Published Mar 16, 2016Over the past decade, Bonnie "Prince" Billy has experimented with a cornucopia of collaborators, from nearly every genre of music, from film scores with David Byrne to albums with Chicago math-rockers Tortoise, Louisville psych band Phantom Family Halo, Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy and, perhaps most successfully pairing of all, country-rock outfit the Cairo Gang.
For his latest, the ever-prolific songwriter changes his tune slightly, joining forces with the Chicago-based experimental drone trio Bitchin Bajas. But unlike some of Will Oldham's previous collaborative albums, this one really works. Through his multitude of personae and various musical guises, Oldham has developed the ability to seemingly become the music he is making, entering fully into each world, embracing it and becoming its protagonist. Here, the Bajas provide a backdrop of pastoral, ambient sound pastures upon which Oldham ambles, chants, professes and preaches. But where Oldham's fluidity allows him to adapt and transform, it also has the double-edged effect of highlighting the contrasts between his best and worst performances.
Vocally, the sound is reminiscent of a more subdued take on Silver Apples "Oscillations," while instrumentally, the Bajas' sounds call to mind the cosmic transcendence of Popol Vuh or Terry Riley. Together, it all recalls the folksy, new age excursions of Akron/Family. Like the Bajas' band name and Oldham's dark sense of humour, the album title is similarly playful, and perhaps also the greatest literal depiction of what a listener will find upon hearing the album: Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties. Make no mistake, this is an album of exactly that—jams (epic ones) and ditties (fortunate little ones). (Drag City)