David Thomas Broughton - It's in There Somewhere... [Birdwar - 2007]
It's In There Somewhere... is David Thomas Broughton's second album, after 2005's The Complete Guide to Insufficiency. This album is, I suppose, in line with the new indie folk music explosion which has spread rather rampantly (perhaps too much so) the past few years. Fortunately though, this album avoids fitting squarely into the aforementioned genre, and instead features shadowy, circular tunes, which roam and spin to create a song cycle which can only work as a whole. I say this because the first time I listened to this album, my CD player was set to shuffle mode.
The short songs and interludes sounded trite and inconsequential on their own, and the longer songs didn't seem to mesh well. I realised my mistake halfway through, then re-started the album in the proper order, and oddly enough, it made a world of difference. These days there is very little emphasis on "album oriented" music, now considered an artifact of the laid back 70's. Surely the term AOR can lead the mind into alleys of middling shit along the lines of America and the Eagles. But there is something to be said for albums arranged to be taken as a whole. The sequencing is more important than the individual songs. The cumulative affect of proper sequencing sets a mood over the course of the entire listening time. This adds depth and character to the work which can't be achieved in a song oriented format.
So you need to invest some of your time to "get it". In this age of short attention spans and communication overload, it's a bit of a risk for a performer to ask this of the listener. And that's why David Thomas Broughton deserves to be lauded for his effort. The music contained here has an intimate, homespun feel. According to the album credits, It's in There Somewhere... was recorded directly to tape, mini-disc and computer. Not surprising, because there's a hermetic, loner feel to this work. The lyrics are melancholy and self-deprecating most of the time, and the effect could be quite numbing if the arrangements weren't so sympathetic.
The longer tracks are repetitive, and somewhat hypnotic, reminding me a bit of Richard Youngs' more straightforward work. The principal instruments other than the vocals, are guitar (tracked backwards at times) and piano. There are also drums machines, percussion and strings (not sure if they're synthesized or not). Though these tunes are on the surface relatively simple, the arrangements have depth. This is partly because the recording techniques are unique. Hissy, lo-fi recordings are mixed with foreground accompaniment, instruments are layered, played backward and forward. Vocals are stacked in looped intervals. There's a careful subtlety to this work as a result. My only complaint is that David's voice is a bit croaky for me at times, which is only a minor problem because it's often toned down in the mix or treated with effects, lessening the harshness. That aside, It's In There Somewhere... isn't bad at all. Erwin Michelfelder