Current 93: David Tibet, Karl Blake, Finn Sands (vocals); Michael Cashmore (guitar, bass guitar); Joseph Budenholzer (guitar); Joolie Wood (violin, whistle, recorder); John Contreras (cello); Maja Elliott, Graham Jeffrey (piano).
The cover apes the Moody Blues album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by artist Phil Travers, though this one was done by Jennifer MacGuire. And in their own way, Current 93 are seekers in the same way as the old Moodies, but are far more interesting and mercurial. Though they are most certainly not a pop group in the old-school sense of the word, in a perfect world they would be regarded as one. The music David Tibet and his ever-evolving tribe of minstrels has been making since the late '80s is accessible, beautiful, melodic, and texturally sophisticated -- especially in the studio. The lyrics are perhaps tough and over the top intellectually -- and in fact they can be scary as hell -- but so what? "Timothy," by the Buoys, was a paean to cannibalism and a hit in 1971, and "Leader of the Pack" did much the same thing in the early '60s. OK. OK. Too much. Halo is a live offering from October of 2003, recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at South Bank in London. There are 16 cuts as they were performed, and the show lasted just over an hour. Tibet was joined by Joolie Wood playing her recorder, violin, and whistle; John Contreras played cello; Michael Cashmore joined Joe Budenholzer and Tibet on guitar and also played bass; Maja Elliot and Graham Jeffery alternated on pianos; and Karl Blake and Finn Sands joined Tibet on vocals in various places. This is one of those beautiful Current 93 shows. It's utterly inspired, tight (though Contreras' cello and Wood's violin are a tad out of tune together, but they sound like period instruments in this material so it's terrific), and wonderfully musical. Tibet is in fine voice throughout and the power of his poetry just flows from his mouth. His words paint pictures for the listener on "Good Morning, Great Moloch," "Mary Waits in Silence," "4 Hypnogogue 4," and "5 Hypnogogue 5." The tenderness and acceptance in "Sleep Has His House," an elegy for Tibet's father, is deeply moving. "The Signs in the Stars" evokes the medieval, with its sketch-like lyrics and sparse melody. This and How I Devoured Apocalypse Balloon are indispensable Current 93 live recordings. The band paints a seamless musical landscape behind Tibet, giving listeners a new reality to fall into on record; live it must have been a truly gorgeous and seductive experience. Halo is special in many ways. For those who have heard of the band yet haven't checked it out yet, this is a fine starting point. The context will be off, but musically it's so gorgeous that it won't matter. It is as fine an argument as any for Current 93 to be celebrated as a pop group, though this is pop out of time and space, and perhaps comes from the spirit world rather than the music biz. ~ Thom Jurek