David Thomas Broughton debuted with the scantily arranged
The Complete Guide To Insufficiency (Plug Research, 2005)
in the introverted vein of
Nick Drake except that the songs went on
forever, exploring the subconscious with manic insistence.
The album contains only five songs, averaging eight minutes each.
The plain yodel of Ambiguity is born out of a few minutes of
semi-atonal guitar doodling.
The hypnotic tropical lullaby Execution becomes a subdued plantation
blues, with a wordless phrase repeated over and over again, until it gets
buried by an ominous drone.
A gentle guitar melody introduces Unmarked Grave, and it takes a while
to appreciate that the songs is actually a macabre dirge, a hopeless death chant
from the otherworld. The fact that it keeps repeating endlessly evokes an
unsettling feeling of eternity and one realizes that there are bell tolls
mixed with the guitar tones. The extended codas of his songs suddenly acquire
a metaphysical quality. Ditto the floating, reverbed lament of
Ever Rotating Sky, that seems to harken from an extraterrestrial
By comparison, the theatrical aria of Walking Over You, that could come
from a French song of the 1960s, sounds positively upbeat.
It's in There Somewhere (2007) was an attempt at embellishing the sound
with smarter production, but instead made the music somewhat awkward.
David Thomas Broughton Vs. 7 Hertz (Acuarela, 2007), a collaboration
with the chamber ensemble 7 Hertz, contains five lengthy songs (even longer
than usual) in his intimate, confessional, post-folk style.
The philosophical convulsion of Broughton's mind is reflected in
the ten-minute Weight Of My Love, that begins with the
rhythm of an Irish jig and a Renaissance dance, then turns into a
martial, tragic tune and ends derailed by a
somewhat chaotic instrumental crescendo.
In fact the 15-minute tour de force No Great Shakes evokes the existential tension of Tim Buckley's music (without the
virtuoso singing) and is even more of a chamber lied. More importantly,
it refines Broughton's ability to architect smooth transitions within the
same song. In this case the song slides into exotic funeral music,
polyphonic Gregorian chanting, atonal chamber counterpoint and even
free-jazz jamming while remaining an organic unit, something that many
prog-rock bands can envy.
There is more at work than eccentric folk music.
In fact the 13-minute Fisted Hand ends with an instrumental coda
reminiscent of Latin jazz.
The 22-minute mournful dirge River Outlet is the only piece that
harks back to the eternity-tinged transcendence of Insufficiency,
a simple voice embedded in the tiptoe dance of a guitar with
a clock-like ticking in the background until the cacophonous coda wipes
everything off the face of this world.
Outbreeding (2011) marked an odd conversion to conventional
singer-songwriter orchestration, with relatively shorter songs, some
of them more melodic than usual.
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