Review: Current 93 – Honeysuckle Æons

Honeysuckle Æons immediately sets itself apart from Current 93’s recent trilogy of revelatory works (Black Ships Ate The Sky, Aleph At Hallucinatory Mountain, Baalstorm; Sing Omega), abandoning the ambitious and heavily collaborative towers of sound and shutting itself away in a quieter, more introspective space. Sonically, the focus of this new album is melody and the minimal timbral vessels that carry it – instead of passing his initial composition fragments around a wealth of different personnel and building upon them, David Tibet has left them comparatively pure and untouched, placing his streams of lyricism in the sparse melodic company of piano, guitar and organ.

It’s a very strong start. “Moon” is a haunting piano piece, encircled by phantom Theremins that wail in a mournful vibrato. Tibet traces the melody to begin with, but his voice trails off into a torrent of his own thoughts, a bleak and heartfelt voice granted its own desolate space in which to reverberate. “Persimmon” is more measured and pensive in its delivery but retains the piano core, and Honeysuckle Æons seems to be set upon a theme at this point, coming across like a ghoulish, Theremin-laced re-visitation of Soft Black Stars.

But from here on in, the album states its intent to explore elsewhere – “Cuckoo” taps into the ritual percussion and middle-eastern oud found on Baalstorm; Sing Omega, “Jasmine” sets out a simple duet between Tibet and a catchy organ loop, “Honeysuckle” chirps like a deathly fairground ride. Experimenting with different sounds and moods is still high on the C93 agenda, even if this occurs within a less elaborate palette.

However, Honeysuckle Æons starts to struggle when some of Tibet’s melody loops crumple under the harsh light of intense focus, and this seems to occur more frequently as the album progresses into the second half. “Sunflower” and “Lily” spring to mind in this respect, and while Tibet’s vocal delivery strives to galvanise these pieces with purpose, they’re simply devoid of the strength to withstand the relentless repetition they’re placed under. This is an inevitable danger when moving from a saturated sonic landscape and back into a “bare bones” approach – these compositions no longer have towering forts of sound in which to hide and be strengthened.

But on the whole, the album is refreshingly concise – wiping away the grand layers of sound and placing Tibet’s words and melodies squarely at the forefront again. Lyrically, the imagery seems to surge in thicker and faster than before, rich in an impenetrable ambiguity that tugs the mind in several directions at once. It’s nice to be quietly and unexplainably stirred by Current 93’s music in this manner. It doesn’t knock you back with the direct velocity of Aleph, or the panoramic scale of Black Ships At The Sky, but, like those ghoulish Theremins that creep into view on many of these tracks, Honeysuckle Æons haunts you, beckoning you back with its rich and unfathomable sense of intrigue.