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Current 93, "Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain"

cover imageWords like armageddon and visionary get tossed about around David Tibet (for good reason) but with this latest album, these words seem too small and meek. As hinted on Black Ships Ate the Sky and the split EP with Om, David Tibet has embraced a blistering rock aesthetic for his apocalyptic visions. Sounding as psychedelic as Of Ruine Or Some Blazing Starre or The Inmost Light trilogy, there is also a heaviness here not heard since the noisy tape loops of Current 93's embryonic period. Tibet sings of Aleph (an Adam-like character), murder, and destruction as a huge cast of musicians and vocalists create a backdrop worthy of his vision.


Coptic Cat

Current 93

Tibet’s mythology grows more and more esoteric with each album, a blend of his own internal imagery and biblical terror (stemming from his ongoing obsession with scripture and study of Coptic in order to get closer to the source). “Almost in the beginning was the murderer” states the child’s voice at the beginning of the album. From here on in, everything explodes as one of the best line ups yet for Current 93 let rip. Alex Neilson’s drumming sounds like thunderclaps at the end of the universe as layers and layers of guitars, feedback and distorted vocals tear through reality. During “On Docetic Mountain,” fragments of the familiar folk strains haunt the works of Current 93 swim through the surging pulse, creating a thick and disorientating experience which brings to mind Thee Silver Mt. Zion at their most raucous. Bill Breeze’s viola and John Contreras’ cello sound almost regal amidst the grinding fuzz that the rest of the group are pouring out. Later on, the rock swamps everything; guitar solos that can only be described as shambolic, face melting blasts of white heat cut through a doom-laden riff on “Not Because the Fox Barks.” There is a first time for everything in life and playing air guitar along to Current 93 is one of them.

With no particular focus beyond a general feeling and Tibet’s vision(s), Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain sticks out like a monolith in Current 93’s canon. Fears that this album would be a disparate work breaking under the weight of Tibet’s many collaborators were completely unfounded. Andrew W.K. and Sasha Grey may be famous for things quite different to Current 93 (as every single article or Internet discussion related to this album seems to dwell on) but they sound as home here as any Current 93 regular. Grey’s detached vocals on “As Real As Rainbows” are a world away from her usual performances (researching for reviews can be a very tough job) and she provides a sober and melancholy ending for such a vivid and energetic album.

Aside from some of the electronics and effects dotted throughout Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain and the knowledge that it is just out this week, it would be difficult to place this album in time. It could easily be one of those obscure gems that was on the Nurse With Wound list; in fact it sounds almost like the perfect lost treasure from rock’s past. “26 April 2007” has a desert rock vibe but instead of the The Eagles and images of the great plains of America, the music instead conjures up visions of dusty vistas in northern Africa with wanderers trying to find their way back to Eden.

James Joyce once said: "It took me ten years to write Ulysses, and it should take you ten years to read it." While I am not going so far to say (yet) that this album is of the same magnitude as Ulysses the principle holds true here as Tibet and his colleagues have put two years of hard work into making this album the monument it is. Steven Stapleton and Andrew Liles have worked their wizardry in post-production to create the layers of sound that form the base of Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain, the level of detail buried in the mix is astounding. With each listen there are further revelations, a warped David Tibet as backing vocalist here and a loop of noise there. I imagine that it will be some time before I have exhausted all of the album's secrets.

With an album as epic as this, it is virtually impossible to sum it up succinctly. It is awesome in that from the opening moments to the dying seconds, I am taken aback by the intensity and conviction. As a listener, Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain drains and exhausts; that Tibet can pull so much emotion from his soul and still function is nothing short of astonishing. 



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Clang Quartet, "The Separation of Church & Hate"
There's just something about a band that creates their own instruments to make the message they commit to tape. They thumb their nose at conventional instrumentation, striving for a higher statement of being, demanding more struggle for themselves before composing their work. Once they've made sounds with that new instrument, though, the result often doesn't produce anything resembling a great leap forward, and can get mired in its own imperfection. Unfortunately, that is the case with Clang Quartet, whose new album had so much promise. The title, a switch on a familiar phrase, becomes funny but incredibly appropriate considering that so much hate is generated by differing religions and those that follow them. Cover art drives the point home even more effectively, as what appears to be swastikas mixed with crucifixes jumble together until indistinguishable from each other. The key problem with The Separation is that the power of this concept is belittled by the sounds inside, and therefore the message, though admirable and necessary, is irrevocably lost. The sound of this record is not only generally unappealing, but in areas almost unlistenable. Scotty Irving, who is the Clang Quartet, believes the line between sound and music to be invalid, and it shows. He loves percussion, so most songs are structured as purely beat driven with an unaltering melody. The opening track, appropriately titled "Amazing Disgrace," is monotonous and ultimately just gains volume and distortion, plus a few keyboard-like sounds that may or may not be "The Crutch" (Irving's new and original but ugly instrument). Loud angry drums that appear towards the end add more flavor and still more volume, but the overall effect is still static and annoying. "Under God" feature squelches and buzzes instead, effects that burble and bleep, but grate above all else. "The Infidel Within" has wild tracks, commentary, and a bit of sermonizing from Irving, all dealing with the infamous Proctor & Gamble Church of Satan argument. The track is wholly uninteresting, although it is impartial, and this time it's Irving himself that is the annoying part. When it isn't percussive nonsense driving the tracks, it's his voice ("Hadephobia") or message, which apparently involves increased self-promotion ("Two or More Gathered in HIS Name Part 2"). His repeated assertion that he does not create "music" is supported quite well by these songs, but it's infortunate that he does have a message worth delivering. The fact that it's not comfortably delivered, or even coherently for that matter, does it a great disservice. Even where he drives the message home lightly, it's like nails on a chalkboard. Messages like his are never easy to listen to, but Clang Quartet go an awful distance to make it more uncomfortable than it needs to be, and thus the message goes unheard or gets misunderstood in the final analysis. 


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