Current 93 & Nurse With Wound: Bright Yellow Moon

In August 2000 Current 93’s David Tibet was rushed to hospital suffering from peritonitis. He was operated on that night and nearly died. Bright Yellow Moon is his public articulation of this life-threatening and presumably life-changing experience. Although Tibet and Nurse With Wound’s Steven Stapleton are full members of each other’s groups, and have also released two albums as Tibet & Stapleton, this is the first (and, one suspects, the last) full collaboration between Current 93 and Nurse With Wound. The discographical accuracy is appropriate, since Bright Yellow Moon sounds like no previous release involving either party. It sounds, in fact, like a C93 & NWW album ought to sound, with Tibet’s hallucinatory lyrical visions and Michael Cashmore’s ominous threads of acoustic guitar swathed in the livid attack of Stapleton’s hyperreal studio collages.

The album begins with a brief sung fragment, before opening out into the epic ‘Disintegrate Blur 36 Page 03’. This vast dreamscape is both the record’s creative apex and its clearest statement of intent. It depicts Tibet’s fragile state as he drifts in and out of consciousness, pumped full of drugs and experiencing severe mental disorientation. The glacially shifting guitar and doomstruck percussion frame Tibet’s debilitated attempts to come to terms with his condition: “The fault isn’t mine, it was given to me in a red house, in a dead house…”

The next piece, ‘Mothering Sunday (Legion Legion)’, is quite simply one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever heard. In barely three minutes Stapleton piles horror upon unspeakable horror, tracing a confrontation with death when the dying man is not ready or willing to abandon life. Tibet writes in his sleevenotes, “I could already see helicopters chattering over me, and they followed me to the ward.” They follow the listener too, swooping malevolently like those in Apocalypse Now and merging with insane laughter, sirens, marching, distant choirs and the crying of a baby. This is a vision of hell as disturbing in its way as anything imagined by Dante or Goya.

Stapleton and Tibet broaden the sonic palette on ‘Nichts’, acknowledging NWW’s recent turn to rhythm with an infectious bass line and a delirious percussive attack. ‘Die, Flip Or Go To India’ is another long, spacey aural collage, with Tibet’s nightmarishly treated vocal suggesting imminent collapse. The album ends softly with ‘Walking Like Shadow’, its sad text and gentle minor chords hinting at impermanence and recovery.

TS Eliot wrote: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” David Tibet came closer to ruin than most have, and Bright Yellow Moon is a moving collection of fragments attesting to his survival.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 11, 2003)

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