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Current 93 - The Inmost Light

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Artist: Current 93

Album: The Inmost Light

Label: Jnana

Review date: Jun. 25, 2007

The Inmost Light is a rare example of the perfectly-executed reissue. This imposing three-disc package, consisting of three releases from Current 93's mid-'90s period, collects but doesn't combine. The music here would have fit onto two discs, but this reissue properly maintains the integrity of David Tibet's works.

Thus we begin with Where the Long Shadows Fall, a single 19-minute piece on the first disc. A crackly vinyl loop of a woman's melancholy song, with a slow ponderous bassline, forms the backbone, with deeply reverberating guitar chords and vocals like a ritualistic invocation. The lyrics are wide open to interpretation, though they're clearly a lamentation of sorts, with the repeated phrase, "I see things coming to a close." It's not easy listening, and in truth likely won't work unless you're paying attention - definitely not background music for a gathering.

The idea of a "lamentation" applies across the full suite, as all three discs are filled with melancholy and dread - both musical and lyrical - but as with all things, there's also beauty for the finding. Even a random sampling of Tibet's words contains images both beautiful and filled with threat: "The green of the grass and the blue of the sky are immense and terrifying / everything seems so close so very very close / should a storm come, should a storm break / and halo all around us as some savage and blind god jerking his hands out to us, the birds drop all around us" ("The Frolic").

The second disc, All the Pretty Little Horses, contains the bulk of music here, at 55 minutes. From tortured lullabies to seemingly pastoral folk (until one truly listens) to infernal drones that harken back to Current 93's earliest days, these 13 songs span a wide stylistic range. The title song, also performed by Coil on one of their albums, appears here twice. It remains a beautiful song indeed, with wonderful acoustic guitar work by Michael Cashmore; the first rendition is lent an eerie air by Tibet's whispered vocal delivery. "The Inmost Night" is a creepy vocal chant with booming piano notes and keening strings supporting the vocals. In fact, the album as a whole is perhaps best considered as poetry set to music rather than what many mean by "songs," as the music truly serves to support the words.

"The Inmost Light" is a repeating motif throughout the pieces, and as such an appropriate title for this reissue package. The song given that title is a simple statement, though the meaning of the words harkens back to Tibet's earlier obsession with "imperium" (the album of that name was a highlight of Current 93's earliest incarnation), seemingly describing this world as a transitional place. Fitting, as the song leads into the album's most harrowing passage, the one-two punch of "Twilight Twilight Nihil Nihil" and "The Inmost Light Itself," each almost 10 minutes in length and filled with a near-logorrhea of dense imagery and paranoiac visions. The former is laid over a particularly ominous bed of dank drones, while the latter is a more typical acoustic guitar-based song, with background recordings of children playing outdoors that lends it a strange atmosphere.

The trio concludes with The Stars Are Marching Sadly Home, a single 22-minute piece. It's seemingly a celebration, if you will, of a life passed that will never be repeated. It might be from the point of view of someone looking back, somewhat in nostalgia, though as the meaning is shrouded in mysterious imagery there's no doubt much more to it. As is true throughout, the focus is on the words, incanted atop ominously droning background sounds and noises. The very end finishes the suite with a sweet, albeit eerie, lullaby sung by Shirley Collins.

Those familiar with Current 93 who don't already have the previous editions of these will have an easy decision here. Even those who already have them will need to consider that these have been remastered, and the foldout digipack with a thick color booklet is well worth having. As a starting place for those unfamiliar with Current 93, this is likely a bit daunting, but at the same time it does offer the full gamut of styles and serves as a fine introduction to Tibet's lyrical universe. Nonetheless, the recent Black Ships Ate the Sky is probably a better place for neophytes to start. All others will find this set an impressive, heavy, and rewarding experience.

By Mason Jones

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