Current 93
Black Ships Ate the Sky
(Durtro/ Jnana)

By: Andrew Lyman

"Sunset (The Death of Thumbelina)"

Viewed as a whole, Current 93 seems less of a band and more of a theme. A vessel for occasional Psychic TV member David Tibet and a rotating cast of collaborators, Current 93 has gone through a number of transformations throughout the years. The early records are some of the more terrifying music ever made. I can’t think of anyone else who could render a Simon and Garfunkel tune so chilling. They are oppressively dark, violent, and bleak. "Dog’s Blood Rising", and "Nature Unveiled" are some of my favorites to play in the odd hours of the night when I don’t feel like thinking normal thoughts. From here Current 93 have ventured all over the musical landscape while still maintaining those initial ties to darkness. Their later releases have had Tibet experimenting with classical and folk instrumentation to a very unsettling (in a perfect sort of way) degree, amazingly remaining a vital and challenging group throughout their 20-plus-year career.

Faced with the entire history of Current 93, Black Ships Ate the Sky is their opus. It is the most coherent effort the group has released to date. But coherent is selling this amazing album far short. Black Ships is one of the most incredible concept albums ever recorded. The entirety of the album is based around a dream of Tibet’s where black ships sail through the sky; bringing with them the Apocalypse. The tone of the album is absolutely perfect. The subject matter would easily be laughable in less competent hands, but the conviction of Tibet and his collaborators is beyond question. By the third track on the first listen you are already feeling the loss. This is a group of musicians in complete control of their craft. There is not a dishonest moment on the entire record. Everything presented here is done so in earnest.

Despite the subject matter, this is not the terrifying Current 93 from the past. This is a somber adieu to life, to humanity, and to all. It is a lament for us and everything we have experienced. It is esoteric, yes - very. But it also feels very personal. It may not be your vision of the end, but Tibet’s vision is real in the form of this album.

The other binding element is the piece "Idumaea", which was written by Charles Wesley in 1763. It is sung eight different times on this album, and at no point does it feel like filler, or even like it’s being repeated. Each arrangement, and each vocalists approach is completely new. Some performers of the tune: Mark Almond, Baby Dee, Bonnie Prince Billy, Cosey Fannie Tutti, Shirley Collins and more. Each time this song recurs it draws you back into a world that is coming to an end. This song is the element that keeps Black Ships from losing itself; always returning to where it began, and reminding the listener what is happening.

This is a beautiful album that gets richer with each listening. It is certainly not driving or party music, but if you were at all familiar with Current 93 you knew that much already. It is one of the most effective albums I have heard. At no point did I question its seriousness, and seriousness is not something I generally like to take very seriously. A glorious achievement. It is highly recommended.

Also check out Current 93’s new split with OM (High on Fire, Sleep); Inerrant Rays of Infallible Sun - also highly Recommended.



All opinions expressed by Andrew Lyman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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