TWO TRIPS BEHIND THE WALL OF SLEEP WITH FINAL COIL
On December 10th Final Coil will release their new album of dreams and reimaginings, Somnambulant II through WormHoleDeath and pre-orders for that release are now open. Somnambulant II was named after the band's 2014 EP, Somnambulant, which shared an experimental approach and dreamlike feel. Inspired by their new collection Final Coil have revisited Somnambulant - now Somnambulant I - and remixed and remastered it, adding some superb new artwork created by the band's bassist, Jola Stiles. Somnambulant I will now be released alongside it's companion piece on December 10th and pre-orders for this reborn endeavour are also open now.
Final Coil's front man Phil Stiles took time out to explain the origins of the original Somnambulant EP and the reasons behind gifting it with a new lease of life...
"2014 was a weird time for Final Coil. At the time, we subscribed to the philosophy of playing pretty much anywhere that would have us and we had amassed a sizable collection of songs, many of which predated the band’s official formation. Some of those songs (like perennial concert closer Endgame) are gathered on the Live With Doubt EP, recorded at a small, local studio in 2011; while others had been recorded on an earlier demo (now lost in the mists of time and various moves), but with a sense of ambition that outstripped both the budget and the production.
Anyway, 2014 was a pretty transitional time for the band. I had lost my voice, thanks to a brutal case of reflux and we’d lost our drummer, Tom, somewhere around the same time. Worried about my voice and worn out after countless gigs played out on crappy gear, I put the band on hiatus. As history now records, it didn’t last and, after a spell on some industrial strength antacids, my voice improved to the point that we could start to think about making music again (although it would be some years before, with the help of a vocal coach, it fully returned). Initially Somnambulantwas going to be an acoustic EP, but the funny thing about teaching yourself little bits of production, is that you start to plunge down the rabbit hole of effects and synthesisers (a habit that has continued to this day). Without a drummer to anchor things, Rich and I spent hours fiddling about with whatever sounds we could coax out of my Lite version of Ableton, working to the idea that, in the absence of real percussion, we should make everything sound as gritty and industrial as we could. The resultant EP came out in 2014, a self-release, and garnered a few reviews online before we recruited Chez and recorded Closed To The Light, the EP that brought us to the attention of WormHoleDeath.
Honestly, I don’t think we served Somnambulantwell, with the way we released it. We were inexperienced, and not a little self-conscious that it was a self-production, and so it has languished on Bandcamp ever since, rarely referenced by the band. Nevertheless, when we agreed with WormHoleDeath that they would release Somnambulant II, a similarly experimental look at our catalogue, it seemed time to return to its forebear and see if I couldn’t improve a little on what we had done.
On digging out the master files, I was actually pleasantly surprised at the quality of what we had recorded. It wasn’t perfect, but the tracks brought back fond memories of late-night sessions spent giggling with Richard in our spare room. The songs might be a little on the dark side, but the recordings were punctuated by trips to the fridge for beer and endless references to Bottom and Red Dwarf. There was a simplicity to the sessions that worked well, and, without the time pressure of a studio bill, we spent a lot of time adding layer after layer of noise to the tracks. Jola, an incredibly talented flautist, who had experience of recording with a Big Band, even brought her flute out of retirement to track elements on several songs. I think she was pretty nervous, not least because we threw her in the at the deep end, essentially asking her to arrange and record her part in a single session but, of course, she came through brilliantly. Indeed, when going through the master files, I was delighted to find the original takes she did for This Love (Part 2), they’re worth hearing on their own and remain one of my favourite aspects of the EP.
Nostalgia aside, the recordings were in good shape, but my editing skills back in 2014 were oh-so-lame. Vocal tracks simply ran all the way through songs, with noise bleeding in from the speakers; guitar tracks were poorly cropped and loops often ended awkwardly, with an audible click as they transitioned back to the start. Percussion was also basic, and often poorly mixed; and the mastering, such as it was, was so mired in bass, it made my monitors vibrate! So, what started as a quick remaster very soon became a much larger project. My philosophy was simple, I didn’t want to record anything new, but I did want to clean up what was there. It seemed like a good idea at the time…
Some twenty hours of mixing later, and I was pretty much done, although my head was starting to spin a little. Several songs were shorter by a minute or so, my threshold for simply letting ideas run having lowered in the interim; whole tracks (containing unnecessary additional takes) were excised and, due to multiple software and computer changes since 2014, new samples were triggered on tracks with percussive elements. A small effort, perhaps, by the standards of, say, a Bowie restoration, but a labour of love on my part nonetheless, and a chance to revisit a number of songs that I have nether heard nor played in nearly eight years (the major exception being Myopic, at the time a new track that would later find its way onto Persistence Of Memory).
The result, I think at least, is a cleaner, clearer version of the EP. It still maintains the same slight naivety of the original, but both the mixing and mastering are more in line with the skills I developed when recording my two-solo works, not to mention Somnambulant II. I also think it flows a little better, not least because it is a little shorter, and it surely offers an interesting window into a band trying to feel their way towards the more progressively oriented material that is our stock in trade today.
For those who like the original, it’s still there on Bandcamp (and if you’re feeling brave, I invite you to seek out the differences for yourself), but for me, this is closer to the intent behind the original work, and I hope that it might give those people who have joined us part way on our journey a glimpse into our somewhat eccentric past."
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