Review: Butoh Sonics – What Do You Grieve For? (Humanhood Recordings, Aug 9)

So far, both of the Butoh Sonics releases I’ve heard (I have yet to try their 2018 self-titled tape, and it wouldn’t align with this observation anyway) are amazing purveyors of the theme or query their title posits. May’s Flickers of Light, with its simple but unsettling artwork of a someone unseeingly reaching their hand through darkness—and the music’s completely oppressive evocation of that same darkness—was a terrifying but enrapturing denial of its titular promise. What Do You Grieve For? is a more direct conveyance of the question posed by its name, a somber and—quite surprisingly—occasionally gorgeous 43-minute piece. It’s not clear which way is up when looking at the CD cover, and the guy contorted in mourning doesn’t seem to know either; but the music itself implies otherwise, relieving gloomy, uncertain, tense stretches with sublime feedback melodies or hypnotic string drones, answering the title with a demonstration of the sparse beauty of despair. As is to be expected, the latest Butoh Sonics document is harrowing and shrouded in shadow, but many of its best moments are the most meditative and harmonic the group has been yet.