11 September 2006

music:: current 93:: the black ships ate the sky


over the years, i’ve learned that it is a mistake for me to judge current 93 releases when i first get them. i find that it takes me a number of listens just to get my head around the release, so deciding where it falls in my spectrum of c93 releases. so i actually picked this album up a few months ago, but am only now at the point where i feel like i can give it a proper review.

and that still doesn’t mean i can say whether or not i like it.

like much of the band’s later work, it is inspired by the dreams of david tibet, the musical and spiritual centre of the band. increasingly, i don’t think anyone, even tibet himself, is precisely sure of the meaning of what he’s writing, but that may be beside the point. whatever it is he is struggling to communicate, i don’t doubt that tibet feels its meaning and his fragmentary poetry is meant to convey that feeling rather than a narractive logic. that sort of thing is either going to grip you right away or leave you feeling alienated. whether or not you’re going to get anything from the experience of a current 93 album depends entirely on your ability to believe in its genuinity. if you don’t believe, their music will seem painfully pretentious at best. if you do believe, any of their albums is libel to be a profoundly affecting experience for you.

i place myself solidly in the latter camp and current 93 are one of the few bands that tend to get a truly emotional reaction from me. in the fifteen years i’ve been listening to them, they’ve had very few missteps and have an uncanny ability to create music that transcends, the kind of thing that people will still listen to in two centuries’ time, the same way that we now listen to mozart and beethoven. tibet’s music, like his themes, are anything but temporal.

returning to the question of ‘liking’ this album or not. as a writer, i get frustrated with a lack of language to express what’s in my head, but that’s exactly what i’m faced with. there are elements of the album that i truly don’t like. its gravitas is positively oppressive at times. i find tibet’s (re)discovery of is christian spirituality alienating. but what is good about it is indescribably good; beautiful, powerful and enveloping like a thunderstorm.

i’m not sure that i truly understand what it is that tibet is saying (and i’m suspicious of those who do), but i know that listening to “black ships” stirs a lot of feeling in me and that, in a few months, that experience will be increased if anything. and in an era where music is generated to be disposable, that’s a remarkable accomplishment.

3 comments:

Maximum Overlord said...

I'm similarly alienated (and suspicious that he may have lost more than his appendix in the hospital back a few years ago) but I found that his return to more complex melodies more than made up for it. I was fairly turned off by the minimalist piano stuff he'd been doing lately, so the layering is much more to my liking, since that layering serves him so much better, considering his language and voice.
I just hopes he continues in that direction, at least musically, and maybe somebody could slip a couple tabs of lsd so that he gets his bearings again.
Of course, I could say that about a few other musical idols of mine too...

qed said...

The Christianity really isn't new... it's been present in one form or another since the beginning. The lad Dave was just in denial, is all. It's not easy being a sensitive artist you know.

DJ Tobias said...

My first impression of it was not to good. The inclusion of different vocalists threw me off, and it sat, unlistened to, for a few weeks.

As i was clearing a stack of cds up, this was on the bottom, and I decided to try it again, on the actual stereo, not the iPod - and I love it.

It has impact to it - I even had the refrigerator repair guy as me what it was, as he thought it was a really interesting album.

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