David Thomas Broughton, Summerhall, Edinburgh, Thu 21 Nov (4 stars)

David Thomas Broughton, Summerhall, Thu 21 Nov

credit: Alex Fisher

Ahead of the rerelease of his debut LP, Broughton plays an emotional and subdued show

'I don't maintain many friendships in my life because of putting my foot in my mouth,' noted David Thomas Broughton archly, amid a gig which struggled to conjure a celebratory atmosphere, even though there was a genuine occasion to his and our being here. 'Which is different from foot and mouth. Which is different from hand, foot and mouth.' Such wryness permeates his subdued, gorgeously self-contained alt-folk songs, yet the enduring quality of the composition of the music maintained a grip upon the modest group of hardcore fans in for the show.

It's been fifteen years since the formerly Korea-based Yorkshireman released his debut album The Complete Guide to Insufficiency, and in an eternally welcome sign that they're in hibernation rather than stagnation, Edinburgh's much-loved Song, By Toad label are reissuing the record on vinyl next month. Here, as part of a trio which included Ceylan Hays, aka Bell Lungs, he performed the five tracks of the record in a set which drew on his own parched and saddened vocals, saxophone, loops of squalling guitar feedback and some gorgeous lyrical passages.

'I wouldn't take her to an execution / I wouldn't take her to a live sex show,' he sings amid the tension of 'Execution', bringing a sense of weird folk horror which is very much back in fashion these days, while the minimal sparsity of the mostly instrumental 'Walking Over You' and 'Unmarked Grave' ('as I decay beneath my blanket of earth / my heart is yet to be satisfied') found beauty in a sense of resignation to defeat and mortality. There is a primal element to Broughton's music, as brought to an uncharacteristically voluminous crescendo on the album's closer 'Ever Rotating Sky'.

It's true he doesn't make the kind of music you might ever imagine is bound for popular success, but nevertheless shouting about what Broughton feels necessary, in order that the flames of the cult around him might be fanned. On 'Perfect Louse' he provides percussion with a sweeping brush, swooshing it roughly against the stage floor and through the audience, and plays the same 'instrument' again amid the co-headline set by Thor & Friends, the dreamlike glockenspiel trio who appear among the album's second disc of Broughton covers. It was an evening for powerful emotions, if few of them were loudly expressed.

David Thomas Broughton's The Complete Guide to Insufficiency is re-released on Fri 6 Dec.

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