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Published: 2010/01/25
by Jesse Jarnow

Bonny Billy and the Picket Line, Grasshopper / Twisty Cat, Oneida
Pleasant Obsolescence

Funtown Comedown – Bonny Billy and the Picket Line (Sea Note)

For casual fans of Will Bonnie “Prince” Rogers Nelson “Tracy” Oldham, it’s sometimes a crapshoot. The Kentucky songwriter’s prolific output is luminously and singularly overwhelming — and almost all of it is very, very good. But it can sometimes blur into a string of hushed, strummed tension. Perhaps, then, given its obscurity, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Funtown Comedown, an LP-only live release credited to Bonny Billy and the Picket Line, is maybe Oldham’s first essential release since 2006’s The Letting Go. Beautiful harmonies and solid, exuberant bluegrass picking give Oldham’s music an exuberant strength that, for once, makes Oldham’s music something that it’s possible to put one’s finger on: sweet and lovely.

*****

Grasshopper / Twisty Cat split cassette (Abandon Ship)

A pair of stunning New York underground horn noise duos, the trumpet-based Grasshopper and the bari sax/bass clarinet explorers Twisty Cat, here split a cassette for Abandon Ship. Both melt their source sounds into a chirping, droning tone worlds. Grasshopper’s dark, patient builds amid a wall of electronic processing, recall a more successful version of the sometimes frustrating pairing of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno in the late ’70s. Relying more on their instruments’ traditional sounds, Twisty Cat, at least in this incarnation (how many lives again?) are simultaneously more celestial and orchestral, especially with the addition of trap drummer Greg Fox, which brings Ed Bear and Lea Bertucci’s earthy woodwinds into more straightforward—though still resolutely magical—territory.

*****

Fine European Food & Wine – Oneida (Scotch Tapes)

An archival cassette release recorded in Italy in 2003, and limited to 100 copies, Oneida are in full out jam mode on Fine European Food & Wine. Sound quality is a bit janky, like it may’ve been dubbed at high speed on a deck with a squeaky record head, but the playing is great, the band—can’t tell which lineup? possibly their original quartet?—locked impeccably atop Kid Millions’ kraut-pockets, spread into an even texture, the way Elvin Jones’ cymbal washes once made waves for free jazz sax brahs to surf. And surf they do here, at least with synth walls and maybe a guitar. It’s hard to say, and really not that necessary to.

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