Record reviews are not, or at least should not, be about the person writing them. However, you’ll have to allow me to smash the fourth wall briefly here to fully quantify what I have to say about this album – I am, you see, the rarest of all things: the occasional Current 93 listener.
Why am I making this ..well.. seemingly unnecessary admission you may be asking? Quite simply because Current 93 – or perhaps more specifically David Tibet himself – generally inspires either utter devotion or seething ire. The kind of flittering between enjoyment and indifference I generally hold towards C93 is not something I’ve ever really encountered in other folks I know who’ve listened to them over the years.
The last effort, “Black Ships Ate The Sky” I bought on it’s release and listened to a grand total of once, decided it was pleasant but monotonous, and have not had an urge to listen to since (wash your ears out, lad – ct). As has been the case with most of the other releases bearing the name I’ve owned in the past ten or so years.
I’m telling you this because it’s important you know I didn’t expect much from this record bar some plaintive, folky noodling and stream of conciousness rambling from Mr T. When the promo was forwarded to me by His Editorialness with the legend “sounds a little more like Om than usual”, I still didn’t expect anything too exciting. But if there was ever a C93 record the word “exciting” could be attached to, it’s this one.
This is, to be blunt, a Heavy Psychedelic Rock album. This is the album that has finally made me sit the fuck up and take notice. And this is why you need to know about my prior indifference to them – to point out to those of you who may not have been bowled over in the past that this album stands very much on its’ own compared to the more placid C93 of recent years.
Thoughout the 8 tracks that make up “Aleph”, it becomes apparent that Tibet has assembled a musical backdrop that does not just accompany his mystical vision for once, but enhances it and somehow lends it more urgency and focus. This music communicates it as clearly as the words in fact, coming off like some lost 60s psych rock movie soundtrack in places.
There are highs and lows, tenderness and grit, moments approaching lullabye and points that approximate storms all in equal amounts and all sequenced perfectly. Which for those of you like myself who have admitted to yourself that you, y’know, aren’t entirely following just what it is he’s going on about (Tibet’s personal theological history is a whole other article, so let’s just point to the repeated references to Aleph, Adam and murder and suggest this is a treatise on the darker side of the human spirit – ask me again about in about 6 months and I’ll have worked it out by then, promise), will no doubt be a huge bonus.
And yes, it kind of sounds a little more like Om than usual – though not like Om specifically, you could refer to anyone from Amon Duul right up to Journey to Ixlan – there is however the same desert hypnotism and sense of similtaneous intimacy and vastness to this record.
The biggest surprise though is Tibet’s performance itsself, as he sounds more invigorated and downright fired up than on the last few albums – witness the album’s pivotal track “Not Because the Fox Barks” where you can hear him deliver with an intensity I’ve not heard from him in years. It would seem the lack of musical restraint on this album has encouraged the man himself to ..well, to rock the fuck out as it were. Sort of.
This is still Current 93 after all. This is a rock album in C93 context and as such you must recognise that while it’s starker and more primal in relation to the rest of his/their discography it’s not exactly pummeling Heavy Metal. There is still the underlying meditative quality even at the fiercest points on this record that there is in prior work.
The haunting “26 April 2007” and the closing Sasha Grey (yes, it’s that Sasha Grey) delivered “As Real As Rainbows” both offer respite from the droning riffs and shifting drums that make up the bulk of this work. And even at the heaviest points, if you listen under the ragged guitars there’s often something soothing underneath, as with the strings that run through “On Docetic Mountain”.
The fact this is more of a “rock” record shouldn’t really be too much of a surprise of course – the recent collaborations with the likes of Om, Andrew WK (who plays bass here), Sigh and Stephen O’Malley, the appearance/curation at Roadburn, hell, even the publicity shot from a few years back of the man astride an inflatable duck in a swimming pool, making the Dio handsign between two topless women should have been enough to suggest something louder and more raucous might be forthcoming this time around than the virtually torpid (in comparison) “Black Shapes”.
“Aleph” is that record, certainly, but it’s one that is electric in impact as much as it is instrumentation. Where to next is anyone’s guess, and part of the reward with this album is the fact that it’s confict of my preconceptions of what a David Tibet record sounds like means I’m anxious to hear where the man will take us from here.
4.5 / 5 – Jamie Grimes ::: 25/05/09