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4.4 out of 5 stars22
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 10 April 2009
I came late to Will Oldham, but 'I See A Darkness' is a near perfect collection of acoustic singer-songwriting. It starts with the gentle nod of 'A Minor Place' which recalls the Decemberists' literacy and Neutral Milk Hotel's pronounced sense of atmosphere and place. This opening is relatively upbeat. From then on in, his gentle, forlorn tales of love, and more commonly loss, make contemporaries Iron & Wine sound playful, newcomer Bon Iver sociable.

There is an awkwardness to the spotlight, but one that is compensated for in the virtually unparalleled beauty of Oldham's craft. This is a condensing of Neil Young and Nick Drake. 'Today I Was An Evil One' allows the country influences to shine, 'Knockturne' and album closer 'Raining In Darling' are piano-led ballads to rival those of Nick Cave. But it is the title track that steals the show, an unplugged prophecy of doom of breath-taking and tear-jerking beauty equivalent to, if not surpassing, Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah'.

As close to perfection as is possible for the genre.
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on 29 February 2012
Johnny Cash himself declared this album thoroughly depressing. If you don't take Cash's word for it, take mine: this album will drive you insane; but in a good way.
You see, these songs are not your average, run-of-the-mill sad songs about break-ups and hardships. This album is the last thing you hear before the Apocalypse. The minute you find out about those giant meteorites heading towards Earth, you decide to visit your favorite watering hole and engage in the kind of introspective soul-searching that ultimately leads to mental breakdown. That's "I See A Darkness" in a nutshell.

The first track, "A Minor Place", might seem uplifting and comforting, but that's just the denial. It all goes downhill from there. You can see it in the song titles: "I See a Darkness", "Another Day Full of Dread", "Death To Everyone", "Today I Was An Evil One"...I'd say Will Oldham has some high-level inner demons.

All in all, it's a classic album for dark days. What's not to like?
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I bought this album because I had heard (and loved) Johnny Cash's version of the title track. Up until listening to this I had hardly ever heard of Bonny Prince Billy, now I am an avid fan and determined to listen to his entire back catalogue.

I can't help but review this via comparison to the Cash cover of `I See a Darkness'. I loved the song for its intense imagery and the intense, forceful and powerful delivery from Cash. The original is delivered by Prince Billy in a much more understated fashion, with a sparse backing. But it has an amazing amount of power for all that, far more so than the more bombastic Cash cover (which I still love). In keeping it simple and being understated the power of the words really comes through. It's beautiful.

From the opening bars of A Minor place through to the closing hi-hat shuffle of Raining in Darling, this is an album of beauty, with Prince Billy leading us through his dark, tortured world with a note of hope and resilience. It's a series of gentle Americana style songs, all with his understated delivery and production that allows us to immerse in his lyrics and imagery.

A perfect album. 5 stars.
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on 21 June 2013
What a beautiful, somehow weird, collection of songs this is! I won't talk about the obvious depth of the lyrics or individual songs: it's all about Bonnie Prince Billy, his cracked voice and his musical poetry. Either the listener vibrates at the same frequency (and it's love), or he doesn't (and the songs, I assume, remain unbearable). In my case it was not a "coup de foudre", but I felt that there was something more and insisted with repeated listenings. Got my reward.
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on 16 November 2000
If you do not own this, buy it now. Not half as dark as the title suggests, this record is a joyous and life affirming one. It show Will Oldham, usually purveyour of quite 'difficult' lo-fi pieces, made with the cream of the post-rock scene, abandon his routes and go (almost) full on pop. Much as he did with his 1995 album, 'Viva Last Blues'. All Oldham projects are essential, especially to the type of obsessive fans he tends to attract (see: Edith Frost, who left a reasonable internet based job, to make music, solely inspired by the early Palace projects). This is without doubt the album to begin with. If you have stumbled on this page accidentaly, buy this album, it will change your life. And if you are purposefully looking for this recording - why do you not own it already. Not MY favourite Oldham album, but it will soon be yours :)
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on 2 March 2007
Where does the newcomer begin with the multi-faceted and multi-named world of Will Oldham? I decided to take the plunge with `I See A Darkness' and I was mighty glad that I did.

This is a tremendous CD from start to finish. The organ-driven opener,`A Minor Place', is one of those glorious tracks that you love on first listen but you never tire of with repeated hearings. Although the rest of the CD takes a little longer to get into, the quality does not dip throughout. The musical style is firmly alt-country, mostly keyboards and acoustic guitars, with a touch of electric here and there, most notably on `Song For the New Breed' where David Pajo takes the lead.

Oldham's voice is hardly strong in the conventional sense, but his slightly broken, quavering tones lend a real sense of emotional depth to his darkly skewed lyrical vision.

But the greatest thing about `I See A Darkness' is the melodic strength of the songs which is superb throughout. The songs get into your brain and don't let go. Make this CD part of your life, but be warned, you may find yourself singing some choice lines out loud at inappropriate moments: `The scars of last year's storm/rest like maggots on my arm' might not be appreciated in the office!
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 8 February 2002
I can't believe there aren't more reviews for this album! My initial experience of Will oldham was one of bemusement- songs like 'Come a Little Dog', 'Kid of Harith' & 'Apocalypse, No!' seemed a little too wayward for me to devote to. (Though I'd unknowingly seen Oldham in John Sayles excellent 'Matewan' years before)...Then I heard the excellent 'Blue Lotus Feet' e.p., which kickstarted the Bonnie Prince Billy moniker- the brief devotional songs and the mindblowing 'One with the Birds', coupled with Uncut's review got me to buy this album. As these were the days prior to cd burners, both housemates of mine heard it and went out and got a copy. We all seemed to listen to it at night- and recently- after a break from it, I rediscovered it. And its got a whole lot better. I believe it is as classic an album as possible- next to recent contenders like '69 Love Songs' and 'Nixon'.
'A Minor Place' is the opening lull, contrasting with the imagery "the scars of last year's storm rest like maggots on my arm". The bridge, with its church-sounding organ is as fine as anything I've ever heard...'Nomadic Revery (all around)' is next- a song which seems to build to a 'Sympathy for the Devil' style series of whooping backing vocals. 'I see a darkness' is next, this has recently been covered by Johnny Cash- a minimal blend of guitar and piano- which is abated by 'Another Day Full of Dread'. This cheery titled song has a call/response vocal and a childhood quality. One of the highlights, 'Death to Everyone' is next. The chorus "Death to everyone is gonna come/and it makes hosing much more fun" reminds me of Kinky Friedman's use of the term 'hosing' or the classic Foetus song 'Clothes Hoist' (whose lyrics are: "I like the way you fill out your clothes/I'm gonna stick my head under your hose"!)...'Knockturne' is fragile Roky Erikson/Syd Barrett territory- close to songs like 'Blue Lotus Feet'. As a Satie style piano continues, the final verse transcends the song and subtle string-sounds appear in the background...'Madeline-Mary' is next, a fractured sea-shanty, not far from the world of Nick Cave- or The Birthday Party's 'Jennifer's Veil'...'Song for the New Breed' has words written by Dianne Bellino for the sreenplay, 'The New Breed'. This is closer to the earlier sound of Palace...'Today I was an Evil One' is another highlight- a divine piano led number that builds to a fine hoedown in hell of a chorus...'Black' is a Beckettian romp through the hell of the despairing mind (with funeral coloured irony). Oldham transcends this darkness with the final song, the minimal 'Raining in Darling'. The song begins like a devotional number, a stark 'Motherless Child', to a transcendent uplift where BPB sings: "O it don't rain anymore/I go outdoors/where it's fun to be". It has the same effect as listening to the whole of 'Happy Sad' or 'Astral Weeks'. The final words are, tellingly, not written on the excellent liner!...As far as I'm concerned, 'I See A Darkness' is one of the finest albums ever released- I still love it, more dearly with each listen, even after close to three years. And it make's hosing much more fun!
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on 3 December 2008
The comparison to early Neil Young is relevant, with the songs underpinned by a full-toned piano and vibrant strings. Will even sings in the same key in places but introduces a fracture and vagueness in his voice that give the words a sense of being random thoughts - as a man walks through this world listing the events of his life, putting them in some sort of order. In the title track we hear about a man with a drive for life, "a love for everyone I know" who openly talks to his best friend about suffering from depression. Miserable? No! I found this record life-affirming. There is hope and Will Oldham sings in way that suggests what goes through his mind comes out of his mouth. A real cut above the herd this one.
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on 25 November 2015
Bit of a mix, some average tracks and some fantastic tracks, the song writing is fantastic, and reaches deep inside of you.
Some real nice stripped back songs, which is very enjoyable.
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on 25 March 2013
I consider this to be a fantastic piece of work, beautifully recorded and played. One of Will Oldham's most accomplished works, In my opinion.
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