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Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
I See A Darkness

Will Oldham is one of those super-prolific artists who not only records under several differnt names, but who has also managed to get his vocal work on about scores of releases in the past couple years. Whether he's recording under his own name, with Palace Music, or under this new pseudonym Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, he's one of those artists who pops up many different places in the indie music world.

Although hardly any of his work with the aforementioned groups is highly upkey, as the title of this release suggests, I See A Darkness is probably his most dreary work to date. In saying that, though, it's definitely not his most unexciting or even boring. Instead, he seems to take solace in the darkness and has released one of his best overall albums to date along with some of the best instrumentation backing his voice (although very melancholy most of the time). Like always, his voice is probably the most expressive part of the release, going from a near yodel to a whisper and back to straight singing again (sometimes in the course of one song).

The album starts out with "A Minor Place" and despite the vocals that are sung in very nearly a round and music that rocks along gently, the lyrics of the track aren't exactly uplifting as the sound of the song may suggest. The album-titled track "I See A Darkness" is a super-somber affair, both in vocals and music, but has a quiet beauty that fits the love song words quite nicely. Oldham sings along as if he's been wounded and the repeated chorus is one that any recently smited person could find solace with.

The centerpiece of the album (and one that tackles probably the most difficult subject head on) is the rather rousing "Death To Everyone." After the first part of the song that quietly limps along, each subsiquent verse gets slightly louder until the end is amplified into a loud sing-along of defiance (or acceptance). "Knockturn" follows with a simple piano and brushed drum accompanying the quiet vocals before "Madeleine-Mary" comes in as a sort of twisted saloon stomper. David Pajo of Papa M even makes an appearence on lead guitar of "Song For The New Breed" (which is pretty much an ode to a werewolf lover). That's not even the whole album, as there are songs like "Another Day Full Of Dread," and "Today I Was An Evil One." that I didn't even talk about.

Whether you call it gothic-folk or dark country, there's really no difference as this is one very good release either way. As mentioned before, Oldham has done lots and lots of different releases, but this is quite possibly his best one overall. Perhaps it's the overall melancholy theme that inspired him, or perhaps it was something else, but if you've enjoyed any of his music before, you'd do well getting a copy of this.

rating: 8.7510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00