Will Oldham and Erik Wesselo, Forest Time, Book & 10″, 2002

This is a single song 10” released in the Netherlands; tis an art collaboration with Erik Wesselo, a photographer who provides the 12 photos that appear in the booklet (samples below). Apparently 5000 copies were produced worldwide so it’s not hard to find a copy. The song itself is pretty good though, sounds a little less polished than the Ease Down The Road band, with a restrained minor-key melody. The song was included as a bonus track on the Japanese CD of Master And Everyone.

Forest Time… sounds amateurish at first—both guitar tone and vocal seem almost out of tune. There’s one guitar part playing a very simple up down melody, another guitar lightly plucked until Oldham’s voice comes on, quite harshly recorded, loud, but actually nicely in tune – it’s just that the tune is made of very odd notes that form an unusual shadowy combination. Song has an odd lyric that begins, “Filling up the girl / I am filling up the girl / Make her all of the whole world.” I guess “world” is used here because it rhymes with “girl.” So what does he mean by “filling up the girl”? Is she like a car that’s run out of gas? The next verse starts, “And a brand new baby child,” which later becomes, “A brand-new footprint-maker born.” Does this “filling up” then mean making the girl pregnant? Well, the child’s birth makes the singer “trunky,” “wild” and “trumpet of the swan.” So I guess we’re heading towards the forest, whence it seems his voice gets louder, quite high tones; add a note on the vibraphone every fourth beat. He imagines himself as an “ashtray,” a “monkey by Babar,” and a “hippo calling far / Far into the forest.” Yep, he’s going forest-wild, as he reaches for that falsetto. But alas, wait — there are dangers. Sharks, enemies and chompers which eat the baby (girl). She is growing however, in fact “over-shadowing” all of us, and “my animal’s belowing.” I can’t tell if that’s ‘belowing’ as in the ‘lowing’ of cattle, kind of like “to siege” means the same as “besiege,” or whether it’s a typo and is meant to read “bellowing” (the lyric is printed inside the art-book). At the end, Oldham sings, “Ocean time / Forest time,” but quite how and what is meant by this, I’m not sure. When the lyric finishes, we have two guitars, one steel string, one nylon, and what sounds like a cello/string section that might just be coming from a keyboard. Oldham recites those last two words, over a few times, “ocean time / forest time” as the strings get higher and higher and higher, and fade in louder and louder to a single eerie note that starts to pierce your ears before it vanishes after ten nerve-wracking seconds. What intrigues me about this lyric is that in the same year (2002), Oldham sang a song on Ease Down The Road also with a lyric about a baby girl that went like this: “Up will rise our earthly daughter / Water floods and all upon it / Up upon our bloody planet.” That seems strongly connected to the words above about the baby girl growing. Did Oldham have a daughter in 2002? I wonder. Anyway, this very slow, somber, strange, repetitive and slightly creepy awkward, misery-laden song is really quite stunning, although it sounds nothing at all like Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and everything like a Days In The Wake-era Palace brother.

The Book… is a collection of 12 photos of forests, ocean side, a picture of a guy with a tattoo on his chest, fields, sand. Nearly all of them are blurry. What do they mean? Do they relate to the lyrics? (Not that I can tell). Where is this? Somewhere in the Netherlands presumably. Is there a narrative to the sequence of pictures? (Not that I can tell). I mean, they’re not great quality, so…hmm, there’s a touch of nostalgia perhaps, a nature whimsy. I think I like the cover photo the best, with its wintry blues.

About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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