Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Notes For Future Lovers 7″, 2008

notes for future lovers frontThis is a rather obscure release limited to 500 copies and released on translucent blue vinyl. The lyrics are taken from poems by John Harmon, a jazz musician from Wisconsin, who plays keyboards. He seems to have been involved in a couple of recordings from 1978 and 1979 under the band name ‘Matrix.” I like this 7” though. It’s certainly not pop. The ‘songs’ are improvised. Being taken from poetry, the words therefore have no real set phrasing or rhythm which means Oldham eschews any sense of structure in order to let the words find their own rhythmic patterning. It’s a funny little experiment, and a bold one, because it borders on annoying (the lyrics seem pretty awful to me) but Oldham carries it off with his usual insouciance.

notes for future lovers labelNotes For Future Lovers… is an odd wee number. Musically it sounds a lot like Cat Power—fingerpicked electric guitar two-note arpeggios, not really a ‘song’ so much as a recital over top of improvised chord changes. The song references its own coming-into-being – “I write this with a degree of doubt,” he offers at the start. The words capture a brief moment in which the narrator addresses his lover, “you,” saying that one day she’ll look out her window or house and spot him out on the farm or fields “doing something rugged or rustic” in a quiet moment of rumination – “you will think I am under the spell of some acute perception.” He imagines her running out of the house with her hair down: “Your cheeks will be rosy and I will look at you / Are you pregnant? / ‘No’ you’ll say / ‘Good’ I’ll reply / And I’ll stick my tongue in your mouth / And we’ll build a fire / On the riverbank.” And that’s it. But remember, he opened by saying that he writes this with a degree of doubt that this is what will happen. Which might mean that he doesn’t expect this will ever happen. Why then is this a ‘note for a future lover’? I don’t know. The mood here is pensive. Oldham sings slightly differently to his usual style. His voice is sharper and more harsh-crackly in places, almost a female American singer-songwriter affectation on the dynamics of his voice. It’s over quickly.

notes for future lovers labelDonde Esta Prufrock?… continues with what sounds like the exact same music as the A-side although in a slightly higher key. The title translates as “where is Prufrock,” the narrator-anti-hero of T.S. Eliot’s most famous poem. The lines are made of a series of short phrases, something about having “buried a century” and “dug a deep hole … and laid our culture to rest” that we “may as well / Rest in peace.” Some will wake and “imbibe our liquor / In the old art style.” Generally the poet-narrator-singer seems dissatisfied with the way the world’s gone in the 20th century, but he loses me pretty quickly – sample solipsism: “Granite / First lovers / Too shocked to fuck / And more than we’ll aim to hold / Some wake.” Huh? “Defeat inner powerless / To move a point.” Woah, tie me down and beat me over the head with the emperor of icecream. His final wisdom is this: “This is an arrogant universe / And we are its silly counterpoint / We are its silly centerpoint.” Another odd little number with the same tickly electric guitar sound, bumps on the microphone, sharp spikes in the vocal. Yet, both these songs are quietly affecting. I wouldn’t mind hearing Oldham do a whole album in this style—what I’m calling his Cat Power schtick.

notes for future lovers backA rare item, which, having shelled out a fair sum for, makes you wonder whether it was worth it, given each song seems to be less than two minutes long. Next one-off single on the agenda would be the Chijimi 10″ released in 2009.

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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