Current 93: An Introduction to Suffering, Calling for Vanished Faces

Two more additions to the ever-expanding Durtro catalogue. The untitled C93/Cashmore/Heemann CD is a compilation of out-takes and alternate versions from the last two C93 studio albums, previously unreleased demos, and solo pieces from Tibet’s regular collaborators. The alternate versions make compelling listening; highlights include a sung vocal take of ‘All The Pretty Little Horses’ and the sepulchral ‘Judas As Black Moth’, a long meditative drift from the Soft Black Stars sessions that is the equal of anything on that twilit masterpiece. What makes the disc essential, though, are Christoph Heemann’s two contributions, wherein silvery drones ripple menacingly around everyday sounds to startling effect.

Calling For Vanished Faces is an exhaustive 2CD compilation tracing C93’s development from Dogs Blood Rising to Soft Black Stars. As such it represents a useful update of the 1993 Emblems collection, with only three pieces being duplicated from the earlier set.

The diversity of musical styles on the first disc is startling, from nightmarish looped onslaughts to demented rhythmic freakouts, but they are unified by the tragic quality of Tibet’s voice and the hallucinatory imagism of his lyrics. The disc ends memorably, with three songs from 1992’s epochal Thunder Perfect Mind album and Nick Cave’s sublime reading of ‘All The Pretty Little Horses’ showing how Michael Cashmore’s mournful guitar sound has served to focus and intensify Tibet’s obsessions.

The second disc, for all its emphasis on the fragility and resignation in C93’s recent work, also demonstrates something that is often overlooked, namely that Tibet is the possessor of a great, warped pop/rock sensibility. ‘Lucifer Over London’ is driven unstoppably by a grinding guitar riff; ‘The Dead Side Of The Moon’ has Tibet stepping nimbly through a minefield of bass, drums and the full panoply of Stapleton weirdness; while the epic ‘The Seven Seals…’ attains pure grace and fluency through its endless, achingly sad guitar and glockenspiel figure.

The collection as a whole is further proof, if any were needed, of Tibet’s unfailing ability to disconcert and overwhelm the listener through the precise evocation of atmospheres of fear, despair and terror. Newcomers, start here.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 6, 1999)

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