Tuesday, June 27, 2006

David Thomas Broughton - The Complete Guide To Insufficiency

David Thomas Broughton
The Complete Guide To Insufficiency
Plug Research
/ Birdwar

The one man band. It's in everyone's grasp now. With a Mac, Garageband and a Myspace page, you're well on your way to rock-stardom. Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's not that easy. Anyone can do these things, but in the end, there's still one important ingredient that can't be overlooked; great music.

David Thomas Broughton is a one man band. And he makes great music. No, he doesn't have a Mac or Garageband. Well, maybe he does, but that's not how this album ended up at my local record shop. Broughton's music is a stripped-down enterprise, comprised simply of his vocals, a guitar (sometimes looped), and a drum machine. His voice is probably his biggest statement. It's one you hear and will associate with him and him alone. Not unlike Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) or Nick Drake, whose voices you recognize immediately, Broughton's voice is his calling card, his distinguisher.

The Complete Guide To Insufficiency is five tracks of folk guitar and dark lyrics. While five tracks may lead you to believe this is more of an EP than an LP, not a single track clocks in at less than six minutes, and three of them exceed eight minutes. One thing of note is that this album was recorded in a single take inside a church. The goal was to perhaps capture what it would be like to hear DTB live. It's a nice touch and adds to the sparseness of the recording, and the songs themselves. There's a certain atmosphere to Broughton's music. Knowing that it was recorded in a church leads me to believe that this sense of atmosphere is somehow heightened.

I really enjoy the timelessness of this album. It's not music that places itself within a genre that gets pinned down to a certain time or era. You won't find it in an episode of VH1's "I love the 2000's." It strikes me as the sort of album that I enjoy now, and will probably enjoy 30 years from now, when I'm old and retired. It'll be a perfect soundtrack to an evening of sipping Arnold Palmers out on my porch swing, watching the sun disappear behind some trees.

Check it out if you like: Iron & Wine, José González
Listen to a sample here: "Unmarked Grave (edit)"

Monday, June 26, 2006

Et Ret - Gasworks

Et Ret
Gasworks
Western Vinyl

I have to admit that what initially captured my attention about this album was not the music, but rather, the cover photography. I was in one of my local record stores and saw this album from a few feet away. I don't know what it was about the photograph in particular. It just stood out, this lone, dark figure, silhouetted against a cloudy sky. I picked it up, looked at it, read the track listing, and put it back. Later that night, I did some digging and found a few mentions of Et Ret's Gasworks. Then I came across a few excerpts on Western Vinyl's site and was immediately captivated. I'm a sucker for the instrumental. A lot of instrumental/drone/folktronica has made it's way to my cd rack lately and when I heard this, I knew I'd be heading out the next day to pick it up.

Et Ret opens with The First Day (Marveling) which is a great intro to what you'll hear the rest of the way. A repetitve pulse carries you through the four-minute-plus track. Violins sway and swoon, interjecting as the tune carries on, never straying from it's early-established tone. Standout tracks inlcude Apokalyptein, Won By Walking, and Letting Go of the Balloon. By the end, you've listened to 36 minutes of folk-tinged, drone-like compositions that are soft, yet compelling.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable album. If you're like me and crave a good background/headphone album every now and again, this is definitely one to pick up. But know what you're getting into: this is not an album that's going to blow you away with volume. It hides away, getting it's point across with a whisper rather than a shout. It's one of those albums you enjoy simply because the artist is trying something different. Sure, there's lots of instrumental stuff out there right now, but I can't really think of one that sounds quite like Et Ret.

Check it out if you like: Godspeed You Black Emperor!, The Books
Listen to a sample here: "The First Day (edit)"