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Current 93 - The Light Is Leaving Us All Music Album Reviews

The latest from experimental musician David Tibet is an arduous but rewarding album, the feeling of listening to a preacher behind the pulpit, or a doomsayer on the soapbox.

For disciples of Current 93, David Tibet has always had the air of a prophet. The eccentric singer-songwriter and permanent leader of this revolving band seems a kind of sage or guru, a grey-bearded mystic of deep, arcane wisdom. His industrial noise and mournful neo-folk teems with hymns, incantations, and transcribed dreams. These qualities are the hallmarks of what is by now a familiar and well-defined sound. They are what draw people to Tibet’s music, and what brings him perilously close to self-parody. How seriously can you take songs in earnest about witches and magic and apocalyptic auguries?

Tibet has said of his albums that they often begin “with a conceptual idea, which is often just a phrase.” One can assume The Light Is Leaving Us All started with its title. This evocative construction presides over the record as a constant, portentous refrain: It is exclaimed and whispered and enchanted over and over across the album’s 46 minutes, blazoned to the listener as if from a preacher behind the pulpit, or a doomsayer on the soapbox. As on many Current 93 albums—on the 2006 masterpiece Black Ships Ate the Sky most particularly—Tibet is both in command of the words and in thrall to them. Hypnotized. He exhausts their power through extreme repetition.

Pet obsessions abound: a thousand witches, flaming “horsies” as Tibet calls his equine friends, red barns, wolves, stars, the sea, the moon. Birds sweetly singing—sometimes literally, as chirps join the usual piano and acoustic guitar backing instrumentation. Absent the coterie of famed guest vocalists that has lately diversified Current 93 albums, we are left with Tibet alone among his enthusiasms and passions. He acknowledges early on the resulting sensation of seclusion and almost manic single-mindedness: “Call the surgeon/The surgeon is dead/Call the policeman/The policeman is dead.” There’s nobody around. It’s just Tibet and his fixiations.

Such fanatical purpose makes The Light Is Leaving Us All an arduous listen. When “A Thousand Witches” ends and “Your Future Cartoon” begins with the words “one thousand witches,” it is hard to elude the feeling of captivity, as though Tibet has us trapped in the bleak realm of his dark imagination. One escape hatch is humor. I found myself, as Tibet rounded into an account of “the messiah-seeking donkey,” laughing at the absurdity, perhaps because finding this stuff ridiculous provides relief from the gloom. And yet it is only when one accepts Tibet on his terms—when one takes his somber omens seriously—that one can access its rewards. Because while The Light Is Leaving Us All is quite silly, it is also beautiful. Tibet’s visions are wonderful even as one must suppress skepticism to fully share them.

Images as distinct as those Tibet is uniquely capable of expressing would not exist if they were insulted by ironic distance. He has to embody the mystic and the guru to do it. “In the first book, and in the last book, and in all the books in between, and between the books and the words, there is something at war with nothing,” Tibet intones in “30 Red Houses.” “There is someone at war with no one, and everything at war with you.” This is a stunningly realized description of art and creation, wedged in between repeated lines about bird songs and dead horsies and yet more witches. It’s all part of the swirling riot of Tibet’s strange decrees. Nightmares rage on with insane nightmare logic; he reads “in the tea leaves” and scans “in the stars,” as “Bright Dead Star” tells. Through it all, we must choose sincerity. The light has to leave us all.

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