Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Bryce Dessner & Eighth Blackbird – When We Are Inhuman

Julius Eastman and Will Oldham are kindred spirits. Self-styled
provocateurs, they have positioned themselves on the outskirts of distinct
traditions, pulling all manners of musical influence towards their outré
stance. Eastman, who passed away in 1990 and whose work is
experiencing a necessary revival, harnessed the vocabulary of
minimalism for joyfully insurgent ends; Oldham’s songwriting regularly
conjures a pantheon that Greil Marcus called “the old, weird America.”
Last spring, these two visionaries collided at Cincinnati’s MusicNOW
Festival, and any distance between them was mediated by curator Bryce
Dessner (The National) and ensemble Eighth Blackbird. On this album, woven between
new arrangements of Oldham’s cryptic songs and Eastman’s iconic “Stay
on It” are several of Dessner’s “Murder Ballades,” works that tease out
the homicidal strain of old folk tunes. In “Down in the Willow Garden,” a
classic Appalachian tune, Oldham sings bleary-eyed atop harshly
twanging timbres; “Underneath the Floorboards” takes inspiration from a
recent murderous classic by Sufjan Stevens.

These explorations of violence are natural fits for Oldham, who has
always examined the interstices between intimacy and cruelty. Four of his
songs appear here in new, sumptuous arrangements by pianist Lisa
Kaplan. In Cincinnati, Oldham compared working with Eighth Blackbird to
becoming acquainted with a “haunted house,” continually returning to the
same spot and observing how his fear was interlaced with a charged
energy. The arrangements push Oldham’s voice to new heights, as in the
ecstatic refrain of “New Partner” or the lithe polyrhythms of “Beast for
Thee.” On “One with the Birds” and “When Thy Song,” shimmering
introductions deploy avant-garde effects as a window into Oldham’s
bleak, poignant sound world.

When We Are Inhuman will be released on August 30th and is available to pre order on vinyl only.


Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Bryce Dessner, Eighth Blackbird – When We Are Inhuman pre-order for store collection


Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Bryce Dessner, Eighth Blackbird – When We Are Inhuman pre-order with UK P&P


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