Burnt Up On Re-Entry
, January 28th, 2013 07:37
Taking an intergalactic trawl through apocalyptic themes, Mat Sweet's new album as Boduf Songs is by turns threatening, languid and fiercely hallucinatory, and often imbued with a futurist edge. For where his previous work as Boduf Songs (four LPs released on previous label Kranky) was largely acoustic, 'Burnt Up On Re-Entry' is a multi textured LP that cranks up driving guitar noise and harsh granular electronics alongside his tested barebones voice and guitar work. The resultant work is highly effective; a sick cavernous terror evoked with the newfound production chops.
Opener 'Fiery The Angels Fell' is particularly caustic, drawing for disquieting imagery of 9/11 in the opening lyric's ingenious and bizarre subversion of the Weather Girls' hen night favorite: "It's raining men, hallelujah, they fell from roofs, bodies parked upon the ground… we built a church from red, white, blue - a monument to the massacre".
This sets the tone for the record – fear, violence and a manifest sense of powerlessness in the face of malevolent forces. Encroaching end days are evoked with quiet confidence. Jagged shards of electric noise, followed by periods of restrained acoustic menace, provide a springboard for many of the tracks here, while Sweet's hushed tones take on the role of a classical theatrical narrator in some Philip K. Dick-esque tale of interplanetary oblivion.
It's a highly effective trope for music of such grand cinematic bent – his whispered voice suggests the painful fragility of humanity, the certainty of death and the infinity of space, endless, nameless. However, it would be entirely wrong to mistake his polite delivery for anything approaching human warmth – it's about as comforting as Butler Grady in The Shining suggesting to Jack Torrance that perhaps his family just need a 'good talking to'.
The voiceless passages are particularly effecting. 'The Gateway Sound' combines radiophonic echo, feedback squalls and dead weight echo into a mean space ritual. Elsewhere a Vatican Shadow-style militaristic drum and drone combination powers 'Vermin Rend Thy Garments'. It's naked music – starkly lit and terrified: "hey citizen, hey miscreant, we're close enough to feel the folding in…" What sound like queasy filtered church organs wash around 'Song To Keep Me Still', a perverse lullaby in the face of death: "soon we ride into the sun, catatonia here we come".
Frightening though some of these passages are, the effect is not all hard going. The power of space is writ large everywhere on Burnt Up On Re-Entry, the giddy weight of infinity, the feeling of soaring transcendent journey and ego death – it's all rather exhilarating stuff, especially on a cold January evening. Because while Sweet has conjured a record that hums with misanthropic industrial terror - albeit of an understated kind - he has also made an album that brings vividly to life heavy duty sci-fi mind-fuckery of the highest order: malevolent and brooding, but in the final destination also rather good fun.