Review: Boduf Songs – Stench of Exist
Listening to Stench of Exist, Boduf Songs‘ upcoming sixth full-length, is a bit like entering a hypnagogic state. As consciousness leaves and one falls asleep, rational cognition attempts to decipher the non-linear associations and imagery that begin to crop up. Stench of Exist is a surreal dream voyage of a record, cycling through a variety of musical and emotional feelings and keeping the listener in suspended animation all the while.
Mat Sweet first founded Boduf Songs in Swaythling, Southampton in 2004, releasing the project’s self-titled debut that year. After a number of mostly-acoustic releases, 2008’s How Shadows Chase the Balance took Sweet’s songwriting into new electronic territory, an approach refined on 2010’s This Alone Above All Else In Spite of Everything and its followup, 2013’s Burnt up on Re-Entry. Stench of Exist, Sweet’s latest opus, takes this style further while still bringing fresh ideas into the mix.
A new sense of expansiveness is present in Sweet’s songcraft, but the album’s strength lies in the focus with which it commands this breadth. A pervasive, singular clarity of vision pervades all of Sweet’s back catalog, but at times perhaps that focus was a hair too narrow. The songs of Stench of Exist are kept clear and concise, but their breviloquence actually works simultaneously to open and embolden a flow of musical color.
What Sweet has managed to create is an album immediately accessible not to the contrary of but rather because of its complexity.
Of some importance is the nature of the album’s complexity. No broken time signatures or misshapen harmonies are to be found here, but from the opening electronic squall of “Jacket Cruiser” it’s evident more is at play than just Sweet’s lyrics and melodies (gorgeous and evocative though both may be). The driving rhythms of tracks like “Thwart by Thwart” are matched in equal force by effected drum machine stutters and modulating synths, as on the moody singles “My Continuing Battle with Material Reality” and “The Rotted Names.”
Disparate strains at times recall everything from the exquisite downer indie of Minnesota’s Low to Neil Young’s controversial 1982 album Trans (which rules, by the way) to Nadja to both the late Jeff Buckley and his father. Possible comparisons abound but the music masterfully manages to never veer into discursive tangents.
The visual topography so deftly conjured by the music begs for and defies in-depth analysis; if permitted, vivid mental images form in the mind of the listener, but attempts to capture and describe them are fruitless. Such elusive treasures are a reward in their fleetingness.
The converse of the aforementioned hypnagogic state is the hypnopompic. As consciousness returns, the emotional, irrational reasoning of dreams clashes with and attempts to make sense of the real world’s aloofness in a hazy transitional state known as sleep inertia. Similarly, the end of Stench of Exist (signaled by the excellent “Sky Pedal’s Plan”) is like leaving a dream world: the listener is left with a vague remembrance of phantasmagorical imagery produced involuntarily but its nature is indiscernibly kaleidoscopic, defying perception.
A record capable of sustaining, let alone creating in the first place, such a variety of feelings and atmospheres is a rare pleasure. Stench of Exist is an album well worth hearing and digesting in full.