If A City Is Set Upon A Hill by Current 93

2022

If you like Godspeed You Black Emperor or A Siler Mt Zion, you’ll like this. If you’ve ever appreciated a post-rock band, you’ll like this. If you like a hummable tune, or jangly guitar, or singing in tune, or uplifting sounds, you’ll simply ask, as Roo did a minute ago, “What the fuck is this?”

As well as being the only full-time member of Current 93, David Tibet is a well-regarded “outsider” artist and has some of his work displayed at the Henry Boxer Gallery in Richmond Hill, Surrey. One recent exhibition is called “The Light Is Leaving Us All” in which he modified several hundred Victorian “cabinet cards”, using Ecclesiastes 12:5 as his starting point: “When they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.” David Tibet wrote that “my paintings reflect my obsessions and daydreams and channel the many cartoon apocalypses I see in my heads and my hearts.”

“Outsider” art is created by artists who are self-taught and who do not use conventional techniques. Outside art is sometimes called “naive art”, which is understood to be childlike and brutally frank. David Tibet’s approach to art and music seem, to me, to be identical. One song on “If A City Is Set Upon A Hill”, called “The Child, And Fire” is a spoken monologue with a simple piano and fiddle accompaniment containing such lines as “Harsh in the silence as naked in the room in which we disappear and will meet The Child, And Fire by the Post Office.” The combination of David Tibet’s haunting, mournful voice, the doom-laden lyrics and the post-rock music provokes an emotional response in me, providing an avenue of release for any negativity residing within. Or, to put it another way, I like it.

David Michael Bunting, who is currently 62 years old, was given the moniker of David Tibet by Neil Megson (who was more widely known as Genesis P-Orridge, the singer, songwriter, poet and artist). In 1983, he collaborated with the English experimental video art and music group, Psychic TV and later that year he formed Current 93. They have released 82 albums, EPs and singles, including 27 full length albums. Much of their early work was “industrial” music, consisting of abrasive tape loops, droning synthesiser noises accompanying David Tibet’s distorted and abrasive vocals.

David Tibet’s interests and influences include mysticism, religion, philosophy, witchcraft, poetry and paintings. His songs show a preoccupation with the apocalypse, and how it affects death, loss and destruction.

“If A City Is Set Upon A Hill” is a wonderful album. The industrial noises and confrontational approach have disappeared in favour of producing the sound of a weird folk album. David Tibet’s status quo is a commitment to change and the intimate, sorrowful and raw melancholy that permeates every song makes for an uneasy but fascinating listen. Instrumentally, the sound is a mixture of acoustic instruments (violin, piano, guitar) and electronic keyboards.

Membership of Current 93 is fluid and David Tibet is the only musician who has appeared on every release. There are eight musicians on “If A City Is Set Upon A Hill”, including Alasdair Roberts, a Scottish folk musician, who is also a member of The Furrow Collective along with Emily Portman, Rachel Newton and Lucy Farrell. His guitar playing on “the “A Column Of Dust” transports the song back to the Middle Ages. As David Tibet intones “If a shadow appears by your pantry, it’s the Godhead and the noise in your eyes has the rumours of wings and the fly and the hornet from The Scorpion Rainbow”, I can close my eyes while immersed in Alasdair Roberts’ guitar and autoharp playing, along with Aloma Ruiz Boada’s violin, and find myself in another land, another time and another place. As escapism goes, it’s just about perfect.

“Clouds At Teatime”, like most of the songs, refers to a city on a hill, the journey to which takes on the symbolic nature of a pilgrimage. Pope Benedict XVI said that “To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendour” and that’s exactly what the album, and this song in particular, feels like. David Tibet puts it like this. “Within that City set upon a Hill, I am not me anymore, not I at all.”

Whether this album describes the “cartoon apocalypse” of his exhibition, “The Light Is Leaving Us All”, or whether it is a celebration of a final arrival at enlightenment and transcendence to a higher plane is not clear. References to “the final express train”, or the “beams and sunlights” of the city on the hill conjure up a 36-minute aural fairy tale, full of wonder and enchantment. It’s like nothing else.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

One thought on “If A City Is Set Upon A Hill by Current 93

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: