Music / Current 93

Current 93 is an experimental gothic folk band that has been actively recording since 1982. At the helm is David Tibet (né Bunting), who was born in Malaysia from English parents and emigrated to England in his childhood. Originally releasing harrowing Industrial music, Tibet transitioned to a vein of Neofolk known as Apocalyptic Folk by 1988. He has worked with members of Death In June, Coil and Throbbing Gristle, as well as Thomas Ligotti, Tiny Tim and Shirley Collins. Steven Stapleton of Nurse with Wound is also a regular collaborator, appearing on nearly every Current 93 release (and Tibet also regularly appears on Nurse with Wound releases.) Recurring themes of his work include religion (primarily esoteric offshoots of Christianity), mythology, philosophy and nihilism.

Tropes present in his works include:

  • And I Must Scream: Discussed frequently during the '90s, usually in relation to Patripassianism (which is the perspective that God, and therefore Jesus, is suffering.)
  • Animal Motif: Many, but the foremost is cats, which were the motif of one of his favorite artists (Louis Wain) and an object of worship in ancient Egypt.
  • Apocalypse How: Most of his works play with this trope in some way or another. Some, like Nature Unveiled and Black Ships Ate the Sky deal with demons and Eldritch Abominations; others like The Inmost Light refer to a personal, yet still very much real and full-scale apocalypse. "The Seven Seals Are Revealed at the End of Time as Seven Bows: The Bloodbow, the Pissbow, the Painbow, the Faminebow, the Deathbow, the Angerbow, the Hohohobow" details a Gnostic interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation.
  • Apocalypse Wow: His end-of-the-world scenarios can get particularly bizarre or spectacular, from reality-destroying, malevolent boats to surrealistic displays brought about by angry deities.
    • The Inmost Light trilogy portrays the loss of childhood innocence and wonder as its own, very real apocalypse, in glorious and disturbing detail.
  • Arc Words: "Black Ships", "Menstrual night", "Imperium", "Arise arise, full of eyes, of eyes", "Baalstorm, sing Omega", "Theinmostlight"... loads of them, really, both arcs within albums and arcs linking albums.
  • Call Back: This occurs all over the place due to Tibet's World Building, but Or Ruine or Some Blazing Starre is one of the most noteworthy examples for referencing: both In Menstrual Night by name and by repeating its concept – "where dreams go to, when they die" – verbatim in the final stanza; "The Blue Gates of Death"; "Great Black Time"; and more.
    • All the Pretty Little Horses opens with a small recap of its preceding conceptual EP, Where the Long Shadows Fall.
  • The Cameo: Björk provides backing vocals on the song "Falling."
  • Careful with That Axe: From him and a few of his guests, including Lilith Stapleton, who was at most eight years old at the time.
  • Catapult Nightmare: "This Autistic Imperium Is Nihil Reich"
  • Concept Album: Most of them. Each one has a page of text dedicated to its concept. Many of them are about how the Apocalypse will occur, or Gnostic interpretations of Biblical scripture.
    • In Menstrual Night: Where dreams go to when they die.
    • Thunder Perfect Mind is based on the Gnostic poem The Thunder, Perfect Mind, an extended monologue by a deity describing their contradictory nature.
    • The Inmost Light trilogy deals with maturing from childhood and adulthood and losing the senses of innocence and wonder in the process, portraying such loss as though it were the end of the world.
    • Sleep Has His House is David Tibet processing his father's death in near-real time.
    • In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land is based on four thematically linked Thomas Ligotti stories, one of several collaborations David Tibet has done with the author.
  • Creation Myth: More than a few.
  • Creepy Children Singing: From the beginning Tibet has used this to evoke a particular uncomfortable mood. His earliest use, the epic "Falling Back in Fields of Rape", featured a child yelling an insanely creepy poem. It still continues to this day, to a certain extent.
    "Mothers, babies, bleeding! You stand there laughing! Unquestionable; unconfronted! Poetic lines on the art of dying! Falling back in fields of rape! Falling back in fields of rape!!"
  • Cryptic Conversation: A recurring theme, and a recurring source of inspiration.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: He takes this a bit more literally than most. Promotional releases of "Aleph At Hallucinatory Mountain" even opened with the following announcement:
    This is a promotional CD. Anyone illegally selling, copying, uploading or downloading this material is condemned to eternal hellfire. Happy listening, God is love.
He would later go on to say that he was only half-joking.
  • Dream Team: Quite a few:
    • Swastikas For Noddy features Jhonn Balance, Douglas Pearce, Rose McDowall, and Boyd Rice.
    • Thunder-Perfect Mind features all of the above except for Boyd, but it does feature Shirley Collins and Edward Ka-Spel.
    • The Inmost Light features Shirley Collins, Jhonn Balance, Nick Cave, and Thomas Ligotti.
    • Black Ships Ate the Sky features William Basinski, Marc Almond, Anhoni, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Chris & Cosey, and Shirley Collins.
    • I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell features Ossian Brown, Tony McPhee, Reiner Van Houdt, Nick Cave, Anhoni, and John Zorn.
    • Attila Csihar, of Mayhem and Sunn O))), has also provided vocals for him live.
  • Drone of Dread: Present in a lot of his stuff.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Black Ships. Also, possibly, The Inmost Light.
  • Epic Rocking/Miniscule Rocking: It's not uncommon for both to take place on the same album.
  • Everything Is an Instrument/Bizarre Instrument: Jerry-rigged Speak-n-toy on I Have A Special Plan For This World.
  • Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: Inerrant Infallible (Black Ships At Nineveh Or Edom)
  • Fake Guest Star: Steven Stapleton, Michael Cashmore, and others.
  • Genre Roulette: While most of his career has been gothic folk music, his early industrial drones have crept back periodically into his work. He's also experimented with new age, synth pop and even metal every so often.
  • God Is Evil: Frequently played with through references to Gnosticism.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Many. Of note: quite a few of them are dead languages, associated with old religious texts or, more recently, fallen empires.
  • Growing Up Sucks: "The Bloodbells Chime," which offers a good explanation why: You'll never see things the way you did when you were a kid.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Occurs prominently on a few occasions, usually as the result of quoting old poetry.
    • "Falling Back in Fields Of Rape" does this rather deliberately—"rape" is also an old term for rapeseed, also known as canola.
  • Hot as Hell: He believes that Satan manifests as beauty of all forms, which is why it tends to be a recurring motif in his art and music.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Tibet is obsessed with Noddy and its nursery rhyme influence is present in all of Tibet's folk work.
  • Kids Rock: For the times when this isn't scary as all hell, it ventures into softer singalong or backing vocal territory.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: David Tibet himself.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Has appeared in several songs over the course of his career—even ones that were already soul-crushingly terrifying.
  • Leitmotif: Several of the latter day album feature recurring musical motifs.
  • Long Runner: Tibet's never stopped releasing music since 1982. He once called Steven Stapleton (himself keeping NurseWithWound going since 1978) the other permanent member of the group.
  • Long Title: The Seven Seals Are Revealed At The End Of Time As Seven Bows: The Bloodbow, The Pissbow, The Painbow, The Faminebow, The Deathbow, The Angerbow, The Hohohobow certainly qualifies.
  • Looped Lyrics: Common, and in multiple instances, overlapped with BSOD Song or Madness Mantra.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Rather common—"Misery Farm," "The Beautiful Dancing Dust," "The Frolic," among others.
  • Madness Mantra: "MALDOROR IS DEAD" and "JESUS WEPT" were two that were repeated several times early in his career.
    • Christ and the Pale Queens Mighty in Sorrow featured the titular phrase across 25 full minutes of the album. The record then concluded with a 3-second section of the backing track from the 20 minute title song looping for another 18-and-a-half minutes.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: As a folk singer—he primarily does English or Celtic folk, but will link it together with such things as drone, noise rock and industrial.
  • New Sound Album: Imperium transformed Current 93's harrowing drones into psychedelic free-form jams and solidified Tibet's signature Spoken Word in Music vocal delivery style. It also introduced Current 93's signature neofolk sound, which wasn't embraced fully until Swastikas for Noddy, two albums afterward.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: The liner notes for Black Ships Ate the Sky.
  • Piss-Take Rap: Crowleymass, done in conjunction with HÖH, pulls this off with remarkable aplomb.
    "Don't give us no sass, or we'll kick your ass
    For we're the heralds of Crowleymass!"
  • Precision F-Strike: Tibet doesn't often swear, once or twice per album at most, but it sticks out quite clearly when he does.
  • Punny Name: Looney Runes. He even played this up by having a pastiche of a Golden Age character on the cover, with the back reading Merry Malaise.
  • Rearrange the Song: Reworkings and alternate mixes are a very common practice, be they individual songs (some of which get mashed up live) or entire albums (as was the case with Swastikas For Noddy, Sleep Has His House, and Black Ships Ate The Sky, among others), to say nothing of Like Swallowing Eclipses, in which Andrew Liles remixed five of his albums and two of his E Ps.
  • Sampling: Possibly in homage to his friend Steven Stapleton, "Great Black Time" spontaneously includes a lengthy sample of "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas.
    • "Where the Long Shadows Fall" is built upon a loop of the castrato singer Alessandro Moreschi singing.
  • Sanity Slippage: A recurring theme.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Alternatingly inverted and averted.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: In an interesting take on this trope, Tibet's multiple vocal takes are usually entirely different and do not match up perfectly when heard side by side.
  • Shout-Out: Everything from old children's rhymes to the works of Louis Wain.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Quite a bit, usually from guest performers. Tibet himself borders on this most of the time.
  • Stars Are Souls
  • Surreal Horror: Many, among them the Black Ships.
  • Take That: "A Gothic Love Song" points its barbs at goths and their pretenses.
    I see all too clearly now why you could be discarded.
    And though I could pray for you, I probably shan't,
    Having had my cup filled up
    With your lies and your makeup.
    You were nothing thinking you're something.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: A recurring topic, be it in songs ("The Starres Are Marching Sadly Home"; "The Seahorse Rears to Oblivion") or in albums (Black Ships Ate the Sky.)
  • Viewers Are Geniuses
  • Villain Song: His are some of the strangest.
  • We All Die Someday: Considering Tibet's predilection for apocalypse scenarios and Christian mysticism, this trope is entirely inevitable. There's even a song called, "Anyway, People Die".
  • The Wild Hunt: The climax of Tamlin involves a human ambushing them to take him away.
  • World of Symbolism