I keep forgetting that Will Oldham, the man behind Bonnie "Prince" Billy, is more than the gifted name-changing musician that he has established himself as. He's been in a few movies, such as 2005's overrated indie fav, Junebug, and a few weeks ago a few of my friends were watching MTV2's Wondershowzen, and out popped Oldham with a civil war outfit on. He tried to do comedy for a full hour and it was nothing short of a disaster. He's also in this movie , which is the most amazing idea for a 32 minute short ever. Or maybe the worst, I don't know.
The point is that Will Oldham has made some choices we didn't expect him to. Whether they're good choices or bad choices is up to you, but for me, I could see Will Oldham in a porn (oh good god) and still forgive him for making me vomit after listening to 30 seconds of Master And Everyone or I See A Darkness.
For Oldham's newest music venture, he has gone with a Bonnie "Prince" Billy EP titled Cursed Sleep . The first song, the title track, is full of lots of different influences that boil down to another beautiful Will Oldham track that is uniquely his. It's got prevalent strings, smoky female harmonies, and Grateful Dead guitar lines that all combine into a perfect representation of its title, "Cursed Sleep." It's the kind of tune in which the song sounds like its title and the title sounds like the music. It couldn't sound like anything else and couldn't be named anything else. Oldham uses the line, "In her arms I trembled electric," which makes me think that Oldham was reading Walt Whitman's I Sing The Body Electric in which Whitman examines the body and its role in establishing relationships and connections (fuck yeah, college education!)
The second track, "The Signifying Wolf," sounds as if it were recorded during the short film mentioned above. There is a lot going on vocally in this tune. Grunts, panting, howling, and screaming fill the left and right channels. It sounds like a cross between a chain gang and a seance. It's voodoo and it's psychedelic, and I am pretty confident that it's exactly what Oldham wanted this song to sound like. It's interesting enough but as far as aurally pleasing songs go, this is not one of them.
The third and last track, "God's Small Song," sounds like a late night trek through dark woods. It's quiet with sporadic spurts of energy that seem to peak in beautifully unexpected moments. It reminds me of the indie-rock folk version of a tune from Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.
Will Oldham's the kind of a guy that can steal anything from anybody and because of his voice and aura, can make it uniquely his. This uniqueness is usually a wonderful thing, although I wasn't the biggest fan of all the songs on The Brave And The Bold , his cover album with Tortoise. But anyone who can deny how unbelievable his cover of "Thunder Road" is may be lacking many well-needed brain cells. This EP is enough to hold us over until his next full length.