Label: Durtro (DURTRO JNANA 94)
Format: Double CD
Nature Revealed: A remix by Andrew Liles
Limited edition Andrew Liles remix of the complete original album.
CD released with first 1000 copies of the remastered original recording.Reviews:
Written by Lee Powell
The year was 1984 and Current 93 were in their very infancy. David Tibet had already been associated with the earliest incarnations of Psychic TV, and had appeared live in what would now be construed as “industrial” events such as Dogs Blood Order in 1983. The Crowley-influenced ‘LashTal’ 12” surfaced along with the name change to Current 93 a year later, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course Current 93 were a very different group back then, especially in relation to their recent formations. However, these earliest incantations of Current 93 produced some incredibly unique and innovative material, and to all intents and purposes inspired, shaped and helped to spawn a whole plethora of artists and musicians who would fall under the umbrella of ‘industrial’, or later ‘post-industrial’ if you must, and of course the now immensely popular dark ambient genre. It has to be said, Current 93 weren’t solely responsible for helping to kick-start the whole genre of music that has emerged since the release of their seminal ‘Nature Unveiled’, but along with the likes of Whitehouse, Psychic TV, Foetus, Coil and Nurse With Wound they were, whether they like it or not, a major part of the second and perhaps most influential wave of industrial music.
Yet to describe Current 93 simply as an industrial band is just lazy, wholly inaccurate, and it underrates them immensely, as back in their early days their compositions were so much more than a formulaic excursion into what the likes of Throbbing Gristle had produced before them. There was obviously some expansion of the basic ideas that TG and co. had initially unleashed onto an unexpecting public, but these were reconstructed and formulated into their own unique sound. Numerous other bands and artists of the early 80s, offered nothing more then avant-garde bizarreness for bizarreness’s sake with little if any musical or artistic merit. But, with ‘Nature Unveiled’, Current 93 formulated one of the most important and influential albums the industrial genre has produced to this day, a beautifully dark and unsettling exploration of sounds, audible projections and strong religious influences that combined into a nightmarish vision. This album proved that Current 93 were so much more than an industrial project in the common sense of the word, but it still placed them firmly, if not rather uncomfortably, within the industrial genre of the time, along with co-conspirators and like-minded souls Coil and Nurse With Wound.
During this time, Current 93 not only had ties with others within the flourishing early 80s industrial scene, but also with members of anarcho-punk legends Crass and their co-conspirators, who on initial inspection seem like odd bedfellows. Yet delve a little below the surface of what is expected of industrial and punk, and there are numerous ties, in challenging the preconceived natures of their own specific genres, and in their use of music as a tool in general. This coupling seems, if nothing else, to make the feel and atmosphere that is projected from the dense soundscapes, haunting aesthetic and religious overtones that fill ‘Nature Unveiled’ to the brim even more poignant.
Originally released as a vinyl LP in 1984, and then re-released, again on vinyl, in 1989 before the first CD version surfaced in 1992, it’s been a good number of years since a version of ‘Nature Unveiled’ has been available in any format. So much so that there must be a whole generation of new(ish) Current 93 fans who have been lucky enough to discover the band in the last couple of years, yet who have never heard their more industrial heritage and the innovative and gripping compositions this era of the band produced. Now, thankfully, David Tibet has finally made ‘Nature Unveiled’ available again on CD. This time the track listing has been stripped back, unlike the previous CD edition, to feature only the two original tracks that made up the vinyl edition of the album. This is accompanied by a 16-page booklet which reproduces the original inserts and artwork from the album’s first issue, as well as many rare and unseen photos of Current 93 members at the time. The album has been skilfully remastered to give a clear and precise sound, and the first 1000 copies feature a phenomenally impressive remixed version of the album by Andrew Liles entitled ‘Nature Revealed’.
There is something unusually uncomfortable with the atmosphere that emanates from the immensely dark sounds produced throughout the entirety of ‘Nature Unveiled’. It has a quality, depth and intensity that was years head of its contemporaries, and it still stands head and shoulders above other artists who inhabit the ritualistic outskirts of the dark ambient and post-industrial genres.
Containing two long tracks ‘Ach Golgotha (Maldoror is Dead)’ and ‘The Mystical Body Of Christ In Chorazaim (The Great In The Small)’ and clocking in at a little under 40 minutes, ‘Nature Unveiled’ has an intense and almost confrontational presence that is produced by the complex echoes of sounds, the myriad textured noises and drones, and Tibet’s otherworldly vocals that add a sinister malevolence to the dark, foreboding intensity of the album as a whole. Time and time again, subtle washes of sounds and frequencies raise their heads and form an intricate layer that is instrumental to the album’s sound.
On the one hand, the compositions seem almost minimal, yet at the same time massed with layer upon layer of sounds and audible textures with a rich multifaceted range.
There is also a fragile yet noticeable religious feel to the album, which is unveiled with distant washes of choral passages and manipulated chants that are faintly inserted beneath a cacophony of noises, sounds and treated vocals. The atmosphere evoked by this addition of religion adds a huge swathe of complexities to the album’s content and feel, yet injects a transfixing beauty and allure to the hypnotically harrowing soundscapes that take prominence throughout.
The second CD of this set is ‘Nature Revealed’, a remixed version of the entire ‘Nature Unveiled’ album by longtime Current 93 and Nurse With Wound collaborator Andrew Liles. And just when you think things can’t get any better, you slip on this CD and are blown away. Adding a crystal-clear clarity to the overall sound of the album, every single minute element of the lush textural soundscapes is as prominent as every other. It has an immensely calm feel to it, which occasionally explodes into shards of noise, with the production volume being fantastically precise. It gives the album’s sound a brilliantly fresh and modern feel and presentation, whilst it still has one hand firmly holding on to the early 80s aesthetic that the original album embodied so well. Also, there is an increase in the religious references and connotations that can be found throughout this remixed version, which mirrors Tibet’s fascination with, and study of, the Christian religion, and its fundamental placing within many of today’s Current 93 releases.
As a standalone CD, ‘Nature Revealed’ is a stunning album filled to the brim with washes of dark ambient soundscapes, religious references and focal points, a hauntingly dark atmosphere and ritualistic elements, that would find a plethora of modern day post-industrial fans eagerly embracing its majestic sounds. Yet coupled with the original album, it brings something else to the release as a whole. It shows a different side to the same coin. A modern take, or a more mature reflection, of thoughts and ideas that were birthed so many years ago, yet still hold an immense relevance to today’s manifestation of Current 93’s music.
Listening to this album now, some 20-odd years after its initial release, it’s easy to see how it helped to shape a whole plethora of artists to this day, especially those who skirt around the shadowy recesses of pitch-black dark ambience. The list of contemporary artists you could rattle off whose music has more than a fleeting similarity to the sounds and aesthetics produced here is as long as your arm, and shows just how innovative, forward-thinking and influential this early incarnation of Current 93 has been. It goes without saying that ‘Nature Unveiled’ is a phenomenally important album, and as such is a compulsory purchase, not only for Current 93 fans, but also anyone who has any interest whatsoever in early industrial music and latter-day ritualistic dark ambient and death industrial.
For all its hugely impressive positives I do have two very slight niggles with this release. I question whether it should have included the track ‘No Hiding From The Black Bird’ and possibly Nurse With Wound’s ‘The Burial Of The Sardine’, both of which appeared on a 7” single that accompanied the first 1000 copies of ‘Nature Unveiled. The second is the packaging of these two CDs. Personally, I would have loved to see them presented in a plush digipack or some such lavish packaging. However, they are actually housed in a 2-CD jewel case, which serves its purpose well enough, but just doesn’t seem to deliver the lushness in presentation I feel this release deserves. See, two very minor niggles and both personal viewpoints to boot, so nothing that reflects negatively on the album as a whole.
‘Nature Unveiled’ is a truly remarkable album, marking the start of the long and winding journey of one of today’s most remarkable and innovative bands, that is thankfully available again after a long absence. A phenomenal release indeed.
Written by Lucas Schleicher
Sunday, 27 April 2008
After 24 years David Tibet’s debut full-length as Current 93 has been reissued in its original form on compact disc. The audio has been completely re-mastered to great effect, but the additions available on the 1992 release from Durtro are gone, replaced only in the first 1,000 copies by an icy Andrew Liles remix. That remix rounds the album out quite nicely, but the omissions are nonetheless annoying.
In England’s Hidden Reverse David Tibet compared the sounds on Nature Unveiled to the appearance of shadows cast by a candle’s flame. The exaggerated dance of figures projected by the fire is an excellent metaphor for the reverberated moans and chants that jump and teleport throughout “Ach Golgotha (Maldoror is Dead).” Steven Stapleton’s ability in the studio helped to translate the entire record into an exaggerated and frightening play of monumental blocks of sound. The way different samples are lumped together and cut irregularly is dizzying, causing no little amount of disorientation. That image of slowly undulating figures above describes the entirety of Nature Unveiled partly because of Stapleton’s talent and partly because of Tibet’s monstrous and lucid vision. The first groans of sound are as a rising curtain and what follows is a nightmare puppet show of light, wherein the Antichrist is summoned only to be cursed and rejected by an adamant and frightened Tibet. As various samples begin to clash and blend into a supreme panic the effectiveness of Current 93’s approach on this record becomes plain. Annie Anxiety’s truly awesome performance in “The Mystical Body of Christ in Chorazaim (The Great in the Small)” is one of her most memorable and it heightens the play of human cries, treated pianos, monastic chants, unidentifiable stereo oddities, and defiant vocals that populate both songs. The details are made more powerful thanks to Denis Blackham’s re-mastering job and remarkably this album sounds more clear and robust than many modern recordings made by artists with similar palettes. It has been 24 years since Nature Unveiled was released, but it sounds more powerful to me now than it ever did.
Tibet’s preoccupation with Christian imagery, apocalyptic narratives, and both surrealism and mysticism is evident throughout the record, something made doubly clear by the revamped liner notes. These same topics are eventually addressed with greater maturity later in Tibet’s career, but conceptually Nature Unveiled is surprisingly accomplished. The dual authorship in the liner notes helps to emphasize the dual nature of the record’s subject matter, drawing the album’s many themes together in the characters of Ducasse and Christ 777. By reifying man’s potential for evil in the character of Maldoror and by emphasizing the hope in Christ’s return Tibet manifested the phenomenology of fear and redemption with a fairly amazing depth, even if immature lines like “Fuck you, Maldoror” rear their head now and again. The tension between Isidore Ducasse’s anti-God-man and Christ the God-man bares fruit in the end and grants credence to Tibet’s synthetic approach. All of this plays out, of course, with respect to “nature,” a thing I can only imagine Tibet associates with man. Indeed, closer inspection of the conceptual work also makes clear some still relevant political and social commentary, which are couched in religious expectancy and a sense of hopelessness concerning man’s fallen state. Current 93’s early output is often sandwiched into the industrial category due to its abrasive qualities, but clearly this recording was unlike anything else being made at the time either sonically or ideally.
It is unfortunate that this reissue is missing the additions from the 1992 CD version of the album; with them it would be a near-perfect release. In that 1992 edition six extra songs were provided: “LAShTAL” and “Salt” from the LAShTAL 12″ on L.A.Y.L.A.H., “No Hiding from the Blackbird” and Nurse with Wound’s “The Burial of the Sardine” from the 7″ originally given away with the record, and “Maldoror Rising (Live in Amsterdam 1984)” and “Maldoror Falling (Live in Brighton 1984)” from two then extant bootlegs. To my knowledge these songs are not widely available and though they are of a lesser quality than the principle material, they still compose an interesting part of the early Current 93 canon.
To Durtro/Jnana’s credit, the first 1,000 copies of the reissue come with a remix of the album by Andrew Liles called Nature Revealed. In some respects this remix deserves a review all its own, especially considering the massive alterations Liles makes to many important parts of the record. His style brings an odd iciness to the whole affair as he freezes many moments on the record and casts them into an uncomfortable stasis. He also increases the presence of pure noise on the record, which provides an increased anxiety and semblance of destruction. Liles manages to summon the Antichrist with bravado, but unlike Tibet he seems happy with allowing his evil to brood. Unfortunately this remix is only available to the first 1,000 people that buy the reissue and so in some time I imagine Tibet will have to give due consideration to all the material associated with Nature Unveiled.
A welcome reissue by Durtro Jnana of Current 93’s debut full-length album Nature Unveiled, originally issued on Belgium’s Laylah Anti-Records in 1984. With the exception of a brief limited vinyl reissue in the late eighties and an appearance on CD in 1992 in an expanded format outside of the collector market Nature Unveiled has largely been unobtainable until now. Nature Unveiled plays an important role in the expansive Current 93 discography as it represented their first forays into eerie experimental soundscapes, a style Current 93 would return to over the years with varying degrees of effectiveness. This edition presents Nature Unveiled in its original format, consisting of two tracks, with reproductions of the original inserts, related ephemera and photographs of the individuals that comprised this formation of Current 93. As a bonus to mail order customers, the first 1000 copies include an extra disc of reinterpretations by Andrew Liles, the noteworthy sound experimentalist and present member of Current 93.
With a dog eared copy of Lautreaumont’s Maldoror and a penchant for apocalyptic biblical texts Tibet and Current 93 who at this time comprised John Murphy, Annie Anxiety, Nick Rogers, Killing Joke’s Youth and Nurse With Wound’s John Fothergill and Steven Stapleton they set about creating a series of unsettling soundpieces that continue to reverberate today.
‘Ach Golgotha (Maldoror is Dead)’ creates an oppresive black atmosphere, centred around a loop of Aleister Crowley chanting “Om”. Added to this are Christian chants, repeated heavy piano stabs, and some heavy droning adding texture. Tibet’s frequent and unsettling cries of “Maldoror”, are stretched, teased and treated adding further layers to the unfolding oppressiveness. It all may sound so simple but Nature Unveiled is an effective release, largely due to its construction by Nurse With Wound’s Steven Stapleton who skillfully builds the sound up binding drones and frequencies to Tibet’s heavily manipulated vocal before breaking into silence and starting up again, often with the addition of further elements. Towards the end you have the full gamut of sounds: Crowley’s mantra, Tibet’s possesed cry, and lashings of frequencies and bursts of percussion. The unsettling presence of ‘Ach Golgothat (Maldoror is Dead)’ is largely due to its pace and structure, and despite its general uneasiness and Tibet’s occasional lapses to juvenile insults it, like the flip side ‘The Mystical Body of Christ In Chorazaim (The Great In The Small)’, displayed a coherence that was sadly lacking from the successive release Dogs Blood Rising.
‘The Mystical Body of Christ In Chorazaim (The Great In The Small)’ opens to the strains of a Biblical epic soundtrack, gently morphing into massed Christian chanting. The tone is heightened by the rabid tongues of Annie Anxiety, adopting a distressed persona her character delivering what sounds like a frantic prayer at the end of the world. Stapleton cleverly weaves the disparate textures creating an otherworldy aura. Disembodied wails and moans surface as orchestral sounds continue to imbue the music with unsettling religious and mystical overtones. The overall subdued tone of ‘The Mystical Body of Christ In Chorazaim’ has ensured that it has aged well. Only the electronic frequencies accompanying Tibet’s anguished cries that appear towards the close are reminders of the time. Listening to this now it is something of a neglected piece in the vast canon of Current 93.
The same can’t be said of ‘Maldoror is Dead’ a track that has figured prominently in the work of Current 93. David Tibet has noted that it was written during a particularly depressive period, folllowing the abortion of his child and his close proximity to a friend’s death. These episodes undoubtedly had a profound effect on Tibet so much so that he has returned time and time again to the track. It featured on the first ever Current 93 tape, Mi-Mort, reappeared as this version on Nature Unveiled, and was scheduled to appear on Thunder Perfect Mind in an acoustic format.
Early Current 93 were intent on setting a mood, an atmosphere and on Nature Unveiled they certainly achieved it. Even 20 or so years later Nature Unveiled remains a potent and powerful work, characterised by interests that still obsess Tibet to this day. Little did he know that Nature Unveiled would summon a legion of imitators, and spawn a whole host of dark ambient and ritual industrial albums that would cite Nature Unveiled as their prime source of inspiration.
The accompanying Andrew Liles remix, Nature Revealed, is a worthy reinterpretation of the original release. ‘Ach Golgotha (Maldoror is Dead)’ is stripped apart and reassembled to produce an altogether different but powerful form, each section separated by the sudden crash of breaking glass. Liles proves adept at creating an atmosphere taking the listener through passages of gothic chants, layered drones with bells and suspended piano chords before introducing the voice of Tibet, culminating in a climax of frenzied noise. On ‘The Mystical Body of Christ In Chorazaim (The Great In The Small)’ Liles places greater emphasis on the biblical type soundtrack, adding a weeping violin score to the religious music. Drones reverberate below. It’s like listening to a requiem for end times. The fervent babble of Annie Anxiety and sound of children flicker through the imaginary dreamspace. Mammoth shifting tones signify destruction as sirens wail heralding the end of the world. An alarm clock rings as it descends into silence before reawakening with the frequencies and rhythms of the Current 93 debut release Lashtal.
Nature Unveiled remains a fantastic release, and with the accompanying CD of Andrew Liles remixes it is more than recommended.