You don't listen to folk artist David Thomas Broughton's music, 'cause you can't
listen to it consciously. You can't think about it. You can't observe
or dissect it. You can't consume Broughton's delirium; it consumes you.
It speaks directly to your subconscious.
The raw notes within his folk/blues songs repeat themselves so often you stop noticing. The repetition doesn't irk you or seem stupidly simple. Rather, it's mesmerizing. And I don't use that word lightly. I'm not a critic having fun with a neat adjective his music is literally mesmerizing. Try to do anything else while listening like, say, write an album review and you will space off completely and forget what ... see?
The debut album from this Leeds singer/songwriter, who could be considered neo-folk, comprises only five tracks, but, with each song clocking in at an average of about eight minutes, The Complete Guide to Insufficiency is a gorgeous, intense 40-plus-minute-long listening experience.
Broughton's songs are so strong, it's almost as if you're having a religious experience just listening. Recorded in one take at Leeds Wrangthorn Church Hall, The Complete Guide resonates and howls as any noise in a cavernous space would. Acoustic guitar riffs loop around again and again. Distant church bells ring and there's occasional whistling. And Broughton moans weary and sad, repeating again and again his lines, to ensure you memorize them like they were your own.
The album opens with a fragile acoustic riff that climbs gently up and then back down again on "Ambiguity." The recording is so clear you can feel the pick sliding against the string now and again. The riff grows stronger and louder as a pair of lower notes tickle the guitar in the background. Broughton plays all the instruments on the album, so additional playing was, of course, layered in later.
"Execution" feels, as the title implies, like a solemn procession to the end.
Broughton hums like a monk in mourning, a hammer (or something) knocks on wood
or, perhaps, at nails in a coffin and makes the strumming of the guitar sound
effortless. This minimal arrangement of strums, knocks and hums carries on for
about eight minutes, and then a storm enters the church, threatening to tear
off the roof with its distorted whistles and howls for a minute or so, and then,
just like that, the song snaps shut.
As numbing and hypnotic as the others, "Unmarked Grave" feels like a folk song that has been around for hundreds of years, passed down to Broughton through generations of songwriters, for its dark, traditional content: "My body rots/ While she is weeping/ And I'll remain forever sleeping/ Rest my bones from the daily chores/ Rest my bones forever more." Closer "Ever Rotating Sky" moans indiscernibly over and over, sounding almost like a broken record, but one so beautiful and enveloping that you don't dare touch the needle.