Personnel: Cliff Stapleton (hurdy-gurdy); Mike York (duduk, pipes); Thighpaulsandra (keyboards); Ossian Brown (synthesizer); Tom Edwards (vibraphone, marimba).
Recording information: Nothing Studios, New Orleans; The North Tower, Somerest, England.
Photographer: Ian Johnstone.
Listening to The Ape of Naples is a bittersweet experience. As the last album recorded during John Balance's lifetime, it serves as a final statement and summation of the band's multi-faceted career. Naples is much more of a "classic"-sounding Coil album (in the vein of Love's Secret Domain and Musick to Play in the Dark, Vol. 1) than more recent outings (such as ANS, Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil, or Astral Disaster). Ape is made up of recording sessions that date back to the mid-'90s, recordings done for Trent Reznor's nothing label, and more recent works that were still getting worked out in a live environment ("Triple Sun," "Tattooed Man"). Balance and Peter Christopherson are joined by the likes of Danny Hyde, Thighpaulsandra, Ossian Brown, Cliff Stapleton, and Mike Yorke, depending on the track. Which would lead one to the assumption that the album would sound disjointed, with a rotating cast of characters involved. The magic of Coil is that the album flows as smoothly as it does, not as if it were pieced together over the years and with different collaborators. The focus of the album seems to be (perhaps consciously, perhaps not) on Balance's beautiful and expressive voice. All tracks feature his vocals, notably the industro-goth of "Heaven's Blade," the twisted circus atmospheres of "Tattooed Man," and quite possibly the saddest song Coil ever recorded, a cover of BBC favorite Are You Being Served's theme song, "Going Up." This last is a highlight in the Coil catalog, with Balance duetting with Francois Testroy, telling the listener that "it just is." The painful acceptance of this line encapsulates the experience of the album -- Balance is gone, we must move on and continue. The Ape of Naples is one of Coil's best albums and one of the best albums of 2005. ~ James Mason