David Thomas Broughton
The Complete Guide to Insufficiency


4.5
superb

Review

by Winesburgohio USER (7 Reviews)
February 8th, 2013 | 58 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It’s music like this that would impel me choose going blind over going deaf/if you’re looking for an exquisite folk album folks, you’ve got to narrow down your search

“I try to pressurise the parts of you I’m wanting / try to manipulate your point of view / I wish that you were not going where you’re going / everybody’s walking over you”

Taking a retrospective over the past couple of decades, it’s clear to the point of being axiomatic that folk has made an impressive resurgence. The dearth and stagnation in which it may once have lingered is a far-gone memory now; the previous decade (or the ‘aughties’, ick/bleagh/vom) gave us the likes of Bon Ivers’ darling debut, some of Elliot Smiths most renowned work, Mark Kozalek and Phil Elvrum’s most triumphant achievements. Let’s be honest now - the genre is having a pretty good time of it. And yet David Thomas Broughton’s magnificent offering is, for whatever reason, still passed over and buried, perhaps lost amongst the many albums that might seem at first glance its immediate siblings; entombed in the dead air and ashy dust of obscure blogspots, hidden perhaps behind those ‘70s Krautrock or Japanese noise albums you've been missing to listen to for eons but just haven’t gotten around to yet. With the plethora of great contemporary folk albums spoiling us for choice, why bother this one?

And now for a curve ball. All that preamble about folk? A red herring, of a sort. I mean it is, definitely, but there are distinctive elements of peculiarity – if not the avant-garde- on display here. The album (fittingly) is one of ambiguities that border on downright paradox. Here, virtuostic finger-picking is reneged by sloppy, imperfect renditions (the cause of which is Broughton’s eccentric devotion to recording tracks in a single take, in order to convey an aura of spontaneity one assumes). The production is such that it sounds simultaneously desperately intimate, almost as if he’s present in the room with you (and I cannot express this facet of the album enough; honestly, you half-expect to hear him sigh or breath or something during instrumental moments, so present does it feel) and yet detached, not quite there somehow. It’s all very lush and pretty indubitably, but it’s more ‘The Madcap Laughs’ than ‘Pink Moon’. There is cohesion and development in each of the tracks, but many end abruptly – the equivalent of mid-sentence- while others deteriorate and decay as they reach their close without warning. And then there is the gorgeous guitar and Broughton’s lilting, soothing vocals juxtaposed with lyrics like ‘my body rots while she is sleeping / I remain forever sleeping… she’s awaiting my return / though I know that will never come’. *Jarring doesn't explain the half of it.

The album also has traits that verge on neoclassical affectations. Arvo Part’s iconic tintinnabuli (honestly, any excuse to use that word) is conjured as bells and glass chime and clink smoothly amidst the guitar. Steve Reich gets a nod too; the charming repetition of one gorgeous guitar or vocal phrase that is reiterated and gradually built atop of. Take the masterful and perplexing opening track, Ambiguity, which begins with plaintive and unsure guitar before gradually seguing into a more confident phase. Such is the spell it casts that the uttered phrase ‘some things I know it’s hard’ is given enhanced poignancy and power. It is simultaneously affirmation, curse and comfort. Rarely do cryptic lyrics carry so much emotion heft; later in the track, the weight carried in his unfathomable lament ‘I really shouldn’t say it / but I just love what the water does’ may just move you to the verge of tears.

Though Ambiguity is probably the most easily accessible track, and the one I’d advise listening to first, all five tracks on this album are utterly indispensable. They are diverse enough that each track will resonate strongly at a particular time; at the moment, for instance, I am hooked on the sumptuous 'Ever-Rotating Sky', with it's off-kilter and disarming drum machine effects. A couple of days ago I had 'Unmarked Grave' on repeat, while before that I was especially attached to Ambiguity. That is not to say, however, that the album does not function holistically. Au contraire, it is a brilliantly cohesive and contiguous listen as well as one that features a number of beguiling tracks anchored by affecting guitar playing and a mournful, brooding voice.

Which brings me comfortably to what this record means to me; it lacks the specificity and perhaps warmness of other folk favourites, a la For Emma or Bryter Leyter. While many depict heartbreak and despondence, The Complete Guide to Insufficiency's malaise is more generalized, hard to pin down, an ethereal whisper that ends up becoming more audible with each listen. Yet the glumness gradually permeates, at once mocking and consolatory. By the end of the first listen you might well be impressed; by the end of the fifth, I wager, you will be nothing short of staggered. Not exactly cherry stuff, but my god is it cathartic and beautiful to boot (and besides, I like my folk best when delivered by miserable bastards). *** is lush yo. Majestic and magical. Alright i'm done with the adjectives; just ***in' listen to it and reap the innumerable benefits.

“How much love can a boy contain in here? How many contradictions can a girl possess up there? These questions are too ambiguous, try to narrow down your search."



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user ratings (28)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
foxblood
February 8th 2013


6797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really interesting album, good that it has a review now

Winesburgohio
February 8th 2013


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Definitely! I can see why people wouldn't like this as much as myself but i'm pretty smitten, hopefully this'll get people to ch-ch-ch-check it

Digging: Otomo Yoshihide, Park Je Chun & Mi Yeon - Loose Community

foxblood
February 8th 2013


6797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah i'm kind of surprised this only has 14 ratings.
man i can't believe i've had this album for 8 years. sort of sentimental about it

Winesburgohio
February 8th 2013


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Woah, cool! I heard Ambiguity aaages ago but i only got the album recently because i was scared the rest wouldn't be as good

happily mistaken

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 8th 2013


4507 Comments


one of the greatest albums ever

Winesburgohio
February 8th 2013


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

YES i personally feel it's a 5 but the 4.5 is there just in case it wears off me

i'm so glad you agree Monsieur!

YankeeDudel
February 8th 2013


9313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yea this is good nice rev

Digging: Taj Mahal Travellers - August 1974

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 8th 2013


16089 Comments


this is good

Spare
February 8th 2013


5449 Comments


yea good record

Digging: Forth Wanderers - Tough Love

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 8th 2013


16089 Comments


you cant dig your own record whore

Spare
February 8th 2013


5449 Comments


you dont own me

Winesburgohio
February 8th 2013


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Don't really like his new one that much though

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 10th 2013


4507 Comments


yup, it kinda sucks. needs to go back to walden for a while and cry another classic

YankeeDudel
March 25th 2013


9313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yayyyy

ProfessorVeerappan
May 2nd 2013


792 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is one insane album in simple words
fucking mad artist
...

ProfessorVeerappan
May 9th 2013


792 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

now this is one precise spaced out album that simply takes you back into the day
where everything was much more green and silently clean
pure lyrics to catch the mind
amazing music that simply takes you elsewhere
the dreamy vocals flipping the shit out
...

Relinquished
June 18th 2013


25919 Comments


yeah this is cool

Relinquished
June 18th 2013


25919 Comments


i like walking over you the most

Winesburgohio
July 18th 2013


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Feeling blue

time to give this a spin you should do the same

Winesburgohio
July 18th 2013


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

5^33/5



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