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.