I have written about the music of Bonnie “Prince” Billy in the past and will continue to do so as long as he continues making music. With a new album due out on March 17th, I would like to direct your attention to this radio interview/live performance that Mr. Oldham recently did where he performs a piece from his new album, “You Can’t Hurt Me Now” and talks about the new album “Beware.” I hope you enjoy this: Bonnie “Prince” Billy – You Can’t Hurt Me Now.
Today, amidst a rainy May day, my copy of Bonnie “Prince” Billy‘s new album “Lie Down in the Light” arrived. What is refreshing is that I know that this album will remain with me. That is, I will be returning to this music for a long time to come. I knew this even before I opened up the package and played the CD. Now, at 5:30pm (still raining), I am not able to write a review. The music is playing (and has been most of the afternoon), but no suitable words are coming forth. From this blankness of vocabulary I am assured that this is a fantastic album. Perhaps this inability to convey in language what is so moving about the album is precisely the kind of review that fits this album.
For an album from an artist that we admire, time needs to pass, the sudden striking of the computer keys proves futile. The music is at once too close to us and too far apart. It is conjoining with us, it is creating a new facet of our self, it is creating a new aspect of the musician for us.
On a rainy May day, there can be magic. Music can illuminate the puddles and the sound of the rain can blend with the album of our choice. At this point, the album is affecting me on a visceral level, a bodily vibration…a physical mood settles over me. It seems it is time, yes, it is time to lie down in the light.
Support the music of Will Oldham:
Drag City Records
“Three Questions” is a song by the Kentucky based musician Bonnie “Prince” Billy from his “Master and Everyone” album. This haunting and beautiful song has been with me since winter 2004 and today I would like to incorporate the idea of “three questions” into The Eyeslit-Crypt. It is really quite simple. I choose one person and ask them three questions. Since this is my first experiment with this kind of blogging format, I kept the questions very simple and accessible. The honorable person whom I chose for this first endeavor is none other than Ken Tanaka…three questions were asked and this evening a response was received. As the beloved “Hero” Hiro Nakamura may say, “Yattttttta.”
If you are not familiar with Ken Tanaka’s video work, I suggest the following links:
THREE QUESTIONS with Ken Tanaka
Q: What kind of adventures have you been up to these days?
A: I recently have been traveling to a few locations searching for my parents…I just got back from Hawaii today. I am hoping to put up a video soon, but I am having some bad technical difficulties. I will also be returning to Japan sometime in May, hopefully. I hope to do some more videos about life in Japan if I can get my camera fixed.
Q: Any musical or literary recommendations from Ken Tanaka?
A: I have recently been reading some American authors. I like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. He seems like a very nice man. I have also been enjoying traditional American Blues and folk music by Leadbelly, Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. I recently heard a song at a vintage clothing store in Los Angeles by a New York folk/punk singer called Adam Green. I hope to listen to more of his music soon.
As far as recent manga, I am reading Gantz and 20th Century Boys (20seiki shonen).
Q: What are some of your favorite things about your home country, Japan?
A: Well, here are the things I miss most about home. Onsen and ofuru. It’s very hot in Los Angeles and I often wish I could go to a nice onsen for refreshment. There are Korean style spas in LA but they aren’t quite the same. When I arrive in Japan, I will go straight to a Sento. I also miss the quality of food. In the Japanese countryside, there is lots of tasty food everywhere. I have found that it is quite hard to find good food here, even in the city. There is very good food in Los Angeles, but you must do research in order to find it.
I also miss Game centers. Sometimes I want to play video games but it is hard to find them in Los Angeles. I miss trains and subways, and bento and sakura and anmitsu and matsuri and depa-chika and yakiimo too.
Thank you for reading the first installment of “Three Questions” and I hope you learned something new about Ken Tanaka.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s live album “Wilding in the West” will be my soundtrack to this spring. The satisfaction gleamed from listening to new live recordings of a familiar artist is beyond words. Songs that one has heard over and over heard again through the live context, altered slightly come to life in a new way, sound almost like new tracks. The pieces performed on “Wilding in the West” are masterfully selected and the new tracks, though still alien to me, I approach with caution, knowing that these are gems to be savored. New magick from Bonnie “Prince” Billy should be kept in a box and only be brought out when the atmosphere is ripe and the magick can be fully appreciated. I still hold the Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s music embodies and brings forth the sense of yugen from a uniquely non-Japanese perspective. More on this later…for now, sit back and illuminate the evening with “Wilding in the West.”
It is a rainy Friday afternoon and what a perfect time to revisit one of my favorite albums, which is the rare gem called “Wai Notes” by Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Quietly released after BPB’s beautifully orchestrated/produced album “The Letting Go,” “Wai Notes” reframes many of the songs from “The Letting Go” through a much more lo-fi production and, moreover, strips the songs down to their bones, almost inviting us, calling us, to the nightime porch or cellar as an intimate guest. What really moves me is the ethereal haunting melodies of McCarthy as she drifts over the grimey (gorgeously grimey) songs juxtaposing with Bonnie’s tender yet hopefully dismal whispers.
This album serves as a reminder of that warm space that first drew me to Bonnie’s work when I was 16 years old watching Palace perform in the afternoon sun one day in suburban Detroit. Turning once again to my ‘eyeslitcrypt’ companion, E.M. Cioran as he writes, “Between the demand to be clear and the temptation to be obscure, impossible to decide which deserves more respect (from “Anathemas and Admirations, pg. 200).” “Wai Notes” plays with the two poles of clarity and obscurity and finds a safe meeting place for the two to revel. The mingling of obscurity and clarity comes through the hiss and muffle of the non-production, the at times sloppy strumming of Bonnie and the angelic overtones of McCarthy. It is through clarity that Bonnie greets us, but it is a hazy greeting, an ambiguous greeting. We receive this album as a child peeking into a basement window overhearing the rehearsal. That is, it it difficult to enter the inner space of this album, there is a haze of smoke floating across the basement window.
Why this album was released so quietly, I don’t know, but it almost seems that a gem like this needs to be discovered in such a quiet way. This album will especially ring true for those who have stuck with Bonnie through the years but may not serve as the best starting point to his work (I personally recommend “I See a Darkness,” “Greatest Palace Music” or “Master and Everyone”). However, I can imagine someone, say, after a devastating storm, being thrown from one’s house into a foreign place, moving among the rubble and finding a copy of “Wai Notes,” listening and discovering the richness of this world, these “notes” and finding a personal comfort in it. There is a haunting fragility to these pieces and an intimacy that glows with enchantment.
On a rainy Friday afternoon, this album colors the sky. The rain seems to melt into the speakers.
Image via Wikipedia
The beauty of “Poolside Chats with Neil Hamburger” is the over-arching technical distractions, communicative disruption of the callers and anomalous-humorous confrontations perpetuated by the shows host Neil Hamburger. That is to say, overworked by “garbage” minded call-ins, faulty microphones and having access to an open bar, Hamburger assaults, demeans and controls the show creating and effectively working his comedic slander through a, what could be called: semblance of failure.
The episode with the talented musician/actor Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Will Oldham) perpetuates this semblance of failure by starting off with microphone problems followed immediately by a slew of humiliating phone calls, a bloody drug-using Billy, an uninvited Andy Dick and the presence of “the pool guy” who lurks in the background throughout almost the entire episode. Moreover, credits roll midway and one guest, distracted, licks a spider.
E.M. Cioran in his book “The Trouble With Being Born” wrote, “An existence transfigured by failure.” It is this transfiguration that “Poolside Chats” seems to feed off. That is, the beauty of this show is its insistence upon failure (the failure of interesting callers and the failure of electronic equipment that plagues almost every episode), its utilization of failure (by always calling attention to it) and a general sense of humorous dis-comfort reliant upon the tone of disaster.
Moreover, it is the unpredictability of the “obscene voice” that is the most unsettling aspect of this show. That is to say, the voice of the callers float over the scene, disruptive and unpredictable adding to the uneasiness of the experiencing of the show. The viewer cannot see the callers, but must suffer the gaze of the host and his guests. The disconnection of voice and body creates an ominous yet comedic atmosphere.
Cioran also writes: “Failure, even repeated, always seems fresh; whereas success, multiplied, loses all interest, all attraction (Cioran 79).” It is this repitition that this show flows through and forever refreshes. This show is intimate, unrehearsed and chaotic, plentiful with a brutal and awkward honesty.
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