24 August 2006

...and am i born to die?

It was a weird little photo-shoot in the dining room, involving a mug of Guinness and the wooden head of Christ we found in a Tucson junk-shop several years ago. After the Guinness was dispatched, the photoshop play commenced.

Then it struck me how much the head resembled the child's drawing that adorns the new release by Current 93. I'm certainly no music journalist, but it's worthy of a review here, since it's definitely one of the more important records of recent years.

As an album, Black Ships Ate The Sky is an anomaly: It is intensely personal, and at times feels delicate as a child's diary, with its catalogue of fears and dreams. It seems focused into a tiny and intimate emotional space, but through the inclusion of many collaborators, the project is a vast epic. Four years of obsessive creation has not let David Tibet's legacy down.

"Apocalyptic Folk?" Yep, If there must be a label, I suppose that's as good as any.

The acoustic guitar duties are shared, on alternating tracks, by the familiar dark sweetness of Michael Cashmore and the complex trances of Ben Chasny (of Six Organs of Admittance). While each has a distinct voice on the instrument, they both complement Tibet's fascinated narrations perfectly.

But this is a much more dense recording than the minimalist C93 efforts of recent years. It's a mighty thick stew. John Contreras' cello sobs throughout and Steven Stapleton's sonic textures are ever present, with layers of things peeping and whispering around the corners. Within these 75 minutes, Tibet takes us from sparse pastorals to full-on nightmare rage, and he's not alone. The guest-list includes Marc Almond, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Baby Dee, Antony, Clodagh Simonds, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Pantaleimon, and Shirley Collins. Each guest collaborator leaves a unique flavor in the broth, mostly through interpretations of the Idumea, a haunting, melancholy hymn of death and redemption, originally written over 300 years ago.

Old-timer Current 93 fans will appreciate this one, as well as curious newcomers. Tibet and his Black Ships have dared to re-introduce true Mystery to the Christian universe by venting the shadows and the dark dreams and the beauty of it all... The booklet is filled with those childlike drawings of Christ's weary face: he knows the Apocalypse is a train-wreck he can't stop, and the Black Ships are there, hauling the body of Caesar to its new throne. And in the midst of it all, Antony's shuddering delivery of Idumea weeps with the mystery of dying...

Heavy stuff, certainly. And appropriate, perhaps, for the onset of Autumn.

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