Another Day Full of Dread/Knockturne (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy)

 

Burnt-out and often hauntingly minimalistic, the sardonic alt-country of the Appalachian recluse variously known as Palace Music, Palace Songs, Palace Brothers, Bonnie Prince Billy, and, sometimes, just plain old Will Oldham, recalled that other wholesomely monosyllabic enigma Bill Callahan the instant the needle hit the vinyl on the Bem Towers turntable. No surprise, then, to learn that both are signed to the Chicago-based oddball indie label Drag City, also behind freewheeling eccentrics like Ty Segall and Joanna Newsom.                                      

Oldham spins a blasphemous gospel, singing quavering, deranged apocalyptic poems and inscrutably sad, wry songs in his fragile Kentuckian warble – a million miles away from Callahan’s boom – with only rudimentary accompaniment. ‘Another Day Full of Dread’, from him immensely powerful 1999 record I See A Darkness, mingles hushed foreboding with child-like sing-songing to create a flat, funereal nursery rhyme with a defiant pay-off: ‘Dread and fear should not be confused/By dread I’m inspired, by fear I’m amused’. ‘Knockturne’, taken from the same album, has an enervated Oldham mumbling vaguely about love and longing, and the tracks hums with a weary, yet not altogether unpleasant sense of defeat.