Although by all accounts he continued writing prolifically the only Coughlan recording to emerge in the late 90s was the score for the 1997 Irish movie, The Last Bus Home, directed by Johnny Gogan. After finally resolving his legal differences, Coughlan signed to Cooking Vinyl Records for the release of 2000’s Black River Falls, an album dominated by reflective personal ballads such as the title track and ‘Cast Me Out In My Hometown’. The following year Coughlan composed the music for a new Johnny Gogan film, The Mapmaker, and made his theatrical debut in François Ribac’s contemporary opera Qui Est Fou? He also completed the recording of his next studio album. Released in 2002, The Sky’s Awful Blue showed that Coughlan’s sometimes comically bleak worldview was still intact, while his recent excursions into soundtrack work was evident in the atmospheric flourishes of several tracks.
Coughlan’s next project, the ‘evolving’ song cycle Flannery’s Mounted Head, premiered in Cork in September 2005, with contributions from video artist Rob Flint and multi-media artist Linda Quinlan. The following year’s Foburg was based around sections of Flannery’s Mounted Head and was recorded with the Grand Necropolitan Sextet, featuring James Woodrow (guitar), Daniel Manners (double bass), Nick Allum (drums), Audrey Riley (cello), Eddy Jay (accordion/guitar), and Steve Beresford (piano).