ZU93 – Mirror Emperor

Posted: 1 July 2018 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

House Of Mythology – 6th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

In expressing my lack of enthusiasm for David Tibet’s collaboration with Youth under the moniker of Hypnopazūzu, I seemingly gave rise to mirth with my reference to ‘pseudomystical bullshit’. Tibet can laugh it off, but after so long churning out material that veers between the indulgent and the vapidly whimsical, I’m not convinced it’s a laughing matter.

Now, I’ll admit, I’ve never really got to grips with Current 93 – their catalogue was beyond overwhelming long before I even discovered music beyond the mainstream, and their output exists s far beyond the mainstream that I had to pass through Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse and a slew of others having spent my early teenage years mining the seam of goth and (what was then) contemporary industrial and real indie to even learn of their existence. Context counts, and however influential Tibet has been in ultraniche, cult circles, it doesn’t alter the fact that some of his art and affiliations over the course of his career have been questionable.

ZU93 is the effectively named new collaboration between David Tibet and the ever-changing Italian group Zu, centered around Massimo Pupillo and Luca Mai. Mirror Emperor operates around a concept or theme that’s never really rendered with any clarity. All of the song titles reference the titular Mirror Emperor, but they who, what, and wherefores are absent, and there’s little guidance in the lyrics, which are fragmentary, hallucinatory, abstract and non-linear. This in itself is no problem: life is fragmentary, hallucinatory, abstract and non-linear, and we’re all accustomed to postmodern art and its fragmentary, hallucinatory, abstract and non-linear representations of the life experience.

Musically, it’s sparse but powerful. In terms of composition and arrangement, Mirror Emperor is widely varied, but very much leans toward the dark and ominous. There are brooding strings that soar and sway, drift and drag. There are moments of deep resonance and thick sonic density. Far from being a skippy, trippy, easy ride, it’s often difficult and challenging. ‘Confirming the Mirror Emperor’ is built around a dense, murky bass that booms and surges over a slow, heavy beat, before layers creep over and lift it somewhere altogether different.

Tibet’s delivery is the stumbling block. Every word is delivered with the same sense of immense portent, as if each phrase is a revelation of cosmic proportions. Which it isn’t. ‘And quickly…. A knuckle cracks… into space… Opens up her… and feels…’ he gasps with breathless wonder. I’m more breathless with wonder as to how he can still pull this shit off.

Tibet’s despondency at the emptiness of contemporary culture is something to which I can relate: his wide-eyed mysticism, more of a throwback to 60s hippiedom than the escape routes available now, I can’t. It feels oddly disjointed and out of place. While his fans’ belief in his visionary prowess and the potency of his lyricism, convinces that posterity will see him aligned with Dylan and Cohen, I’m looking at the Mirror Emperor to check out his threads, and I’m seeing none.

It does get easier with exposure: Tibet slowly diminishes into the background as the music intensifies as the album progresses. ‘The Heart of the Mirror Emperor’ is forged from woozy electronic pulsations which glitch and glow. Ignore the breathy, triptastic babble about the sun and moon and it’s pretty good.

AA

ZU93 – Mirror Emperor

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Comments
  1. R. Meow says:

    “their output exists so far beyond the mainstream that I had to pass through Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse and a slew of others having spent my early teenage years mining the seam of goth and (what was then) contemporary industrial and real indie to even learn of their existence. Context counts, and however influential Tibet has been in ultraniche, cult circles”

    This is seriously overdoing it. C93 is / have for some time been one of the first names that comes up when punching in the terms experimental and industrial. (And I suppose goth.) I’ll concede there have been periods of silence, eg 2000 – 2006, during which proper full-length did not emerge. (In fact we are in a period of silence now- last was I Am The Last Of All The Field That Fell from 2014. Zu93, and for that matter Hypnopazuzu, are kinda filler before the feast. Albeit imo fine filler so perhaps my defensive posture disqualifies my comment.)

    I’m going to go out on a limb and posit that the reviewer discovered C93 during one of the silent intervals. Thus “ultraniche”- NOT!

    That ranted, I concur with most of the review. DT’s vocals are an acquired taste to say the least. I’m quite a fan, dating to Dog’s Blood Rising, but even I went through a brief period- Thunder Perfect Mind- during which it was hard to get through a single phrase without cringing. I came back to the Current short years later and never let go. (I now lovw TPM.) But I couldn’t really say why… perhaps the voice got so far under my skin it eventually fused.

    I will add- the vocal style so despised by this reviewer, the every-word-seems-weighted thing, probably dates to 2000, via Sleep Had His House. I like it, I think it’s quite singular. But earlier material, which makes up the bulk of the full length output, is more “standard”, and therefore possibly preferable.

    As the reviewer appears to dig spoken word, perhaps this Tibetan turn on classic NWW joint will entertain
    https://nursewithwound1.bandcamp.com/track/two-shaves-and-a-shine

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