How Shadows Chase the Balanceby Boduf Songs
Boduf Songs' music -- which suggests British folk's chilly gloom and black metal's relentless dread and awe, but is a quietly powerful force unto itself -- arrived fully formed on the Boduf Songs EP, and since then Mat Sweet hasn't had to change his approach much, other than to simplify, simplify, simplify. Sweet doesn't waste time, words, or sounds on How Shadows Chase the Balance; these are some of his subtlest songs, seemingly crafted from whispers and the barest scraps of guitars as well as the aforementioned shadows. The album is also Sweet's most polished, cleanly recorded work, which just serves to throw its brooding and dramatic flourishes into even sharper contrast. While the opening track "Mission Creep" is actually one of How Shadows Chase the Balance's lighter songs, its spidery electronics and minor-key strumming make its tympani rolls all the more striking. Similarly, "Last Glimmer on a Hill at Dusk" closes the album with imagery of being "tucked in on a bed of nails," but it still it lives up to its title's relative brightness compared to the songs before it. How Shadows Chase the Balance is often so suffocatingly bleak that its anger and despair rarely rise above a faint but insistent ghostly presence, like the beating of a tell-tale heart. Many artists would have to use Marshall stacks and screaming to generate as much tension as Sweet does with uneasy but beautiful finger-picked guitars and lyrics like "we nailed up the gallows/there is blood on the breeze" on "Pitiful Shadow Engulfed in Darkness." "Found on the Bodies of Fallen Whales" is just as understated and potent, its creeping electronics and decaying guitar harmonics moving at such an achingly slow pace that they seem to sneak up on and surround unsuspecting listeners. How Shadows Chase the Balance has fewer tracks than Boduf Songs' previous works (eight instead of nine), but Sweet covers more territory with each song than before. "Things Not to Be Done on the Sabbath" begins with a stark guitar figure and hushed vocals, then branches out to banjo, layers of harmonies, and flurrying guitars, making it one of his most expansive songs. Rhythm and repetition also play bigger parts in Sweet's music than they did previously: "I Can't See a Thing in Here" closes with the mantra "don't forget to fall apart/don't forget to come undone," which becomes as hypnotic as a snake staring down its prey. The outstanding "Quiet When Group" must be one of Boduf Songs' first tracks to feature a straight-ahead beat and heavy bass, both of which add extra gravity to the already formidable pull Sweet's music exerts. Unsettling and gorgeous, How Shadows Chase the Balance brings Boduf Songs' darkness closer than ever.
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