Review of Codex Novena by The Academy of Sun
- an ancient manuscript text in book form.
- an official list of medicines, chemicals, etc.
- (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)