Thursday, June 14, 2007





CURRENT 93


Here's another one worthy of a revisit. Much like Nurse With Wound - and you should know by now that both bands tend to share the membership of David Tibet/Michael and Steven Stapleton; NWW being Stapleton's baby and C93 Tibet's - Current 93 were a band I was a great fan of in the '90s and, come to think of it, not much has changed: I remain a fan.

NWW's catalogue has stylistically jumped all over the place, but you could generically pinpoint it under one, simple banner: experimental. It may rock, it may roll, it may do nothing of the sort; it is but one thing: experimental music. Current 93? Anyone who knows anything about the "band" could quite easily state that there are two distinct phases in their sound: the "industrial" period in the early '80s, when Tibet and co. were churning out a kind of ritualistic post-Throbbing Gristle grime, and their "acid folk" phase which started w/ '88's Earth Covers Earth LP and has pretty much continued along such a vein - give or take the odd detour - ever since.

Influenced by the sounds of '60s/'70s maypole-dancers like the Incredible String Band, Comus and Shirley Collins, as well as the baroque acoustic-based psych of Love's Forever Changes, Tibet and co. took a radical detour from their previous path, donned guitars and loud outfits and spoke of faeries, elves and other such wonders. Now, your tolerance/fandom for Current 93 is very much based on whether you care to hear grown-ups sing of such things in a completely non-ironic manner, as well as your personal tolerance for God-botherers (Tibet being a major one, though his actual religious denomination, which appears to be part Buddhist, part Catholic, remains a mystery to a disinterested and unconvinced agnostic such as myself). But if you can get past the lyrical pretentions and occasionally grating vocal gymnastics, you'll find a vast treasure of music in their catalogue. Again, much like Nurse With Wound, I haven't bothered with anything they've done since 2003, and I think the reason for this really lays in the fact that at the time I was co-running a distribution company w/ a friend from Sydney and storing all the wares in my house. One of the labels we were selling was the now-defunct World Serpent family of labels, which handled all Current 93 and Nurse With Wound product. I was up to my armpits in the stuff (literally), listened to the entire catalogues of both artists and basically OD'd on the lot of 'em.

Well, I've had my break, I'm back for more, and I'll tell you my fave three Current 93 platters. First and foremost is 1992's Thunder Perfect Mind, their psych-folk magnum opus, a disc I hold in such high regard I did place it in my Top 100. Secondly is their Earth Covers Earth LP I mentioned before, their first, magnificent foray into acoustic sounds, totally drenched in faeryland weirdness of a very listenable variety. And lastly, I'll take 1994's Of Ruine Or Some Blazing Starre, which basically follows the continuum and trail which both previously mentioned albums blazed. Big-time "indie" (which, actually, I don't think it really is) label Sanctuary released 2CD Best Ofs by both C93 and NWW a couple of years back - neither of which I've investigated - but for a C93 neophyte who wants to investigate the primo material from the early '80s through to the early '90s, I would certainly recommend their Emblems 2CD, a very neat comp' covering the period. Current 93 and Mr. Tibet (or Michael, as he has now reverted to) are still very active, releasing records and playing concerts, even attracting big-time fans and collaborators such as Nick Cave and Will Oldham, so it's nice to see the guy doesn't have to work a real day job to keep a roof over his head. It's a thumbs-up from me... and you?

2 comments:

Mrow said...

I've got alot of respect for Mr. Tibet, too. My first exposure to them was as a teen - the Swastikas For Noddy LP with the flayed pheasant on the cover. I was expecting white noise, but what I got was this Pinocchio-looking weirdo squealing cryptic tales of Coal Black Smiths and whatnot. I didn't know WHAT to make of all that back then.

When I returned to em years later, I got to absolutely love that short period where Nick Saloman aka THE BEVIS FROND was involved: Thunder Perfect Mind, the Lucifer Over London EP, and the amazing Tamlin EP. I coulda used a couple more albums of that near-rockin' C93. And I still think the C93 take of "Tamlin" cuts any Fairport/Steeleye/Anne Briggs et al. version you wanna cite.

And David turned me on to Thomas Ligotti, one of the few writers going who's actively trying to articulate THAT YAWNING, ACHING VOID we all know is waiting someplace pretty close by. Blackhole reassurance at it's finest.

Sam said...

Tibet has been obsessed with Om (yes, ex-Sleep Om) of late, which led to a pretty great split 10 inch, one side what you'd expect from Om, heavy trance inducing beautiful, the other finds Tibet grinding out heavy distorto bass lines. Definitely worth checking out.