David Thomas Broughton is not easy to pinpoint and pigeonhole, but he is quite obviously a performance artist. Some might say a sonic installation at any gig venue, perhaps there is somewhat of a narrative there but writing this review was by no means an enviable task by my peers at this gig in the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow. A fusion of musical improvisation and performance art, with the unanticipated at his fingertips, a DTB gig is always just to be embraced, never try to envisage and ascertain what may happen in the next hour or so.
Sealionwoman was his support tonight, and wow, what an opener. Formed by way of a chance meeting of Scottish-born jazz-influenced vocalist Kitty Whitelaw and double bass player Tye McGivern, sealionwoman’s music is progressive and yet also certainly encompasses jazz. Her vocals are so varied, that it hurts watching this clearly talented vocalist perform, as her beguiling sounds, add an avant-garde and more experimental style to their music. Dramatic, transgressive and room-filling, their noise is clearly influenced by noir-jazz degenerates Morphine but the minimalism of the bass and vocals is difficult not to notice, considering the space they are filling with their ambitious noise, and with Whitelaw’s efforts not too dissimilar from Beth Gibbons, it was hardly surprising to note that there was a queue at the merch stall for sealionwoman’s album, Siren, after the gig.
As for David Thomas Broughton, or DTB as I refer to him, if anyone has listened to his last LP, recorded by Song, By Toad, Crippling Lack is in itself no easy listen, dark yet rich, marrying traditional folk with surrealist experimentation. However, that’s just his recorded stuff. An understanding of DTB’s work is incomplete without a dander to a gig. This really accents awkwardness and human discomfort, insecurities certainly. He does this by playing games with the audience, whether it be eating a banana half way through a track or wrapping his guitar in his jacket, he does both at this gig. He begins with melody, adding distortion and noise (I saw him take a beard trimmer to a guitar at one point), building the layers until he simply strips it all back again to simply his guitar and haunting dulcet tones. I am probably not alone in exclaiming that those are my favourite moments in his sets, as my ears are no longer accommodating the distorted sounds, and can relax again with the sound of melody. But no doubt, established and talented as he is, Broughton will be doing this for years to come.