Direct and affecting, the music of Bonnie "Prince" Billy is the sort of thing that cuts to the core of your being. Lacking pretension or unnecessary artifice, the tunes of this guy usually work their magic on relatively simple, though profound, terms. This is large music that sounds, as a rule, as if Bonnie "Prince" Billy is tapping into something that's existed for ages and he was only lucky enough to capture it.
That sense of directness has never been more apparent than on the upcoming Pond Scum, a collection soon to be released on Drag City. The set collects a series of Peel Sessions that highlight this artist's skill at presenting the very heart of a song at its most basic, like on the heart-stoppingly beautiful "Death to Everyone". This cut contrasts nicely with the near-jaunty "Arise, Therefore" and the dark humor of opener "(I Was Drunk At) The Pulpit".
The songs on Pond Scum all benefit from the small-group arrangements used in these sessions and, perhaps as a result of that, there's a palpable sense of spontaneity here -- it sounds as if these musicians just grabbed their instruments and sat down and played these cuts with the tape deck running.
And if Bonnie "Prince" Billy is a master at this sort of thing, he's also a master at granting new context to something familiar, for example, his cover of "The Cross" by Prince. Sublime, heartfelt, and sincere, the song shines here in a manner that Prince's arrangement obscured. Bonnie "Prince" Billy has whittled down the tune to its essence and the overall effect is a transcendent one.
I suppose one could say that most of this release is transcendent. More than a set of Peel Sessions, Pond Scum is a superb collection of the genius of Bonnie "Prince" Billy.
More details on Pond Scum by Bonnie "Prince" Billy via Drag City.