Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #211 - Trembling Bells & Bonnie "Prince" Billy, "The Marble Downs"

I like Will Oldham. Things I'd read about this album suggested it was a lush thing well worth the listening.

"So I fell out of that gold fucking cloud" Billie warbles on the opening "I Made a Date (With An Open Vein)" and up swells the brass and the folky sounds and other semi-mysterious instruments while he ruminates on how long it will be before the Grim Reaper sorts things out. "Not so long", it seems. He's keeping Death close on the horizon, just like the folk types of old used to do. The second track is a break-up song that I could imagine coming out of the mouths of Kirsty and Shane.

Clever speculation next that a heart on the course of love is a "Ferrari In A Demolition Derby", but the artful language is little too dry, a little too grown-up. The music too surges politely, touches too light for my tastebuds. And the tales are all of love. I sense gaslight flickering in the background and hearts fluttering amongst circling bluebirds. Is "Marble Downs" a reference to graveyards, I wonder? It all seems to be about death and love; the folk song staples. The love is just as close and personal and domestic and claustrophobic as the death is.

"The ultimate act of possession is homicidal love," Will suggests on "Every Time I Close My Eyes". Still chipping away at that Appalachian Dream of redneck peculiarity. I like the image of seeing "angels in their underwear" though. But then I suppose I would, wouldn't I?

"My Husband's Got No Courage In Him" is a very traditional arrangement and sounds like it could be an old tune. On the other hand, "Riding" and "Ain't Nothing Wrong With A Little Loving" are when things get a little electrified, when the longing gets sexier. Or at least the noisy, trashy version of sexy that we would recognise from the Fifties and since. Boogie fucking woogie.

Everything unravels pleasingly on the closer "Lord Bless All", combining millenarian dread, swooping voice boxes, guitar winds - everything breaks down into a Pink Floyd jazzy pompfest about halfway through just as they mention silent London streets. There is some theremin and that is rarely a bad development. Plus some suitably churchy organ. This synthesis works best of all.

Rating: Death/Love out of Appalachia

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