taken up by images from a series of landscape poems, which I plan to release as home-made booklets in the near future.
The Willows tells the tale of a pair of adventurers drifting along the Danube by rowing boat. They pass into a strange habitat of ever-shifting silt islands, which stretches for miles in all directions. Although forewarned of the region’s dangers, which are heightened by an impending flood, they follow the river’s tangled tributaries until forced to make camp for the night. Slowly, a sense of dread sets in – they sense an inhuman presence hidden in the silvery willows that dominate the landscape.
A stiff and motionless body bobs by the riverbank; both are frozen with fear. It rolls over in the water and they catch a glimpse of what appears to be an otter. Although they cry out in relief, they come to doubt their hurried judgment in the paranoid days that follow. Disturbingly, they then spot a man in the distance, rowing downstream at tremendous speed. He is far enough from view that they cannot make out his shape, nor the panicked words he hurls in their direction, which tangle beyond recognition in the howling wind.
At midnight, our protagonist rises from a troubled sleep, drawn from his tent to an eerie spectacle:
The supernatural determines to drive the travellers away from the isolated site. After a period of strained silence, worried thoughts spill over into conversation, as nervous comments give way to futile attempts to rationalise their experiences. The inexplicable becomes real, magnifying in intensity and unwittingly attracting the silent hunters towards their prey. We slowly enter this destructive headspace. Blackwood toys with the borderline between psychology and natural environment; as it slowly begins to merge, the greatest fear becomes fear itself.
This is the second in a series of recordings captured at locations around Sheffield.
Named in tribute to the coil’s omnipresence in the wild, Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and Jhonn Balance treated art as a catalyst for personal growth. Balance described himself as a “born-again Pagan” and believer in a fundamental “spirituality within nature”. Inspired by the surrealists, Coil were committed to plumbing the depths of the subconscious to uncover the hidden forces that they believed govern the universe.
Their approach involved deliberately disconnecting from outside influences to sharpen their vision, which resulted in the duo concentrating exclusively on developing their sound in the studio during the early years of their existence. In an NME article from 1985, Biba Kopf says that the duo’s “steeping of themselves in practices so anti-social earn[ed] them not only society’s complete contempt, but also liberation from its constraints”.
On Scatology, Coil defy convention by giving a platform to a slew of esoteric interests, from ancient mythology to black magick, each mapped out in the liner notes that make up the record sleeve. They also provoke their listeners with a demented carnival of sound. Coil’s compositions were, in part, designed to push male listeners into heightened states of sexual energy, a rationale with parallels in the teachings of Aleister Crowley, founder of thelema and figurehead of British occultism. Disturbing the status quo was central to the duo’s philosophy.
‘Panic’ lives up to its title, with metallic rhythms clattering beneath shrill violins. ‘At the Heart of It All’, one of a handful of mellower tracks, drifts by on understated piano chords and muffled snippets of conversation, maintaining the unnerving mood that persists throughout. ‘The Spoiler’’s punkish assault uses repetitive, mechanical distortion as a vessel for frustration and fury.
As ‘Godhead=Deathead’ coolly drifts by, it’s difficult not to lose oneself entirely in Coil’s desperate wasteland. We drift from its ear-piercing compression towards the wide, open space of ‘Cathedral in Flames’. The expansive feel of this piece is particularly memorable; field recordings, apparently stitched together from ancient historical documentaries, seem to puncture and distort the fabric of time.
‘Tainted Love’ is recast as an epic, mesmerising portrayal of the AIDS epidemic. The accompanying video occupies a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and with good reason. It typifies the panoptic genius of Coil’s approach, demonstrating that beauty can be dredged up from the blackest of territory.
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