Last June, ex-Slint bassist turned entrepreneur Todd Breshear celebrated the 13th anniversary of his cult video store along the main Highlands strip, Wild and Wooly Video, with a huge blowout at Headliners. The night ended with an excitable performance from the legendary Roky Erickson. However, the highlight for me, and undoubtedly many others, was the surprise indie cult hero jamboree between Breshear, The Phantom Family Halo, and one Will Oldham (see the video below). It was that exact moment that sparked this new four-song, vinyl-only collaboration between Bonnie Prince Billy and the aforementioned amazing gritty space pioneers Phantom Family Halo, Mindeater.
And what an incredible collaboration it is. Clocking in just over 20 minutes, Mindeater explores the vibes of rustic folk and late ’60s/early ’70s twangy psychedelia, spooky glam swagger, and the desolate milieu where monolithic desert rock meets the Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The opening track “The Mindeater” features bottleneck riffing and a creepy campfire melody reminiscent of Bardo Pond and Angels of Light’s more subtle movements before the impending storm gathers overhead. Here we’re treated to Oldham at his most paranoid and eerie, complemented by delightfully demented vocal interplay from Phantom’s Dom Cipolla. The sparse organ coda is simply apocalyptic. “Roki For Now” is classic Bonnie Prince Billy arboreal folk, until Phantom summons something evil and the song swells of ambient static and a low earth hum. “I Wonder If I Care As Much” was the song we experienced last summer when the live collaboration between Oldham and Phantom debuted at Headliners. Here, Cipolla and company take the reigns, conjuring gnarly stoner rock a la Hawkwind. However, Oldham’s sweet cosmic Americana drawl transforms the primordial proto-metal call to arms into a more Byrds-evocative country-fried trip-out. That is, of course, before the extraterrestrial hoedown completely unhinges itself and Phantom Family Halo sets the controls for the heart of the sun for over five minutes. Mindeater ends with another Oldham-centric number, replete with massive, distant harmonies from Cipolla over a bed of foot-stompin’ steamboat folk and banjo meditations for the black T-shirt sect.
Of course Mindeater is a fantastic collection of music. When Oldham’s on the label, you know it’s good… kinda like Smucker’s. But Mindeater isn’t about the good Prince; it’s about Phantom Family Halo. The Family has the unfortunate circumstance of not fuckin’ around with en vogue wobbly synths and overcompressed beats, nor do they write stupid songs about the beach or nostalgia. They write vintage, freewheeling space rock psych-outs about nightmares, skulls, and similarly-themed wicked shit. As such, they’ve been ignored outside of Louisville for far too long, and it’s now their time to shine. While I always appreciate Oldham’s approach to the torch ballad, it’s the Phantom-penned moments on Mindeater that stick out and turn what would be a traditional release from the prolific Bonnie Prince Billy into a cross-genre, cross-galaxy sonic vision quest.
Mindeater is out May 17th via our good friends at Sophomore Lounge (curators of Cropped Out). Only 1,000 copies of this 10″ are available, limit two per order as a fuck you to the eBay scaliwags. Preorder it here.