Current 93 - I Am The Last Of All The Field That Fell...

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Płyta dostępna od 22.07.2022

Pitchfork review:

For the last three decades, Current 93 have been not so much a band as an ever-evolving collective anchored around the complicated vision and curdling voice of David Tibet. To scan the liner notes of Current 93’s past is to see a roster of remarkable talents and controversial figures, each worthy of their own lengthy explorations: Crass’ Steve Ignorant and Coil’s Jhonn Balance, folk queen Shirley Collins and ambient demigod William Basinski, regulars Steven Stapleton and Andrew Liles, the mesmeric singers Antony Hegarty and Rickie Lee Jones. Tibet has been an unapologetic Svengali, bending these incredible casts to his alternating will of atmospheric neo-folk or apocalyptic rock symphonies, refined industrial cacophony or delicate chamber maneuvers.


There’s endemic payoff and peril with such an arrangement, of course. That rotation has long seemed to energize Tibet, forcing him to reconfigure his explorations of ancient religion and modern life with for nearly every new outing. Tibet’s music remains intriguingly unpredictable, then, a wide catalog bound mostly by the thread of his serpent’s tongue and high-minded conceits. On the other hand, some crews of Current 93 have simply worked better than others. Many have afforded his material surprising depth, while others have seemed shallow when pitted against his idiosyncratic charge. So it goes for the capable assemblage of I Am the Last of All the Field that Fell, an 11-song album that not only re-taps Hegarty, Liles, Nick Cave, and guitarist James Blackshaw (relegated to bass this time) but adds John Zorn and boundary-pressing Dutch classical pianist Reinier van Houdt. And that’s but a partial sample. There are flutes and poetry readings, floods of noise and wisps of bass clarinet. Still, such an astounding lineup only serves to reinforce the disappointment of the flat and oftentimes gangly Field.

Tibet’s voice does not easily fit many definitions. It is a sharp, brittle instrument that works best in starts and stops, when it can leap beneath and through musical phrases with the authority reserved only for a bandleader. But on Field, Tibet’s only consistent accompaniment is van Houdt’s versatile piano playing. Together, they navigate peppy burlesque numbers and lurking acid rock, demented freak-jazz and drooping torch songs, various members joining in or dropping out. He attempts to slip his uniquely shaped vocals into too many unyielding holes. These torrents of words—references to Akkadian grammar and forgotten gods, cigarettes and hipsters, delivered no less in several languages—lash against the sides of the songs van Houdt attempts to shape. The most awkward fits even become unintentionally hilarious. Late during “Kings and Things”, Tibet steps sprightly over piano and a distortion-pedal din, his voice chased by the fair air of Comus’ Bobbie Watson. He offers phrases like “Announcing Japanese beheading,” and she stays in his thrall. It sounds like an action scene from Cats, while its successor—the piano-and-voice soliloquy "With the Dromedaries"—sounds like the dark-night confessional that might chase it on a Broadway stage. “Let’s discuss denim/ or the weather/ of my dead friends,” he sings, doing his best to constrain himself to the small valleys between van Houdt’s cresting-and-collapsing notes. Above the tightly scripted full-jazz-band motion of “Spring Sandy Dream Larks”, Tibet seems truly lost for one of the first times in his career. It’s as if he’s wandered uninvited into a rehearsal by the Bad Plus and tried to shoehorn his voice—shouts of Aleph and all—into a tune written without him. Dejected, he takes his leave nearly a minute before they’re done.

But the band isn’t so much the problem as the directions they generally take, a point epitomized by the brazen and vitriolic “And Onto NickPick Magick”. The outfit starts in a pre-lit smolder, with snarling electric guitar and teasing flute lashing out against van Houdt’s dissonant piano and Tibet’s deep speak-sing. The group suggests a conflagration spiraling upward through space: The piano lines pile high. The guitar tone grows more reckless. The bass maintains its constant thump but gets louder and more anxious, a pulse quickened by the knowledge of impending doom. By the song’s paroxysmal end, Tibet cries every line, his stentorian tone now liquefied into terror. “I could not find your lips in the songs of bees, in ForgetMeNot Fields,” he screams during one of the album’s most lucid, poignant, and harrowing moments. That sensation emerges toward the end of “Those Flowers Grow”, too, when Tibet’s clinched screams, Zorn’s saxophone squawks, and Tony McPhee’s guitar lock into a three-way war. It’s one of Field’s few moments of full-band power that still finds Tibet in rightful control.

Paradoxically, Tibet also succeeds when he sets up a system and lets it advance without him. On 2006’s Black Ships Ate the Sky, for instance, he gave his nightmares ballast and balance by allowing a set of premier singers—Hegarty, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Marc Almond—to deliver the 18th century hymn “Idumæa” separately. It stunned. And he wrote the lyrics for the 2007 Michael Cashmore EP The Snow Abides, again voiced by Hegarty; it’s one of the most remarkable moments in any of their careers. On Field, a choir of monastic hums backs Hegarty, gliding through Tibet’s interconnected lyrics with ease. Tibet tries the same thing by himself two songs later, and the contrast crystallizes their differing skill sets. At least the record ends with “I Could Not Shift the Shadow”, a perfect duet between Cave's husky voice and fluttering harmonies, sunlight and shadow, fire and ash. “And bare your naked church into my mouth,” he repeats at the end, pushing off with the sort of steady resolve that so much of Field misses. It’s a parting reminder that this is Current 93, and to date, the magic has always returned.