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Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
I See A Darkness

Behind this porn-disco-crooner name we find no-one else but Will Oldham. Suddenly he's chosen a "lame" artist name, after releasing a number of records as one of his many Palace "projects": as the Palace Brothers (There's No-one What Will Take Care of You from 1993, and Palace Brothers/Days in the Wake from 1994), as Palace Songs (Viva Last Blues, 1995), as Palace Music (Arise Therefore, 1996), or just as Palace, before he in 1997 launched Goya, simply as Will Oldham. Judging by the name this time one would most likely expect glamour and glitter, belly-buttons and high heels, but the title of the album implies something else, with a little less light at the end of the tunnel.

Will Oldham keeps up with his slow and dark alternative-folk- country-rock. He's got some of the heavy tristesse and sad melancholy that Nick Drake was draped in, but with a US veil of sandy and windy loneliness of endless highways. Such as in the opening track, A Minor Place, or in the even more solitude- ridden Nomaic Revery (all around), which is a brilliant song from an album that might be Will's best. The quiet Knockturne is great, and so is Madeleine-Mary (the most danceable track on the album, if "dance" is a word to use when describing music like this), which almost takes Mr. Oldham in the direction of the landscapes of Van Morrison (without the enormous ego and pretentiousness), Nick Cave (without the intense drama and spook-man posing), and early days Tom Waits (without the bourbon-bass voice and the drunken piano).

As always the instrumentation is kept to a minimum, but I See A Darkness shows Will Oldham from his most melodic side. The "band" is put together of much of the same people that have been in the various Palace line-ups: Robert Arellano, Colin Gagon, Peter Townsend (no, not him...), plus brothers Will and Paul Oldham. And when Joe Oldham has taken the photos and Joanne Oldham is credited for creating the skull on the cover, you could say it's kept in the family. One could of course say that there's too much sulk and despair in his dark tales, with song titles like Death To Everyone, Another Day Full Of Dread, and Today I Was An Evil One. Yes, but there's an underlying beam of good spirit, hope, and (almost) laughter. Well, at least a grin. I see a darkness, but I sense some good vibrations.

Thanks to: Big Dipper Records, Kirkegårdsgt. 7, Oslo - one of a few vinyl oasis' in Norway these days.

Copyright © 1999 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Bonnie 'Prince' Billy articles/reviews: Beware, Ease Down The Road, Master and Everyone, Noe Valley Ministry, San Francisco, CA, 13.04.2002.

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