Current 93: And When Rome Falls

Current 93
And When Rome Falls
(Coptic Cat)

Even at its best, David Tibet’s voice is an acquired taste. There are plenty of times over the course of Current 93’s vast catalog when lead vocals could easily have been attributed to Gollum. But to put it in a more modern context, think Bowie during the introductory “Future Legend” from Diamond Dogs.

The limited edition live album, And When Rome Falls, captures a three-piece incarnation of the group in 2005, stripped to a very simple core of voice, piano and cello.

I don’t always go for live albums, and much of what makes a Current 93 song worthwhile lies in the sound and production of record. But at its most effective, the recontextualization of these songs adds a stronger emotional heft to those which were more detached on record, as is the case with the lovely re-telling of “Black Flowers Please” and the teary “A Sadness Song.”

There are plenty of favorites here as well, like “The Bloodbells Chime,” (one of Tibet’s best and prettiest songs already), “Niemandswasser” and “Oh Coal Blacksmith,” the latter of which doesn’t necessarily gain much from the new arrangement, but is still enjoyable. Tibet is able to get some real intensity out of the minimal landscape, as with a theatrical take on “Alone” and “Sunset/Black Ships Ate the Sky” with apocalyptic vocal histrionics and pianos run mad.

As an added bonus, this set is gracefully presented with audience applause removed between songs, lest it break the mood. For the attentive Current 93 fan – I’m not sure there is any other kind – And When Rome Falls may not eclipse any other albums in the group’s canon, but regardless provides an interesting new angle.

The album is available for purchase on the label’s website.

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About John Mordecai

John Mordecai is a musician and writer from New Haven, Conn. He was the bassist for Brooklyn-based ERAAS (formerly APSE), and also plays (sometimes) in New England-based Shark and Brooklyn's The Tyler Trudeau Attempt. He also maintains a blog (sometimes) at http://selfsensored.wordpress.com/
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