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Boduf Songs - Lion Devours the Sun

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Artist: Boduf Songs

Album: Lion Devours the Sun

Label: Kranky

Review date: Nov. 12, 2006

Giving voice to bleakness through folk music is hardly a novel enterprise, but don’t tell that to British songwriter Matthew Sweet, a.k.a. Boduf Songs. It might just send him over the edge. His sophomore Kranky release, Lion Devours the Sun, employs ragged picking, hollow drone and intimate vocals to paint a picture of spiritual desolation.

That’s what I hear, anyway. There’s supposedly an alchemical subtext to Sweet’s songs, but to these ears, they simply sound weary. "Black flies breeding / Weaving deep, deep," he sings on opener “Lord of the Flies.” In addition to the necrotic lyrics, the song’s out-of tune guitars and buzzing tones convey the perfume of decomposition.

Like such somber folk classics such as Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s I See a Darkness, this record is meant for solo listening, preferably on overcast November afternoons. But this disc is even more cheerless, largely owing to Sweet’s vocals, which are delivered in a sepulchral baritone that barely edges above a whisper. Anyone with seasonal affective disorder would be advised to stay far, far away.

Which isn’t to say Lion isn’t an enjoyable listen. There’s plenty of creativity on display here, mostly in the form of the unconventional scrapes, hums and shudders that accompany the spare six-string. Still, this territory has been covered before. Sweet himself explored similar quarters on his 2005 debut EP. Apparently, not much light has entered the songwriter’s chambers in the prevailing months.

Despite Lion’s oppressive timbre, there’s enough variation to avoid fatigue. “Green Lion Devours the Sun,” features percussion that sounds like kettledrums echoing from a far off valley. This provides a delicate contrast to the swelling and receding splinters of echoed electric guitar.

The sullen atmosphere continues, pretty much unabated, through the rest of the record. “Please Ache for Redemptive” sets kitchen sink drumming alongside a stygian chord progression, while closing track “Bell for Harness” puts the emphasis on Sweet’s airy baritone.

Lion Devours the Sun is as dour as any record you’re likely to hear this year. Boduf Songs likely has more of this stuff in the hopper, and I’d be glad to let him bum me out again.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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