Boduf Songs: Boduf Songs

Lichens: The Psychic Nature of Being

Kranky indulges its predilection for psychedelic folk music with these latest releases by Lichens (Robert Lowe, singer and bassist in 90 Day Men and TV On The Radio member) and Boduf Songs (Mat Sweet of Southampton, England). Though drastically different in style (put most simply, The Psychic Nature of Being is drones-oriented material whereas Boduf Songs features haunted songcraft), the two at the very least share a penchant for eyebrow-raising song titles like “You Are Excrement, You Can Turn Yourself Into Gold” and “Puke a Pitch Black Rainbow to the Sun.”

Using minimal sound sources (a deep moaning voice, guitars, devices, and effects), Lichens recorded each of the three long tracks (the first two in the ten-minute range, the last twenty-one) on The Psychic Nature of Being as one-time improvisations with no overdubbing or editing. Draping Spanish-flavoured guitar picking over a drone-like haze of haunted moans, “Kirilian Auras” nurtures a meditative and hallucinatory ambiance, a mood “Shore Line Scoring” perpetuates with Lowe's ghostly voice and bluesy acoustic picking stretched across its blasted ruins. In “You Are Excrement, You Can Turn Yourself Into Gold,” he layers country-blues playing over a base of droning whistles, piercing flute tones, and string exhalations; midway through, the piece abruptly stops before loudly springing back to life with cavernous bass throbs, bell strikes, and electric guitar musings. Due at least in part to its free-floating, improvised quality, Lichens' sound never quite reaches its desired state of transfiguration, but using guitar as a stabilizing counter for the music's psychedelic dimensions remains an original concept nonetheless.

Recorded with acoustic guitar, cymbals, violin bow, toy piano, field recordings, and computer, Boduf Songs presents a half-hour, nine-song collection. Interestingly, the unblemished immediacy and intimacy of the submitted demo versions left such a strong impression, kranky chose to release them in their original form rather than have Sweet re-record them. While he never strays too far from the material's hushed singing-acoustic picking center, he enriches the material with novel touches like the steely stabbing accents that spike the doubled guitar-vocal line in “Claimant Reclaimed,” the deep string tones that underpin the stately harmonies of “Grains,” and field sounds (birds, water) in the ponderous “Lost in Forests.” Phasing effects in the brief “Our Canon of Transportation” reveal Sweet's psychedelic side while “This One is Cursed” draws forth his music's morose and haunted qualities. Though Sweet deserves applause for song titles alone (“Oh Celebrate Your Vague Words and Coquettish Sovereignty”), melancholy musings like “Vapour Steals the Glow” prove there's more to recommend than clever titles alone.

September 2005