Saturday, March 8, 2008

David Thomas Broughton Is In My Head.

Every few years or so, an artist so completely takes over my imagination that I can't stop the obsession. I'll listen nonstop, putting some tracks on repeat seven or eight times. So it is with Leeds artist David Thomas Broughton's It's In their Somewhere. Broughton uses loops and a drum machine along with whatever else he likes — this record, for example, elevates the duck call to a classical instrument — to create layered circles of meditative sound over darkly poetic lyrics, all offered in a strangely raw warble that, again, has taken up residence in my head.

The clip above from Madrid in 2007 begins with Broughton adding vocal loops to the hypnotically gorgeous One Day while he bangs off-tempo percussion off the mike stand with his finger. Then he rocks back and forth like an autistic child for a while and loops into So Much Sin by rapping his knuckles on his guitar. This is the place where madness, genius, and art meet.

Broughton's MySpace page offers another dirge-like live version of So Much Sin To Forgive, recorded in London's Holy Trinity Church with 7 Hertz (The second version. The first is even slower and plays over some sort of found sound sample.) that is typically haunting, but the recording on It's In There Somewhere is breathtakingly perfect. I should know. I've heard it maybe a hundred times over the past few weeks, not counting the times it wasn't actually playing.

And how can you argue with writing like this:
Put your finger, to your other finger
While you're not a hundred percent
You'll be feeling yourself again. ...
God loves a murderer
Because there's so much sin to forgive.
This one is on Birdwar Records ("making children cry since 2004"), and most of his work can be purchased online at You can also download his debut EP, The Complete Guide to Insufficiency, at 99 cents a track from the MySpace page and, surprisingly, from iTunes at $4.95 for the EP. With five long tracks, it's a bargain. Here's the full review from the catalogue.
“The Complete Guide to Insufficiency stands as one hell of a debut, and easily one of the finest records of 2005.” – Coke Machine Glow

“Remarkable, like a timeless classic or an obscure LP you discovered in a dusty second hand shop.” – Angry Ape

In this day and age, where an artist’s merit is often judged by a snippet of an MP3, David Thomas Broughton has created an anomaly- a work that deserves your undivided attention. Spreading 5 tracks across 40 minutes, Broughton develops his eerie folk songs into epic mantras on death, war, love, and sex.

Seeking to capture the controlled chaos of David’s live show, the album was recorded in one complete take in Wrangthorn Church, Leeds, England, with minimal tweaking and tampering in the subsequent mix. The result is a truthful representation of Broughton’s music, warts and all.

The church is as integral a part of the sound as any other instrument, making its presence known in subtle ways throughout the album. Its ghostly reverb creates a solemnity and sense of isolation, and when Broughton sings “My body rots while she is weeping/And I’ll remain forever sleeping,” one can easily envision him calling from beyond the grave. The pealing church bells at Wrangthorn also create a chance moment of beauty at the end of “Unmarked Grave,” unexpectedly becoming part of Broughton’s vocal loop.

The Complete Guide to Insufficieny is comparable to such forebears as John Fahey and Nick Drake, as well as contemporaries Antony and the Johnsons and Neutral Milk Hotel, but even these comparisons don’t fully convey the scope and beauty of Broughton’s sound.

Using simple tools- an acoustic guitar, some looping pedals, a cheap drum machine - Broughton has created a singular statement of purpose and artistic intent. Long after “freak-folk” is no longer a trend, listeners will still be pulling The Complete Guide to Insufficiency off the shelf.

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