Astral Disaster

January 1999

Cover Image

UK LP Prescription DRUG8

side a

  1. The Sea Priestess
  2. Second Son Syndrome
  3. I Don't Want To be the One
  4. The Avatars - [MP3]

side b

  1. The Mothership and the Fatherland - [MP3]

John Balance
Peter Christopherson
Drew McDowall
Gary Ramon - sitar and guitar on "The Sea Priestess"

Part of a series of 8 releases (each by a different artist) on the Prescription imprint of Acme, a label run by Gary Ramon of the band Sundial. Like all other Prescription releases, this album was limited to 99 copies available only via subscription to the entire series. It's packaged in a plain black sleeve with a title sticker signed and numbered by Balance and Christopherson. It includes an insert with the track listing and release notes, and a piece of handmade artwork in a plastic zip-lock bag. Click here to see some of these artworks.

Test pressings exist, that contain different mixes (unconfirmed) of the five album tracks, as well as one additional unreleased track, spread out over two 12"'s. One has "Motherland/Fatherland" (reportedly the working title of "The Mothership and the Fatherland"), backed with "The Avatars" and "2nd Son Syndrome" (sleeve). The other "I Don't Want To be the One" and an untitled, three minute instrumental (with the note "check Jhon for title" on the sleeve), backed with "Sea Priestess" (sleeve). Listen to an excerpt of the unreleased track here: [MP3]

January 2000

Cover Image

UK CD Threshold House LOCI CD 14

  1. The Avatars - [MP3]
  2. I Don't Want To be the One - [MP3]
  3. 2nd. Sun Syndrome - [MP3]
  4. The Sea Priestess - [MP3]
  5. The Mothership and the Fatherland - [MP3]
  6. MÜ-ÜR - [MP3]

UK LP Threshold House LOCI 14

side a

  1. The Avatars - [MP3]
  2. I Don't Want To be the One - [MP3]
  3. 2nd. Sun Syndrome - [MP3]
  4. The Sea Priestess - [MP3]

side b

  1. MÜ-ÜR - [MP3]

John Balance
Peter Christopherson
Drew McDowall

The songs "The Sea Priestess," "I Don't Want to be the One," and "2nd. Sun Syndrome" have been remixed or extended.
"MÜ-ÜR" is a remix of "The Mothership and the Fatherland."
Cover by Babs Santini.
Limited edition on grey vinyl, with a sub-edition of 100 copies on red vinyl featuring a lyric sheet (reverse) signed by Jhon Balance, Peter Christopherson and Thighpaulsandra, and a numbered original painting signed and numbered (and in some cases titled) by Jhon and Peter. Click here to see a number of these paintings.

John Balance writes notes on the songs:


Ma ma-ma ma-ma
What can you see?
The miraculous image of sound washed ashore
Hurts me to see
Murderous pa-pa
Chocolate ca-ca
Desolate ma-ma
You are urgent messages
Open your mouth and let the gold coins fall
It's the sail of the century
It's the sail of the century
Run lady run
We can feel the rain coming
We feel like babies in the brine
We feel like babies in the brine
We feel like babies in the brine
Murderous chocolate
God saved me from drowning
Then kicked me to death on the beach
What's hit is history
What's missed is mystery
And the miraculous image of sound washed ashore
Mam-ma, what can you see?
Mam-ma, what can you see?

I Don't Want to Be the One

I don't want to be the one
When everyone has gone
When everyone is gone
I don't want to be the one
I don't want to be the one

I don't want to be the one
To see so far ahead
I have to live life looking back
To see the skies turn red

I don't want to be the one
To play this dangerous game
To find out why they came

I don't want to be the one
When everyone has gone
When everyone is gone
I don't want to be the one
I don't want to be the one
I don't want to be the one

The Sea Priestess

On the sea coast of Tibet
Egyptian Aztecs are arriving from Norway
They've been varnishing the woodwork for forty-three centuries
Here, Nature is naked, her acrobats bathed in blood
There's a beast of prey on the threshold of pleasure
And the giantess, sea priestess, beckons the passers-by
"Do not lose sight of the sea. Do not lose sight to the sea."
Her wizened mouthpiece whistles with silver fishes
Swirls of spider-crabs crackle like Wimshurst mechanicals
All around her, jellies are diaphanous

After washing myself clean, I had breakfast with the sea priestess
Whose sibilant esses are escaping gas from the sea floor
The sea priestess lays on a bed of nails
Twenty-seven lead soldiers at her head
The sea priestess is escaping gas
The grass that grows is turned to gas
Gas fired from a gun, herbal hydrogen
If it goes any faster there'll be an astral disaster
If it goes any faster there'll be an astral disaster

We spent the rest of time
With furious faking of dreaming
Pissing tiny diamonds, and passing the time wondering
Whether we should walk down the same path
That had introduced us to the valley the day before
I was woken three times in the night
And asked to watch whales, listen for earthquakes in the sea
I had never seen such a strange sight before
Somehow I think the soft verges of insanity
At the hard shoulders of reality
Point past signs posted in the past sea
It's probably a lack of poor visibility
And something special in the sand
And the essences the rocks on the seashore make

The men here are desiccated like mummies
Been out in the sun for thousands of years, walking along
The women stuff themselves full of collagen and other animal remains
I don't think we'll stay here long
As soon as the ships have been rebuilt, we'll be out of here
Into the sun

Our ship was wrecked on the sea coast of Tibet
The first thing we saw were several Egyptian Aztecs arriving from Norway
Here all nature is naked
We watch acrobats bathing themselves in blood
And over the doorway is a beast of prey
Straddled on the threshold of pleasure
And a giantess, sea priestess, beckoning the passers-by
She implores them, "Do not lose sight of the sea."
She says, "Do not lose sight to the sea."

Some tones, some drones, beautiful soundscapes and even a guitar bit on here. Most unmistakably Coil, however, this is the CD release of an LP originally recorded back around Halloween 1998. The recordings took place outside Coil's studio however, and were produced in part by Gary Ramon of the Prescription label. The LPs were made in a quantity of 99 and only given to those who had subscribed to this series released on Prescription. The original recordings seemed rather different from Coil's work, almost without the absolute quality control work that Coil put into everything. Coil have rearranged the running order, reworked most of the songs, added one song, and left a couple untouched on this release - stretching the 45 minute-long LP into a 72 minute-long CD. The electro-glitchy looped bits "The Avatars" and "2nd Sun Syndrome" along with the haunting epic, "The Mothership and the Fatherland" remain almost completely untouched, while in "I Don't Want to Be The One," the song gets extended about 3 minutes, Peter's voice gets added subtly and an unrecognizable voice (could it be Thighpaulsandra?) appears in a brand new part tagged on at the end. The new track "MU-UR" sounds like altered takes from "The Mothership & the Fatherland" with the pulsing tympani, mesmerising scapes and Maggot Brain-era Funkadelic organ. Also added is a vocal whose effects echo those of "Amethyst Deceiver." Perhaps the most drastically changed tune is "The Sea Priestess," where a droney sitar has been completely removed. Beautiful choral voices are added along with brilliant droning Tibetan vocal samples. Pretty chimes paint an aural picture of the water glistening in the moonlight and the vocals are mixed much better and prominent sounding. - Jon Whitney, Brainwashed

"Astral Disaster" was originally released in 1999 as part of a subscription only series in a ridiculously limited edition of 99 vinyl copies (I was not one of the chosen few). Now it has been re-released on CD via Threshold House with a few tracks re-done/extended/re-mixed, 1 extra track and fantastic digipack artwork by Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound) and photos by Coil. Unfortunately, this album still sounds unfinished to me and is no where near as enthralling as the album recorded after this one, "Music to Play in the Dark Vol. 1". "Astral.." is composed of 3 lengthy minimal pieces, 2 short synth pieces and 1 short song which further explore lunar magick. "The Avatars" and "2nd Sun Syndrome" are little more than aimless synth noodlings that aren't all that interesting in comparison to similar work from the recent past. "The Mothership & the Fatherland" is tediously long with a plodding beat, minimal synth pads, effected sounds here and there, some drifting female backing vocals and Balance quietly speaking in tongues near the end. "The Sea Priestess" features Balance's forthright spoken words over and through synths and effects with the most intriguing lyric: "if it goes any faster there will be an astral disaster." "I Don't Want to be the One" is a poorly recorded 'song' with Balance's vocals, guitar pluckings and swirling synth atmospheres ... not bad until Balance begins wailing in the final few minutes. "MU-UR" is similar to "The Mothership & the Fatherland" with the same sort of synth pads, drones and effected sounds floating about for 20+ minutes and a brief passage of Balance's vocals transformed into a female tone. All in all, this is the first time I can honestly say that I've been disappointed by a new Coil (or related) release. "The Sea Priestess" and "MU-UR" are my favorites and are really the only two that bear repeated listening. The rest of the album contains fragments of great ideas and sounds but fails to expand upon them properly to capture the 'magick' ... it simply doesn't meet Coil's usually high quality control standard. I'm surprised they bothered to re-release it on CD, especially after the release of Music to Play in the Dark Vol. 1. - Mark Weddle, Brainwashed

‘Astral Disaster’ can be appreciated as a six-part ritual consisting of the following stages:
1. Summoning (‘The Avatars’)
2. Beginning (‘The Mothership and the Fatherland’)
3. Elevation (‘Second Sun Syndrome’)
4. The Heart of the Rite (‘The Sea Priestess’)
5. Doubt / Madness (‘I Don’t Want to be the One’)
6. Conclusion (‘MU-UR’)

‘The Avatars’ represents the summoning to the ritual, a queasy, distant, distorted electronic sound, blown on the wind, calling those who can hear to attend.

‘The Mothership and the Fatherland’ represents the beginning of the ritual proper. An echoed, repetitive, tribal drum sound beats at its core, producing a hypnotic, ‘drugged’, calm, trance inducing sensation, reminiscent of deep space travel or descent underwater (to the realm of the Sea Priestess?). Indecipherable messages and hints of subdued glossolalia play in the background.

‘Second Sun Syndrome’ is presented as a somewhat jerky circular dance number, providing a space or place of transition, a kind of elevation that leads to the heart of the rite, which is represented by the lengthy track that follows.

‘The Sea Priestess’ is notable for the humour of its opening lines, which follow an extended, subdued and beautiful musical introduction, consisting of an electronic blending of tinkling and resounding bells and a distant mournful choir:

“In the sea coast of Tibet
Egyptian Aztecs are arriving from Norway
They’ve been varnishing the woodwork
For forty four centuries…”

There follows a description of a temple inhabited by the Sea Priestess, a temple of Atlantis, and a narrative describing the singer’s adventures there, which forms a kind of guided meditation. Everything is built around and locates itself in relation to a central drone. Towards the end of the song we are treated to a form of Mongolian throat singing before the lyric ends as it begins. ‘The Sea Priestess’ is a prime example of Coil’s long form beauty.

‘I Don’t Want to be the One’ is a core song from the Coil repertoire, with lyrics about deepening crisis, reluctant sacrifice, the cursed visionary and impending insanity. The version here lacks the fury of the performance featured on Coil Live Four.

‘MU-UR’ reprises ‘The Mothership and the Fatherland’ at the beginning before proceeding to delight and baffle the ear with the sounds of a music box winding down, a distorted dulcimer, a flute and short electronic signals, which seem to be reminders of the stages of the journey, or the parts of the ritual. Messages emerge from the music, sometimes enigmatic (“Open your mouth/Let the gold coins fall…”), sometimes alarming (“God saved me from drowning/Then kicked me to death on the beach…”) before the tune and the album end with a pulsing and throbbing reprise of the opening of ‘The Mothership and the Fatherland’.
Reviewed by FNS, 05/02/2010ce, for Head Heritage

The solstice releases gave an indication of the new sound coil was embracing. This is the first full album using the quasi ambient sound they cultivated during the late 1990s. This album is made up of three short and three long tracks. Most use quite repetitive mantra like motifs and act as meditative pieces rather than in your face exhibitions in experimentation.

The second track 'The Mothership and the Fatherland' is an example of this. It’s nearly twenty-three minutes long and is a quiet ambient piece using light tribal sounding percussion, ghostly distant voices and other such oddities. While I say it’s repetitive I don’t believe any obvious loops were involved (except maybe the drumming) It all progresses nicely, sometime becoming more complex then dying down for a couple of minutes before building back up again amid synth washes and analogue drones. It’s frankly lovely.
The third track is '2nd Sun Syndrome' which has a lot of funny squiggly synth loops and noises, this isn’t so good, but serves as a good introduction piece to the album's best track and in my opinion one of Coil's best ever tracks 'The sea Priestess'. Most of the music is made up of layers of choral and high pitches synth noise massed in the most atmospheric of ways. There are eastern sounding bells and swirling half heard sounds buried in the mix too. Once you get accustomed to the walls of ambience John Balance starts his recitation. The lyrics are inspired and seem to transcend the dense layers of sound, rising above it like some deity. Quite simple this song is trance inducing. I once nearly crashed my car listening to this at night. This song alone is reason to buy the album.

Next up is 'I Don’t Want to be the One'; another good song, again with good lyrics from Balance. The theme is about the visions he has and how he sometimes wishes his wasn’t the one to have them. The final track is another long ambient work out. Again it uses similar tribal drums to the second track and is again highly absorbing. It has Balance's voice warped into the voice of a small child. he talks about the destruction of the sea and some other abstract poetic devices.

I must comment of the superb production here, sometimes ambient music and especially ambient music this complex becomes a bit of a haze of synth layers making it a bit dreary but Coil's production makes sure that every single nuance of the many layers is clear as crystal. A great album to escape the world with. ~ Night Of The World

The initial 1999 version of Astral Disaster on Prescription was an ultra-limited release in a symbolic edition of 99 copies on vinyl only. The CD reissue of what must be one of Coil's more collectable cult items has been slightly remixed, and includes an extra track not on the original as a consolation to the fanatics who missed out on the Holy Grail LP version. The tracks featured are "The Sea Priestess," "2nd Sun Syndrome," "I Don't Want to Be the One," "The Avatars," "The Mothership & the Fatherland," and "MU-UR." Not comparable to the sublime brilliance the group achieved on Musick to Play in the Dark, Astral Disaster mines different territory altogether, and is a strong album that features a notable folk influence. With this approach transfigured through industrial and electronic means, the album bears striking similarities to Current 93 in its exploration of esoteric and mystical themes. ~ Skip Jansenm