Rian Murphy & Will Oldham
It's funny that almost everything I've heard Will Oldham to this point has been rather depressing. Sure, there are some bright moments on a couple of the Palace Music records, but his turn as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy on I See A Darkness is one of my favorite melancholy recordings ever laid down and doesn't reflect one ounce of light. Imagine my surprise, then, when I hear All Most Heaven and it sounds happy. Not only is it a surprise to me, but a very good one at that.
Although it runs only 15 minutes long, this release is one that would win over most people on name-dropping alone. While the main singers are Rian Murphy and Oldham, the musical arrangements are by Jim O'Rourke and Archer Prewitt had a big hand in the background vocals. Not only that, but David Grubbs, Bill Callahan, Edith Frost, and Laetitia Sadier make appearences among others. It's a damn indie rock hotsheet lineup and although the music isn't anything that hasn't been done before, it's super enjoyable and just a plain excellent little release.
The four songs on the album follow sort of a natural progression and start out with "Fall Again." Made up of a nice arrangement of organs, guitars, bass, piano, strings, and a touch of horns, it's a jaunty little track that fits perfectly with the very odd lyrics (that actually are in all the tracks). At first, I wondered if I was just hearing them sing wrong, but upon looking at the lyrics sheet, I realized that they yes indeed did just say, "they boge in do bo/when you call the name/of they sing or they/I bmal bahl." It's like a bit of Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange-speak thrown in to real English and it works very well with the lush, almost baroquey sounding arrangements by O'Rourke. The third track "Song Of Most" goes with a more string-driven track again and with a backing chorus that includes Sadier (of Stereolab), the lyrics of "We held upon a biggun daddy/hates to, the song fall on/the gable/ah ee stood ape-hole" seem still manage to sound somewhat regal.
The short EP ends with the slower "Song Of All" and the light horns, guitar and piano arrangement close things out nicely with vocals by Oldham (as well as a chorus of several backups). Overall, it's a very short release and probably more for those who've already heard work by those involved (but chances are you have given everyone that had a hand in the release). Musically, it's very nearly perfect with very full sounds and varied instrumentation, and even with the sometimes undecipherable lyrics, it makes for a nice little musical morsel.