Saturday, January 18, 2014

i see a darkness

Will Oldham found another expression of his solemn and sparse shadows in the pseudonymous solipsism of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy.   Oldham debuted as Palace Songs with the single 'Ohio River Boat Song' before switching to Palace Brothers for his first album 'There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You'.   Four years and four albums later, he released 'Joya' under his own name.  After  taking a year off he came back with 'I See A Darkness' under the moniker Bonnie 'Prince' Billly.   Oldham revealed:   “Well, I guess the idea is that when you have a name of a group or an artist, then you expect that the next record, if it has the same name, should be the same group of people playing on it. And I just thought we were making a different kind of record each time, with different people, and different themes, and different sounds. So I thought it was important to call it something different so that people would be aware of the differences...Yeah, the name has so many different references that it could almost have a life of its own. Bonnie Prince Charlie has such a beautiful ring to it, and I was very conscious of appropriating that mellifluous sound. And I was also thinking about the name Nat King Cole. But it wasn't until later, and this may have been subconscious, that I remembered that Billy the Kid was William Bonney or Billy Bonney ...  That's the idea of Bonnie "Prince" Billy — being able to look at this character, and getting to be in the audience a little bit, watching the perception of this character. I think I came into this line of work as a way of extending and expanding my role as an audience member rather than as a performer — like, wanting to be the audience member on steroids, rather than a person that people are watching. It's like, you're sitting in the audience; you want to become a part of the work that you're being swept up by emotionally, and so now I'm doing that...It never was really with bands. It was more with movies or with books or listening to records. I've never been to a show and wished that I was onstage. No matter how much I liked the performance. It feels like a special moment to get to watch certain people put themselves on the line and display incredible ability, either technical or emotional, or both, ideally. But there's never been a moment where I've seen somebody in an arena, in a club, and thought, "Oh, that's what I wish I was doing." What I wish I was doing was becoming the embodiment of a book or of a movie. And I'm doing it as close as I can by trying to imagine, when we go onstage to play, that it's this thing that has a narrative dynamic to it. Like what I vaguely remember to be the [idea] put forward by Aristotle in the Poetics — that everything that appears on a record or on a stage, whether it's a word or a lyric or an instrument or a person — is a narrative element that's crucial to the beginning, middle, and end. So I try to think of it in that way — but only as a way of imposing meaning or order on this thing that may or may not have an inherent meaning or order to it...[music] has to have a theatrical element to it, to justify somebody paying money to see it. It's not the reality that you can just turn around and take it in for free. And at the same time, [Bonnie "Prince" Billy] is not like Ziggy Stardust, which seems to be a completely separate and constructed reality; for it to have value, it should be distinctly connected and related. I know that there is a difference between Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Will Oldham, but I couldn't tell you exactly always where the lines blur. And because for the most part, 90 percent of the time, we don't play these big places where there are big fuckin' gorillas between the audience and the stage, you know, pushing people away, or even a photography barrier — you know, the idea is that the line is blurry between what we're presenting and what the audience's reality is, and as much as anything, that's because I want to still maintain the ambiguous role of potentially still being an audience member, even as we're making a record or even as we're doing a performance...But it's like the moment in the Peter Pan story where Peter Pan comes into the bedroom, and he and Tinkerbell throw the pixie dust on these kids, who are normal kids, just sitting in their bedroom, and then he takes their hand. It's not them telling stories about Peter Pan. It's not them looking at Peter Pan out the window. It's the moment where they physically connect with each other and one reality is mixed up with the other one...I just knew that I didn't want to put my banal humanity in with the records, because that was no fun. It was so difficult the first four or five years, just trying to figure out how to — y'know, I didn't want to not identify a human presence responsible for the singing on this song, or the writing of this song or whatever, but I didn't necessarily want it to be this person that I'm all too intimate with. So, yeah — really, up until the first Bonnie "Prince" Billy seven-inch, which was maybe "One With the Birds" and "Southside of the World," it was just me trying to figure out how to be named and not be named at the same time. And it took five or six years to do that. And then finally it was like, "Oh, why not have there be somebody who's 'responsible' for all of this stuff, and have it not necessarily be me?" But then by extension I'm responsible for this person, so you can follow the thread if you need to. But otherwise you can take comfort and joy in the existence of this Bonnie creature."

"A Minor Place" - 3:43

"Nomadic Revery (All Around)" - 3:58

"I See a Darkness" - 4:49

well you're my friend
(it's what you told me)
and can you see
(what's inside of me)
many times
we've been out drinking
and many times
we've shared our thoughts
but did you ever, ever notice
the kind of thoughts I got
well you know I have a love
a love for everyone I know
and you know I have a drive
to live I won't let go
but can you see its opposition
comes a-rising up sometimes
that it's dreadful and position
comes blacking in my mind

and that I see a darkness

and that I see a darkness
and that I see a darkness
and that I see a darkness
and did you know how much I love you
is a hope that somehow you you
can save me from this darkness

well I hope that someday, buddy

we have peace in our lives
together or apart
alone or with our wives
that we can stop our whoring
and pull the smiles inside
and light it up forever
and never go to sleep
my best unbeaten brother
this isn't all I see

"Another Day Full of Dread" - 3:10

"Death to Everyone" - 4:31

"Knockturne" - 2:17

"Madeleine-Mary" - 2:31

"Song for the New Breed" - 3:24

"Today I Was an Evil One" - 3:52

"Black" - 3:46

"Raining in Darling" - 1:54

full album:

All music composed by Will Oldham.

1. "A Minor Place"   3:43
2. "Nomadic Revery (All Around)"   3:58
3. "I See a Darkness"   4:49
4. "Another Day Full of Dread"   3:10
5. "Death to Everyone"   4:31
6. "Knockturne"   2:17
7. "Madeleine-Mary"   2:31
8. "Song for the New Breed"   3:24
9. "Today I Was an Evil One"   3:52
10. "Black"   3:46
11. "Raining in Darling"   1:54

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