This is, strictly speaking, the first Coil album in name — but it’s probably not the first Coil album to start with, if only because you won’t have much of an introduction to Coil through it. Come to think of it, anyone who’s followed Coil for more than a couple of albums would know that they were not so much defined by a signature sound as the fact that they were constantly and restlessly trying out new sounds like snakes shedding skins. This was merely one of many, many dissimilar phases they went through.
That said, it’s mainly of interest to people who are a) already Coil fans and are curious about what they were mucking around with when they had freshly adopted the Coil moniker or b) compulsively collecting every bit of TG / Test Dept. / Le Syndicat / Merzbow-inspired sludge that surfaced during the Eighties. The album itself is split between Zos Kia (a band which for a time included John Balance of Coil) and Coil itself, with the latter supplying the occasional bit of material and inspiration for the former. Most of the material is low-fi, improvised performance-art-style audience-clobbering, again arguably no better (or worse) than any of the other such material released at the time. It probably had more of an effect live; too much of it is simply monolithic and self-indulgent when presented on a recording.
If there is one overriding reason to hear this disc, it’s the song “Rape” (called “Violation” on some pressings), which has frightened the wits out of me more thoroughly than almost anything else I can recall — and yes, I’m including the remixed version of the Nurse With Wound / Whitehouse collaboration 150 Murderous Passions on that list, although it’s a close runner for first place as well. The concept sounds almost sophomoric: a spoken-word text recounting a woman’s sexual assault in the Australian outback, climaxing with screams. Then you listen to it, and the emotional effect is scarifying to say the least. (This is also technically the first song that has any association with the official Coil moniker, since it was derived from another song, “Here to Here (Double Headed Secret)”, recorded by Balance around the same time.)
Transparent actually reminds me a great deal of the early phases of another band, one fairly intimately involved with Coil: Current 93. Their first albums (especially the “Lashtal/Salt” single and Nature Unveiled) were equally noisy and shapeless. That said, “noisy and shapeless” doesn’t automatically mean uncompelling: Nature Unveiled is one of the more hair-raising things I’ve picked up, with only “Rape” to follow it up — and the rest of Transparent doesn’t do a bad job of rattling the psychic eyeteeth either. But it’s an open question as to whether or not you’d make this a regular guest in your playlist.q