Codex Novena

A review by Michael Kemp

By Michael Kemp

Review of Codex Novena by The Academy of Sun

cover of Codex Novena

Codex Novena

 

codex

  1. an ancient manuscript text in book form.
  2. an official list of medicines, chemicals, etc.

novena

  1. (in the Roman Catholic Church) a form of worship consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days…

So, an ancient manuscript, consisting of special prayers. A nine-song album, eight years in gestation, by Brighton’s favourite gnostic, queer, orchestral post-punk psychedelic cabal ~ The Academy of Sun ~ led by TAOS composer Nick Hudson (guitar, piano, microkorg, percussion, vocals) ~ with sterling support from Maria Marzaioli (violin, vocals), Chris Howgate (guitar, vocals), Ash Babb (drums) & Joe Thorpe (bass) ~ ardent entreaties and prayers of healing, set a thousand years after the end of days, the eschaton.

The album opens with the stunning and wildly ambitious 12-minute epic Our Planets ~ tentative bass footprints usher in a lone supplicatory voice, calling from the gutter but looking hopefully up at the stars ~ the pleas gradually become more intense, before summoning up a sonic tempest, a whirlwind of the senses ~ whirlpooling all the way down the storm to a veritable pit of madness, an unhinged free-form cacophony that, by all rights, should cause the solar system to change colour and Jeremy Hunt’s eyeballs to implode in their sockets ~ before we are lifted by dark angels and unseen hands back to terra firma ~ to find that The Academy of Sun are at the height of their powers in this final, heaven-like stage of history.

The devotional prayers continue with Some Boys Like Thunder ~ a wistful meditation (Some boys have sex in their eyes, and murder in their thighs) ~ androgynous figures, pizzicato strings ~ fine empathetic violin shapes from Maria Marzaioli ~ and a respite from an imminent Armageddon under the spreading branches of The Lily Tree.

A mountain of epicene skulls and wax cylinder recordings afford a glimpse of an obscure family album in This Is Not Spirit Photography ~ a haunting hesitant melody transports us back to the 19th century with photographic plates and double exposures ~ until the tempo increases, with Moroccan drums, and psychic researcher Harry Price gets to unmask table-rapper William Hope, before being showered in ectoplasm by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

A pensive piano figure introduces the exhaustive litany of Narcissist Upon The Cross ~ augmented by a swirling chorus of drowned voices, humpback whales, mysterious sea sirens, under a sky painted by Yves Klein, a bordello full of sailors from Fassbinder’s Querelle, bottles of vin rouge, a grove of olive trees, and Jean Genet as Pontius Pilate…

We are then warned about the Beauty Labyrinth of Razors ~ must we go back there, with the violated angels? Let us not go back there… Instead, urgent drums from Ash Babb herald and propel The Hawthorn Song ~ an impulsive opening of Pandora’s Box, fierce electric spirits ignite and drift westwards. Chaos, tension, culminating in a series of orgasmic grunts and shrieks, all suddenly cutting away to a strange coda of faded seaside postcards, haunted fairgrounds and phantom carousels ~ leading us gently onward to the final prayer of tonight’s evensong service ~ Ghost Before The Body (echo before the sound, the ghost before the body, storm before the calmest calm, the fall before the angel) ~ the last Chant of Maldoror ~ fuzzbox plainsong ~ with a blind Jeremy Hunt being turned away from A&E for not having a GP referral…

The Academy of Sun’s Codex Novena will finally be released on CD/digital on November 9th ~ and there will be a monumental launch up at “The Hope and Ruin” on Queens Road. Pontius Pilate extends a welcoming olive branch…

But that the white eye-lid of the screen reflect its proper light, the Universe would go up in flames

Luis Buñuel (1960)