You can see the beauty on the cover for Boduf Songs‘ most recent album Stench of Exist if you take a quick glance at it. But the more closely you look, the more you realize that the beauty which first pulled your eyes in is actually on its way out. The flowers that looked so colorful and vibrant have revealed that they are past their prime and have begun to wilt. Spiders and snakes creep in from the corners and the bouquet that once seemed so attractive has now become truly ugly. If there was ever going to be a primer for Stench of Exist, and possibly Boduf Songs’ music in general, this complicated image is it. If you’re going to dig into this album, you’ll be entering Mat Sweet’s world, or at least a narration of the way he sees it. It’s deeply pensive, scary and dark, and yet it’s not completely hopeless. Through his eyes the world is a beautiful place, or rather, it used to be.
Before really diving into the complex world of Stench of Exist, it’s important to note that Sweet’s lyrics are the key to unlocking his worldview; and what’s more is that they balance out the music as it was meant to be heard. So there they are, the words plastered to the cover art for the album, just begging for you to pore over them. Sweet means for you to absorb them, and reading them is probably the easiest way to digest them, because deciphering meaning as you listen, well, that might require a bit more patience.
Not so much sung as whispered, the songs on Stench of Exist creep along with the cadence of Sweet’s voice adding more to the ambient, sort of lurching, doom-like nature of the songs than they do as traditionally sung vocals. Which makes sense because about half of the album is instrumental and just as deceptively dark as the lyrical content. He even says on “The Rotted Names” that “Sometimes the words get in the way. They try to push through, up and out the tangled wires. They try to trick you.” Sweet’s world is impressionistic and so his words and meaning can come across as pretty vague. It’s best to just let them and the feelings they elicit wash over you rather than apply any sort of specific meaning.
This is made all the easier on the back of Sweet’s gorgeous instrumentation. It would be tempting to see a one-man project based around guitar work and immediately lump it into the singer/songwriter category, but if we’re being honest here, there is so much more going on with Boduf Songs than meets the eye. It’s a rich, fully-realized world that shouldn’t be categorized as much as it should be explored. Drawing heavily on ambient, drone, and even metal (hence its place with The Flenser family) Stench of Exist is the sort of creeping monster that you don’t know if you should watch or maybe run from.
For as dark as Stench of Exist can come across, it’s probably the album of Sweet’s most positive outlook yet when considering where he’s come from. This is his sixth album as Boduf Songs so he’s had plenty of time to dwell on sickness and decay. And despite its title, Stench of Exist is most likely Sweet’s way of clawing towards the light. “Last Song Save One” is the spiritual closer on the album and its lyrics read positively when looking back over the road that the album has taken thus far. Granted, the song is still being broadcast from the broken world that Boduf Songs inhabits, but it seems to be yearning for something better. It acknowledges the hardships and the aging process, but in a way, it sees all of the darkness as being worth it. Sweet sings “I would love to see you again” as the song closes and the bitter taste that the album carries in its mouth is suddenly gone. Matthew Sweet is looking up.
Stench of Exist is out now via Flenser Records.