Bonnie "Prince" Billy / Bryce Dessner

When We Are Inhuman

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When We Are Inhuman is a dense but not complicated collaboration between Bonnie "Prince" Billy, the National's Bryce Dessner, and the contemporary classical outfit Eighth Blackbird. Split between old Will Oldham songs and murder ballads drawn from Dessner's ongoing excavation project, When We Are Inhuman has the bones of folk tunes but an urbane presentation. It's prickly and provocative, even when the melodies are gently lulling. This tension between the past and present lends the album some life, and even if the record drifts toward the cerebral, culminating in a 16-minute excursion through Julius Eastman's "Stay on It," the lasting impression is one of warmth, not cold. The musicians find a common ground within the eerie mysteries of old folk tunes and turn those strange sounds into something reassuring, if not quite comforting.

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