Friday, January 13, 2012

Music for cold weather, day three

David Thomas Broughton - The Complete Guide to Insufficiency (2005)




Folk is a very perennial genre, maybe the most perennial genre I can think of. Many people consider a good folk album to be one which sounds like it could have been written in the 60's because that decade was a very prominent era for the genre and there is a misconception for many that the style itself was birthed during those years. However, the 60's folk explosion was merely a revival, and this 'folk' was actually 'pop folk.' The term 'folk' has been around since the 19th century, and its styles have been around for much longer as well, well back into the 1600's. So in my opinion, a good folk album, is not one who is chameleonic of a half century ago, but precedes that, and sounds even more antiquated, which brings us to David Thomas Broughton....

If it weren't for various effects, and if recording technology had been invented a hundred years prior, The Complete Guide to Insufficiency sounds like it could have been written sometime in the 1850s. The civil war era mythos, the use of archaic language ("cacodaemonaical"), the deep, howling, haunting vocals, and the various structures of the songs themselves all create a very convincing sense of artifice, which brings to mind times of the distant past.

I know very little about musical composition, as my academic background was in visual art, however, I know enough to understand that the two ideologies occasionally overlap. Broughton puts to use various principles such as repetition, progression, and contrast to create a seamlessly fluid work. The songs begin with simple chords, sounding innocuous enough, and develop organically, with new layers introduced, clashing and making love with one another, sometimes chaotically into rich, thick harmonies. They begin to swell until each song feels so giant it just might POP, and then, by the time you're so drawn in and hypnotized, end abruptly and transition naturally into the next. These transitions are very central to the album as a whole, and it's perhaps one of the most continuous collection of songs you'll ever hear in a folk record, sounding more like one long track divided into five sections rather than five separate, individual pieces. By the end of the entire affair, you're in such a stupor, you really don't know time has passed (which, I might argue, is the very function of music itself), nor do you realize that you've just been listening to songs about death, self-loathing, and live sex shows because you were so mesmerized by the soulful dance of the chords and the entrancing beauty therein. Such are the soothing sounds of any good folk musician, and despite being lost amongst a sea of revivalists and band-wagoners, Broughton is unquestionably one of the best you will ever hear, old or new. Do listen for yourself.

Rating: 9.5/10

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