:Retrowerks: Coil/Nine Inch Nails – Recoiled
Review by Maresa Whitehead
Deep from the dredges of the Internet comes the release of a long-rumored ’90s-era remix collaboration between two industrial giants. The story of the Recoiled EP coming to light is quite fascinating for die-hard Nine Inch Nails and Coil fans alike: Reports regarding the existence of previously-unreleased tracks from NIN remix sessions by Coil circulated on Internet forums as early as 1995. These outtakes supposedly came from Coil’s sessions that eventually landed remixes on Fixed, Closer To God, and Further Down The Spiral. But what happened to the rest of the material that didn’t make the cut? Cue frenzied fan obsession with digging up those tracks over the next decade, but to no avail. Finally, in 2012, Coil collaborator Danny Hyde responded with a resounding yes to one motivated forum member’s inquiry as to whether any unheard remnants of those sessions remained.
Members of the prominent NIN forum Echoing The Sound then raised the necessary funds to purchase Hyde’s material. In 2013, much of that material was developed into Uncoiled, a download-only bootleg EP featuring Coil’s remixes of tracks from Broken and The Downward Spiral. Four of those remixes, plus an additional piece, were then remastered and recently released under the Recoiled moniker by Cold Spring Records, an independent British label devoted to obscure and experimental electronic music.
And boy do these remixes fit the Cold Spring bill! With Coil’s influence of dark ambient and experimental electronic sounds, “Gave Up,” “Closer,” “The Downward Spiral,” and “Eraser” are at times unrecognizable but take on a unique cinematic quality as only Coil could provide. Because the original tracks and remixes themselves predate the influx of the high quality computer-based sound software now available, Recoiled transports listeners back in time with its gritty, organic tones. This time-bending characteristic melds perfectly with the aural substance of the remixes themselves and allows listeners to experience something downright magical.
The EP opens with the “Gave Up (Open My Eyes)” remix. Where the original track is a fast-paced, hard-hitting industrial/punk rock number, Coil’s remix has been, at first, almost painfully slowed. Trent Reznor’s vocal inflections are clear and emotive above the melancholy creepiness. And then all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, the familiar guitar strains of “Gave Up” as it appeared on Broken are brought back with a beat-driven vengeance. Coil redefined the original drum patterns in a way that recreates the track without losing its intense original integrity. As it progresses, the remix builds with an increasing influx of industrial noise and Reznor’s screams until all fade at the six-minute mark.
“Closer (Unrecalled)” follows with its muted, minimalist take on the original Downward Spiral version. Reznor’s vocals are distorted and disoriented, and the remix takes on a sulking, down-tempo jazzy quality among Coil’s infusion of atmospheric ambiance. It isn’t until nearly three minutes into the almost eight-minute track that listeners are grounded with recognizable lyrics and vocals. Up until the four-and-a-half minute mark, the track’s original emphasis on its lurid beat is forsaken, and even when it is brought back into the mix, it is regenerated and downplayed in favor of Coil’s addition of a haunting dark ambient score. The interplay between the lyrics and Coil’s auditory reimagining of “Closer” lend the track a depressive, desperate quality in direct contrast to the original’s conviction.
“The Downward Spiral (A Gilded Sickness)” is perhaps the most unrecognizable remix on Recoiled in terms of its relation to its original version. To be fair, the nearly-instrumental original likely required the upheaval Coil gave it in order to generate something innovative, and the remix is certainly that. Coil’s treatment of “The Downward Spiral” lends it an intellectual, abstract quality. But the real gold is found five minutes into the remix—the familiar off-kilter guitar strains are hauntingly set off by the repetition of Reznor’s slowed, deepened vocals: “Everything’s blue in this world, the deepest shade of mushroom blue.” And that is where the remix finds its ultimate meaning.
The last two tracks on the EP are both remixes of “Eraser.” First up is the “Eraser (Reduction)” remix, which maintains the underlying buzzing apparent in the original even as it plays with shrill, screeching industrial noise over echoic droning. When Reznor’s piano melodies and vocals begin around the five-minute point, the tension peaks in an unsettling, even horrific, soundscape. “Eraser (Baby Alarm Remix)” closes the EP. It begins similarly and at first feels like an extension of the “Eraser (Reduction)” remix. However, it becomes quickly apparent the two are different as Coil brings back the beats and guitarwork from the original, which they opted to cut in the previous remix. The energy of this remix comes full circle with that of the first track on Recoiled, as these two are most reminiscent of their respective originals in terms of Coil allowing the integrity of the guitar and drums to propel their interpretations. In fact, this remix of “Eraser” may be the most unadulterated remix on the EP. Though Coil’s vision is certainly apparent, particularly later in the track, this is the most recognizable compared to its Downward Spiral original. The fade-out at the end, prominently featuring Reznor’s vocals, is a solid wrap-up to the EP both lyrically and atmospherically.
Ultimately, Recoiled is the perfect intellectual experience for dedicated NIN and Coil fans. While it’s not the kind of album you might listen to on a daily basis, it certainly begs attention for the sheer rarity and distinctiveness of these remixes alone. Coil takes NIN’s original material and converts it into something elongated and emotive on an entirely avant-garde level. These reinterpretations are movie score worthy with their atmospheric and poignant aesthetics, effecting a well-balanced blend of both bands.
Nearly two decades after the recordings and remixes were completed, they have been released, allowing Coil to continue its influence on experimental electronic music posthumously. And that is, in itself, an incredible feat—to carve out one’s space in the environs of an entirely new creative era with work undertaken decades previously. There is a definite place for Recoiled both in the hearts of those who want to harken back to and rediscover, in a new way, the early years of NIN, as well as those who wish to relive their Coil fantasies long after the project has been laid to rest.
01. Gave Up (Open My Eyes)
02. Closer (Unrecalled)
03. The Downward Spiral (A Gilded Sickness)
04. Eraser (Reduction)
05. Eraser (Baby Alarm Remix)
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