A Very English Apocalypse: Current 93 at Halifax Minster

(photo by Tim Green)

The Minster Church of St. John the Baptist Halifax is a beautiful parish church, which has served West Yorkshire for over 900 years. Its classical Medieval form, gargoyles and exquisite stained glass windows are both typical of the great churches of England and carry with them the weight of England’s tumultuous ecclesiastical history. As befitting such a building, it has a very fine roof.

On 10 May 2014ce, Current 93 came in and blew the roof off of the place.

(photo by Cat Vincent)

Current 93 - named for Aleister Crowley's magickal current - have been a powerful, if sometimes overlooked, influence on industrial and dark ambient music and British magic and mysticism since their founding in 1982. Essentially a series of collaborations between founder and sole continuing member David Michael Tibet and a continually shifting collection of musicians (including the likes of Nick Cave, Björk, Steve Ignorant of Crass, Marc Almond, Antony Hegarty, Andrew W.K. and Tiny Tim), their sound has shifted from their original tape-loop-based work of their early productions to a style which Tibet has called ‘apocalyptic folk’ - and the Apocalypse, especially in the original Greek sense of ‘an unveiling’, is something Tibet is particularly interested in.

Despite the enduring Englishness of Current 93’s symbolism (Enid Blyton's childhood character Noddy, picnics, fields of oil seed rape, British folk music and practices), Tibet was actually born and raised in Malaysia. Interested in the mystical from his youth, he has pursued these interests enthusiastically - his studies include reading Crowley at 13, training in Nyingmapa Tantric Buddhism (probably the reason he was given his surname of Tibet by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge during his brief stint in Psychic TV) and learning to read Hebrew, Akkadian, Ancient Greek and Coptic in order to better study early Christian works. Tibet considers himself a Christian, albeit one happy to work with these eclectic influences... and also to be the creator of what I truly think is one of the finest curses I have ever encountered: the track ‘Benediction’ from the first C93 album I ever heard, the long-time banned Swastikas For Noddy.

 

What drove me on then as now was my sense that time was running out, that the apocalypse was also personal and that playing hide and seek behind all the cartoon messiahs was the Messiah with both peace and a sword.

-David Tibet

The Halifax concert was unquestionably a powerful manifestation of this compassionate-yet-cataclysmic apocalyptic spirit. It began with bells...

Before the band came out a carillon of bells played on the speakers, resonating in the Minster’s glorious acoustic space, as the aisles filled with an eclectic mix of music fans, pagans and goths (including one fine lady in full Edwardian costume). Finally, the band took their places and Tibet - a puckish, tiny figure in trilby and bare feet - sang out the first lines in his distinctive, querulous voice;

“The Invisible Church...”

(photo by Cat Vincent)

Never a band to excessively dwell on their musical past, the majority of the gig comprised a performance of the latest album I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell (A Channel) - the music mostly led by the playing of pianist Reinier van Houdt, a performer who never forgot that the piano is a percussion instrument. There’s a resonance to those songs and Tibet’s voice, even beyond that provided by the setting - a sense of what the Sufis call a zab’bat, a ‘forceful occasion’. Tibet is far from what one would consider a normal front man in the classic rock sense - often he wandered into the aisle of the church to just stand and watch the band as they played, sometimes singing from there (especially in the sorrowful ‘With These Dromedaries’, with its heart-wrenching line "I saw Jhonn pass by" - referring to his late friend and abiding influence Jhonn Balance of Coil). The gig ended with two rousing encores of past works - ‘Imperium V’ and ‘Black Ships Ate The Sky’. By the time the last notes echoed in those old church walls, the audience, the band, Tibet - even that ancient space itself - seemed transformed, carried into a future of possible apocalyptic times, somehow, the better and stronger for it.

I'm not an evangelist… Current is about trying to explain myself to myself and to work out my own salvation.

-David Tibet

The album I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell (A Channel) and other Current 93 works are available from copticcat.com


Post Script: Synchronicity fans might care to note the gig took place on John Constantine's birthday.

Cosmo Sheldrake - The Moss (Live at the Village)

Cosmo Sheldrake

The musical career of Cosmo Sheldrake - son of 'maverick biologist'/parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake - continues to forge ahead, with the 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist releasing a music video to accompany his official debut single, 'The Moss':

Cosmo describes The Moss as “an ode to nonsense for its own sake”. Invoking many of the classic figures of nonsense literature, Cosmo embarks on a peg-legged jaunt, draping finely woven vocal harmonies over an underbelly of electronics, strings, and an Armenian Duduk (recorded at a folk session in a country pub in East Sussex).

The music video complements the off-centre nature of Cosmo's music and the 'nonsense literature'-based lyrics by being set in a miniature village:

The B-side of the single is also worth a listen. In 'Solar', Cosmo Sheldrake recites a verse from the William Blake poem 'I Rose Up At The Dawn of Day', over a sonic tapestry weaved from seismological signals from the Sun, field recordings of Ecuadorian flutes and singing from the Central African Aka Pygmies:

You can find out more about Cosmo Sheldrake and his music via his website and his Soundcloud account.

Related:

The Music of Birds & Fractal Dancing

When Jarbas Agnelli was reading a newspaper one day, he saw a photo of birds perched on wires. He was immediately struck by how the arrangement of the birds resembled musical notes. So he cut out the photo and composed music. Or rather, the birds did. The result is enchanting.

Agnelli wrote:
The birds’ bodies were mostly above the wires. So I took them as notes filling the spaces between the lines. Those notes are F, A, C, E and G. If you make a melody or play chords with those 5 notes, there is no way to go wrong. Of course, as I said, I had to decide about some things and make some interpretations. No accidents. 4 by 4 tempo. And the duration of the notes. But I tried to keep it as pure as possible, on the matters of note pitch, note sequence and chords.

From the middle of the song on, I embellished the arrangement, playing variations of the theme, on various orchestral instruments, like the oboe, the bassoon and the clarinet. I think the success of the piece comes from all those elements. The idea of birds composing a song. The music itself. The illustrative video. source

I can only imagine what symphonies are being composed by the fractal dancing of starlings...

Cosmo Sheldrake - The Fly (Parts 1 and 2)

I've previously posted a music video by Rupert Sheldrake's son Cosmo. Cosmo Sheldrake uses found sounds, electronic effects and loops (and a whole bunch of musical talent) to create beautifully off-centre compositions, and his latest is no different: William Blake's poem The Fly put to music, and performed live on a crabbing boat (Part 1, above) and on the back of a horse-drawn cart in Bulgaria (Part 2, below). Love it.

You can listen to more of Cosmo's music at SoundCloud and learn more about him at his website (quick bio below).

Cosmo Sheldrake is a master looper, multi instrumentalist, who played jazz and classical piano from the age of 4, and regularly performs on banjo, loop station, keyboards, double bass, drums, didgeridoo, penny whistle, sousaphone and more. An inspirational singer and improviser, he draws on numerous and disparate musical traditions from Mongolia to West Africa, blues to classical and folk to Balkan brass. Cosmo is a composer and a producer and has written music for film and theatre. Based in London and Brighton, he runs vocal improv and beatboxing workshops, youth empowerment and wilderness camps. He teaches workshops in schools and runs a regular community choir in brighton. He also sings and performs with his brother Merlin; both play with the Gentle Mystics, who released their debut album in 2011. In january 2013 he performed at TEDx Whitechapel.

Related:

Volto - Tocino

Danny Carey, epic genius drummer for the superb Tool, has a new album out via another of the bands he plays with, Volto, titled Incitare. Along with Lance Morrison on bass and John Ziegler on guitars, DC rocks the hell out of nine tracks of prog-rock/jazz-fusion/metal hybrid goodness. RollingStone have the entire album streaming, so go take a listen.

Both DC and his (and our) good friend, Darklore writer Blair Blake, make cameos in the music video for the single Tocino, embedded above, which is full of occult symbols and dark, dream-like imagery. Pretty sure they didn't dress Blair up with any costumes or props though...I'm guessing they probably just filmed him at home going about his usual business.

Purchasing links for Incitare (iTunes downloads as well as limited edition vinyl) can be found at the Volto website. Awesome stuff, go grab it!

Space Oddity on the Space Station

Your daily dose of awesome: with his tenure aboard the International Space Station coming to an end, Commander Chris Hadfield sings David Bowie's "Space Oddity".

Cosmo Sheldrake: Prefusify

Many Grail readers will be familiar with Dr Rupert Sheldrake, a "maverick" biochemist noted for his parapsychological experiments, and his proposal of 'morphic fields' to account for certain scientific anomalies. However, few probably know that Rupert's son Cosmo is a talented singer and multi-instrumentalist, forging his own career in music. Like his father, Cosmo seems to have a wonderful mix of genius and eccentric, which is often a perfect recipe when it comes to the arts. Check out some of his tunes:

Cosmo sings and performs with his brother Merlin, with both a part of the band Gentle Mystics, as well as on his own via the technique of looping with improvisational vocals (as in the video above). Check out Cosmo's website for more examples of his music, or listen to some of the tracks below:

You might also like:

Happy 70th Birthday Jimi!

Hard to imagine that the man would have turned 70 years old today. In tribute, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"...after 40 or so years, still one of the heaviest songs of all time.

If I don't meet you no more in this world,
I'll meet you in the next one.
Don't be late...

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming...

Some people enjoy music that tells a story, some people want it to make them dance. I like every type, but the experience I'm always on the lookout for - in all genres - is that hairs-on-end, spine-arching moment of suddenly feeling possessed by some sort of cosmic energy. If you're like me, you'll really enjoy M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - it's absolutely filled with epic moments.

The album certainly shows its 80s synth influences - from Simple Minds-ish pop-rock ("Reunion", "Ok Pal") through to Vangelis-style atmospherics ("Splendor", "Hurry Up We're Dreaming"). The epic power chords and synth riff of "Steve McQueen" make it the best high-school prom song never to be played in the 80s, and it might only be pipped for best pop song on the album by "Midnight City" (if you can handle the latter's rather repetitive, grating riff).

In fact, as a double album the only criticism I really have of the Hurry Up We're Dreaming is that at 22 songs, some of the tracks in the middle fall by the wayside a little compared to the epic grandeur at the beginning and end of the album.

Anyhow, check the album out, it's well worth a listen. To whet your appetite, I've included the track "Echoes of Mine" at the top of the page (as the soundtrack to a very nice timelapse film by Colin Rich), and below you'll find my favourite song on the album, "Wait". It's a real slow-burn, building up until by the end you can't help but air-drum to the slightly lazy behind-the-beat drum fills (love the subtle use of the bass synth swelling in volume towards the end to really up the dynamics too).

But you may just find that you've heard more than a few of these songs already - I heard at least a half dozen during the Olympics coverage, and they've also made their way into recent movie soundtracks (for instance, "Outro" is in the recent trailer for the Wachowski's Cloud Atlas). Which speaks for how well the songs on this album can evoke those epic, transcendental feelings.

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming on iTunes

Passionflower - Jon Gomm

This is the goods, one man creating some musical magic. Treat yourself (the jaw-dropping awesomeness begins around a minute in):

You can put some well-deserved money in the artist's pocket at his website, where you can download mp3 tracks at the price you think it deserves. Not sure I have *that* much money though...