Louise Burns is a singer/songwriter/musician-type living in Vancouver, British Columbia, who has been in the biz for almost two decades (for better or worse). She performs as a solo artist and has two records, as well as playing with Gold & Youth. An occasional guest host on CBC Radio 3, as well as a blogger and creative writing student, she spends her free time watching YouTube documentaries on Mary J. Blige. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Picture yourself in a world ruled hand-in-hand by Aleister Crowley and Jesus Christ. Every moment feels like you’re on the edge of the apocalypse and/or the creation of a New World Order dictated by magick and cryptic Biblical passages. This is the world of David Tibet, made for the lost and endlessly restless souls who dream of pentagrams and eternal night.
Prolific is a word you must use to describe David Tibet. Under the name Current 93, he has released more than 50 albums of both solo material and collaborations with the likes of Death in June and Antony and the Johnsons, amongst others. This is no small feat, as most bands will average five decent albums in their lifespan, then rely on greatest hits to continue their casino tour circuit when God isn’t willing and the money dries up. At 54, Tibet is still a force of nature, exploring the outskirts of forbidden terrain most musicians wouldn’t dare to go.
In my journey researching Tibet and his endeavours, I’ve found there are a few essential facts about his life that one should know before listening to Current 93. First of all, he was born David Michael Bunting in Malaysia, and was brought up in a heavily Eastern-influenced environment, yet still considers his work deeply rooted in Christianity. Genesis P-Orridge, frontwoman of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and founder of the occultist fellowship Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth gave him the name Tibet. He is a published poet, author, painter and a mystic in the truest sense of the word, always questioning and searching for answers in his work.
I’ve had a fascination with Tibet’s music ever since I first heard the cover of the folk standard “All the Pretty Horses” that he recorded with Nick Cave. It was the first time I heard a folk standard of such childlike sentiment being performed so ominously. I began searching for more music by Current 93 at this point and discovered this was a somewhat common theme in Tibet’s music. He draws on the mythical, fantastical and religious to paint his world.
I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell: A Channel, his newest album, is one part absolute beauty, via tastefully sparse piano and string arrangements, and one part darkness, brought on by portentous lyrical delivery. He sneers “Doing speed or drinking mead“ on “With the Dromedaries,” blending old and new world sin with the exotic imagery of a dromedary, an Indian breed of camel; It creates a rather bizarre and terrifying landscape. “Mourned Winter Then” features Antony Hegarty’s willowy vocals, and “I Could Not Shift the Shadow” is sung by the other man in black, and reoccurring Tibet collaborator, Mr. Nick Cave. In it he sings of “gorgeous dreams under dark nights” and it feels like he’s written my analysis for me in five words.
Then you have Tibet’s own turns at the microphone, and his sinister prophetic delivery of each lyric. Take “And Onto PickNickMagick” where he blends: “She left me moth’s beautiful dust on the wings and on the petals” with “If I have some advice for the teens/spell FUCK prophecy.” He is the kind of man you’d want to talk to while drinking absinthe in the middle of a moor at midnight. Having said that, I recommend you never listen to Current 93 without REALLY fucking listening. The magick is in the subtlety and contrast.
Compared to his earlier work (1984’s industrial debut Nature Unveiled, or even 2009’s doom rock hued Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain) I Am the Last… explores a more gentle musical landscape while remaining, lyrically, a true to form Current 93 album. “I Remember the Berlin Boys” is a sea chantey for Aleister Crowley, with a wonderfully playful piano loop carrying the song over an esoteric ocean. It also has the lyrics: “Went down on me like fog/I opened my legs as wide as the grave and said take me and seed me.” Beauty meets the darkness yet again.
“Why Did the Fox Bark?” has a similar effect; with music so cinematic I could hear this featured in a J.R Tolkien film adaptation. Yet again, the words take on a world of their own: “As cozy as clouds/or mice in the walls/or murderers hiding/in the Peppermint palaces.” In the last line I don’t think he is referring to the Candy Crush iPhone game, though I cannot be certain.
His life is his music, and it is so completely unique that it demands you listen, much like you would read a poem or piece of literature. With this new album I can’t say he will gain new fans, but he will continue to dazzle his dedicated followers with his own brand of quixotic fellowship. He’s a cult leader for those who dare to dream in darkness.