Boduf Songs Lion Devours the Sun

[Kranky; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: psychedelic, folk, drone
Others: Six Organs of Admittance, Current 93, Antony and the Johnsons

Boduf Songs’s Mathew Sweet (no, not that Mathew Sweet) sounds like one creepy dude. Similar to Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, I’d bet he’s a seemingly nice guy on the surface, but his songs represent what lies underneath that superficial layer of normality. Recorded on a 4-track at his home in the UK (although surprisingly not that lo-fi), Sweet’s voice spills out phrases in deadpan monotony over fingerpicked guitars and ambiguous eerie noises. He may be soft spoken, but it’s done with great conviction, and he doesn’t have to say much to come off as a sincerely dark character. Proverbs about depression, loneliness, mistakes, and failure read like less-acknowledged bible verses being whispered to a few others who might be awake at four in the morning. Actually, we’re those "few others," and at times it feels as though his dry, unfiltered voice is a real physical presence in the room.

Although predominantly an acoustic guitar- and vocal-driven album, underneath all the dark hymns are Sweet’s incredible homemade orchestrations. The spare use of his blurry instrumentation is the secret ingredient to the horror in these songs. Collections of coded Dictaphone messages, heavy breathing, and general clumsiness are used tastefully, often making their presence only to accent a singular moment in each song. Anything more would fall into a cliché of creepiness, and it’s this restraint that keeps the tension high. Occasionally his backgrounds explode (usually when they’re least expected), drowning the acoustics in a discordant sound collage and letting his music hang in uncomfortably unresolved space. These rare detonations are well deserved, but more importantly, they’re alarming as hell and emphasize that he’s ready to make good on his prophecies.

If nothing else, Lion Devours the Sun is sincere and direct. But the best circumstances for Boduf Songs is total privacy, and if you’re willing to listen closely, the album becomes a black hole, sucking everything in with it and collapsing upon itself. The opening lyrics (delivered very slowly over the course of a minute and a half) “swarm of black flies/ pours from your mouth/ when you sing sing/ when you speak/ screaming plague/ every breath/ driven from you” are indeed pretty dreary, and it’s hard to imagine an album finding a lower point than that. But Sweet runs his convictions into the ground and Lion Devours the Sun plays out with reverse momentum, gradually slowing everything down in the form of a 45-minute grinding halt. The concept is easier to swallow on an album like Remain in Light by Talking Heads, because in that example, each song stands out on its own. There is no “Once in a Lifetime” on Lion Devours the Sun. It’s impossible to pick out a single from the album, and deliberately so. Is it a collection of songs? Yes, but more importantly, it’s is an album as a singular body of work and makes the most sense in one sitting. Not that any of this should be a deterrent; Sweet packs a punch for such a quiet fellow, and his vortex is indeed a powerful one. Boduf Songs may be the work of a home taper, but his production choices are meticulously well executed, and that’s what makes his preachy, self-loathing bleakness a success.

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