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Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Pond Scum Album Review


Like his musical output, Will Oldham is a difficult man to pin down. While he is constantly re-recording and reworking old tracks for new projects and collaborations, he himself has morphed through the monikers of Palace, Palace Brothers, Palace Music and Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Pond Scum is a collection of songs spanning eight years' worth of John Peel sessions, touching on material from his Palace Music years as well as some of the earlier Bonnie "Prince" Billy tracks.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Pond Scum Album Review

Taken from the Palace Brothers LP There Is No-One What Will Take Care Of You, the opening track '(I Was Drunk At The) Pulpit' has a much less frantic tone than the original recording. The accompanying guitar line follows Oldham's stumbling vocal as religious confessions are interspersed with hedonistic pursuits. Similarly, the following track 'Death to Everyone' touches on the themes of religion and faith which feature prevalently throughout Oldham's work. The fatalistic opening line 'I am here, right here, where God puts none asunder' progresses into haunting reflections on the inevitability of death, before Oldham concludes that 'Death to everyone is going to come, and it makes everything much more fun.'

While Oldham's rambling poetry can usually be trusted to draw on interesting themes and address subjects others might shy away from, the real joy of Pond Scum is hearing Oldham take the opportunity to deviate, often significantly, from the original versions of the songs. Save for the first four tracks, on which David Heumann plays lead guitar and contributes backing vocals, the album is delivered solo. This lack of accompaniment not only gives Oldham a license to take the tracks in any direction that takes his fancy, but it also results in a pared-back sound which lends itself to many of the songs. 'Jolly One (2-15)', for example, which originally appeared on the collaborative EP with Marquis de Tren (aka Mick Turner of Dirty Three), is transformed from a fragmented, experimental number into a gentle, drifting ballad. Oldham's solo rendition also pushes the track's self-reflective lyrics to the foreground. The discussions of singing and the act of songwriting in lines such as 'I know you take pleasure in my singing' and 'my life is just to sit here and sing these songs that have no purpose' become particularly pertinent when performed with just vocals and a guitar.

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Bonnie Prince Billy - When Thy Songs Flows Through Me


Bonnie 'Prince' Billy AKA Will Oldham released his album 'Pond Scum' last week through Domino Recording Co in the UK and Drag City in the US. The album is comprised of three sessions Oldham recorded for John Peel's BBC radio one show. When Thy Songs Flows Through Me is the lead single with a video directed by Ryan Daly. 

Wendy And Lucy Review


Excellent
A prime specimen of American independent cinema unencumbered by overbearing social commentary, Kelly Reichardt's serene Wendy and Lucy finds more startling emotional honesty in the relationship between a young woman, her lost dog, and a small cast of day-job regulars than most films dare ask of two humans. Securing Michelle Williams' place as one of the great young actresses currently working in the American cinema, Reichardt has miraculously cut down the lean metaphysics of her last work, 2006's majestic Old Joy, into something far more enrapturing, a sort of seasonal constellation.

Williams plays the distraught Wendy, who finds herself desperately searching for her dog Lucy in a small town in suburban Portland, Oregon. Her shabby clothing, ramshackle hygiene procedures and ruffled bob of emo-black hair designate her as part of a burgeoning class of nomadic neo-hippies and wanderers, but she has ambition, yearning for a job and a warm place to come home to. Early on, Wendy -- on the run from something, we never know exactly what -- encounters a pack of fellow drifters -- Joy's Will Oldham naturally plays the alpha named Icky -- who point her towards fishery jobs in Alaska. She begins to count her money and things look OK, but then she is busted for stealing dog food from a local supermarket, an act that sets off a set of relatively minor but nevertheless tragic happenings that keep Wendy from leaving Portland and drain her wallet.

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Bonnie Prince Billy, Is It The Sea? Album Review


 

Is It The Sea album review from Bonnie 'Prince' Billy with Harem Scarem and Alex Neilson released through Domino Records.

Recorded live in Edinburgh during his 2006 tour, Is It The Sea is the latest offering from the seemingly inexhaustible creative mine that is Will Oldham. Fourteen studio albums, countless EPs and now three live albums in a fifteen-year period constitutes a Herculean work-rate on the part of Mr. Oldham and his numerous alter egos. Accompanied by Scottish folkies-in-residence Harem Scarem and the apposite drumming of Alex Neilson, Oldham revisits, reinterprets and reinvigorates several of his best-known songs in a curiously engaging style. There is a distinct free-form, open air feel to the performance that contrasts with the darker, claustrophobic atmosphere of much of his studio work. Droning accordions and somnolent fiddles merge with Neilson's delicate, jazz-tinged brushwork to create a pervasive soundscape upon which Oldham's intense, brittle voice is rendered as alluring as ever.

On Love Comes To Me and New Partner, the result is glorious. The former is transformed into a yelping little foot-tapper (as is Arise Therefore) and the latter retains all its original warm country-waltz charm. The hushed, swooping harmonies that weave through each song, at once both sweet and ragged, complement Oldham's more unswerving vocal delivery impeccably, particularly on Ain't You Wealthy?, Ain't You Wise?. Conversely, Wolf Among Wolves and Master and Everyone perhaps suffer for a lack of structure; the torpid pace and punctuated rhythm diminish the lyrical impact that characterised the original Master and Everyone album. That said, Oldham's ability to deftly slow-build a song remains undeniable. Cursed Sleep swells menacingly for several minutes before erupting into a melodica/flute/whistle fireball and is surely the highlight of a very good album. Lo-Fi, Alternative Folk is very popular at the moment. Not all of it is this good.

8/10

Peter Barrett

Bonnie Prince Billy, Lie Down In The Light Album Review


Review of Bonnie Prince Billy's album Lie Down In The Light.

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Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Strange Form Of Life, EP Review


Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

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Old Joy Review


Excellent
A beer cozy that one of the characters in Old Joy holds says "Whatever Happened, I Didn't Do It!" It's a small detail, but it is crucial to understanding Kelly Reichardt's tale of a burnt-out friendship trying to get sparked on a trip to a hot springs in the woods of Oregon.

Mark (Daniel London) meditates on the back lawn of his tiny suburban home in the rainy desolation of Portland. Unlike his old best friend Kurt (Will Oldham), Mark has become a modern man: He has a wife, a kid on the way, and watches his health with a focused eye. Kurt, on the left hand, still makes his bed in his van or on a random friend's floor, has a hash pipe glued to his mouth, and still detests cell phones. It is Kurt's idea for them to hike into the maze of green foliage in the Oregon forest to find the hot springs they are so mildly excited about, accompanied by Mark's dog Lucy.

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