Will Oldham

Western Music

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Keeping up to date with Will Oldham's complete output can be an arduous task -- he has always exploited the shorter formats of the 7" and EP, producing a healthy amount of material in between his full-length releases. However, seeking out the 7" and EP formats can be rewarding, as the material often matches -- and occasionally surpasses -- the quality of his albums. The genesis of Western Music (released by the combined forces of two obscure labels for The Affliction Series) is typical, coming from a variety of sessions. Two tracks are solo Oldham, while Mick Turner and Jim White of the Dirty Three and former Gastr del Sol member David Grubbs play anonymous roles elsewhere. On nearly every song, Oldham approaches the level of his best work although, ultimately, each has its shortcomings. "Always Bathing in the Evening" relishes in its simple language. "Wade in/Wade in," he sings, as voices in the distance chime in with "Blowing/Jump in/Waiting/Jump in." While there is little lyrical matter to speak of, it sounds fantastic. Western Music's most complete song is "Jump In Jump In, Come In Come In," though even this, with its plodding tempo, feels more like a rehearsal on disc. Inspiration only seems to strike with the final verse. Only on "Three Photographs" (an oddity in a career full of them) does Oldham manage to throw us yet another curve. It's an intriguing, fragmentary story told through pictures. Over the most rudimentary, lo-fi guitar strum, Oldham's voice is sped up slightly, producing a humorous, Paul Simon effect. Western Music came during a particularly prolific time for Oldham, though Joya, his full-length album from the period, is more consistent.

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