No debut album this year will come with as much pedigree behind them as Hypnopazūzu’s Create Christ, Sailor Boy. The individuals behind it, David Tibet (of Current 93) and Martin ‘Youth’ Glover (of Killing Joke), have already secured their places as legendary figures in the British underground. This album, a full collaboration arriving more than three decades after both joined forces on Current 93’s debut Nature Unveiled, therefore arrives less with anticipation than expectation.
Current 93, of course, remain one of the most divisive bands around. For every person who sees David Tibet as a genius there are at least a couple who see him as a second-rate peddler of weepy esoterica. In truth the Current 93 discography is diverse enough that many of his detractors could probably find something to appreciate somewhere. Having said that, said discography is also large enough that those uncertain about Tibet’s merits may well be more inclined to jump into an offshoot project like Hypnopazūzu. Whether Create Christ, Sailor Boy can sway Current 93 naysayers is a difficult question to answer. This doesn’t sound quite like anything put out under the Current 93 name to date, but then Tibet’s distinctive rasp is powerful enough that he dominates proceedings enough that it’s Current 93, rather than any of Youth’s projects, that one is reminded of here.
This may seem like an undervaluing of Youth, but it’s worth remembering that – whether in Killing Joke or as a prolific producer – here we are talking about a musician comfortable with being outside the limelight. What he brings to the table here, composition-wise, is relatively subtle. His bass, for example, is often the anchor, but rarely acts like a lead instrument. Washes of synth or organ, meanwhile, are pitched predominantly as the backdrop for Tibet’s incantations, even when they rise up to surprisingly ornate heights on the album’s most expansive tracks. The mix puts Tibet front and centre, allowing him free rein to delve into his traditionally broad array of subject matter, ranging from the expected bouts of hallucinatory patripassianism to the greatest hits of Cat Stevens.
It’s certainly worth emphasising that Tibet really goes for it here. Whereas on many Current 93 records his performances have been highly subdued, here he pushes himself to the max, more reminiscent of Current 93’s earlier days or more explosive recent albums like 2006’s Black Ships Ate the Sky or 2009’s Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain, rather than 2014’s I Am the Last of the Field That Fell. The album’s alternating movement between restraint and grandiosity lends itself well to the mystical evocations of Tibet’s lyrics, not to mention the album’s artwork and title.
Having acknowledged all this, there are still some missteps to be found. Create Christ, Sailor Boy at times struggles to live up to its barnstorming opener, the majestic ‘Your Eyes in the Skittle Fields’, and its imperious third track, ‘Christmas With the Chanellers’. ‘Sweet Sodom Singsongs’ and the appallingly named ‘Pinocchio’s Handjob’ feel particularly underwhelming, contributing to a mid-album lull that ultimately makes the record feel less than the sum of its parts. Thankfully, things recover on the closing pair of ‘The Auras Are Escaping Into the Forest’ and ‘Night Shout, Bird Tongue’.
However, it remains difficult to shake the feeling that – whilst this might be a pleasing diversion for Current 93 aficionados, in particular – there’s some missed potential here. Ultimately, Create Christ, Sailor Boy doesn’t quite push either of its creators as far as one might wish. Nevertheless, it remains another impressive effort from two reliable stalwarts.
7Benjamin Bland's Score