Although for a newcomer to Oldham I would recommend first 'Days In The Wake' (AKA 'Palace Brothers') or 'Viva Last Blues', this was actually the first Will Oldham record I got, bought blind back in 1996 after reading a review in the now-defunct 'Select' magazine. On a first listening, the record is extraordinarily tough and stark - initially, my 16 year old brain was bemused as to why it sounded so cheap, and why wrong notes were apparently being hit on purpose. However, I was drawn back again and again. A constant for many years, I built up my Oldham collection slowly, and this record remains hands down one of his finest lyrical works. The cumulative effect of the lyrical themes is extraordinary, and more than enough to send a deep mortal shiver straight through you. Albini's production is awesome. Any Oldham album is worth buying, though this is one of his finest. A king at work.
This is Oldham's starkest and bleakest record. It is also one of his best. However, listening to it for months without respite is probably not good for your state of mind. By respite I do not mean putting on the same artist's Joya album. Trust me, I've been there and as a massive Oldham fan I realise that sometimes its best to leave him alone for a while and listen to some pop.
It works best as an album rather than as a collection of songs - they all have a simular sound and range from the jaunty ('No Gold Digger', 'Weaker Soldier') to at-the-bottom-of-the-misery-well (most of the rest). The concluding run of three tracks is amazing and sublime.
Arise therefore reveals Will Oldham's music in its most minimal guise. Yet the album's musical economy also increases its focus. Oldham's songs here are eliptical, obscure and evasive, refusing to be trapped in any specific meaning. They are accompanied by a sparse combination of drum machine, keyboard and guitar; creating a powerful atmosphere for the songs to flourish within.
Steve Albini's production surprises with its sensitivity to the smallest nuances of melody, and Oldham's unique voice has never been captured better than on this record. Above all, this record rewards repeated listening. Some of Oldham's finest songs are to be found here, for example the sublime 'Kid of Harith' and the closing 'Weaker Soldier'. Highly recommended.