This record of hangover songs from Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny and Donovon Quinn is a pleasant listen albeit tossed off and rough around the edges. Fitting for a Sunday afternoon slowly nursing beers, the New Bums offer above average guitar playing to the Nikki Sudden/Jacobites dynamics of the pairing. Like Chasny’s other recent duo project 200 Years, the New Bums sounds like the sketches of several good ideas hastily thrown together and executed quickly. Lyrically, Chasny could use some editing on tracks like “It’s the Way” as lines like “Sit down by the creek/ I’ll tell you what you seek” aren’t doing anyone any favors. While inviting and generally predictable in structure, there’s urgency missing that is at the heart of the best Six Organs records. The New Bums sound far too comfortable on this ramshackle debut, neither structured nor loose enough to leave enough of an impression. The best moments are when the duo let the strings do the talking, as their interplay is complementary and at times, lovely. It’s a fine listen and there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour, but if this writer had to choose only 10 Chasny-related records, Voices In A Rented Room would not be among them. Generally, I’m a fan of most Chasny-executed projects. Last year’s four-piece rock band version of Six Organs was perhaps the best live band I had seen that year, watching Chasny playing electric was joyously invigorating. This diversion however, veers off to less exciting terrain.
The Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy discography, an increasingly rich treasure-trove, takes on different permeations due to the ever-changing musicians he works with on his material. Much had been made about his return to solo album simply titled Bonnie Prince Billy. So it’s somewhat understandable that this brief three-song 12” goes beneath the radar. Solemns reunites Oldham with Mick Turner and Jim White of the Dirty Three, (or the Tren Brothers when its just the two of them) two players whose unique dream-like sympathies merge perfectly with Oldham’s vivid and dramatic songwriting. Having last teamed up on the recently reissued Get On Jolly E.P back in 2000, these three haunting tracks offer a stirring melancholy, and ambience. New to the combo is the vocal counter-point of Angel Olsen, who gives a subtle yet affecting balance to Oldham’s vocal deliveries. Her melodies add further complexities to Oldham’s narratives, charting familiar themes to those who follow him sporadically or religiously. Whenever Bonny Billy teams with the Tren Brothers magic happens as evidenced again here all too briefly. Here’s hoping they record a whole album sometime.
It’s taking me some time to come to the realization that it’s been ten years since Six Organs has come into fruition and become the man to blame for everything from Davandra Banhart to the decline in hair clipper sales. Not that I think it ‘feels just like yesterday’ since I first made acquaintance with the Six Organist on that grassy knoll in Amherst Common or anything. In fact, as I sit here and really think about it with brow furrowed and chin stroked, it doesn’t really feel like anything. It just feels like time has passed like it’s supposed to and you and me and Chasny have all swam many a lake of phony fire stoked by our own self indulgence, so who gives a fuck? It’s life…if we all learn to live with it; we’ll get it over with that much sooner.