Rian Murphy & Will Oldham’s “All Most Heaven” E.P.

A little taste of Pre-Yankee Chicago.

August 28th marks the 10 year anniversary of one of Drag City Record’s most peculiar and beautiful E.P.’s. Featuring 4 original songs by label owner, Rian Murphy, and mastermind songwriter, Will Oldham, along with many prominent Chicago musicians. {Archer Prewitt, Bill Callahan, Kelly Hogan, Edith Frost, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jim O’ Rourke, even Albini assists— and many more.}

by Dave DeCastris |  August 2010



With regards to the E.P. format and artists who still release them, they tend to come and go, a transistion piece for many bands and artists.  Rarely do they leave a listener in awe as All Most Heaven did 10 years ago and now.  Produced by Drag City label owner, Rian Murphy, with many from the Chicago indie underground helping out, this e.p, turns 10 years old this month. Aging, memories and survival has become marked by my favorite recordings;  this being one.

Four classically arranged pop songs, burst with color and group sing alongs to bizarro childish lyrics.  Some of the words being sung aren’t even words.  I am the bmal bahl and da da d hail the ga make random appearances in the opening sing-along song, Fall Again.  Bill Callahan or Jim O’Rourke’s identifiable vocals (or are they Rian’s?) opens the record to be met by Will’s, who carries the rest of the E.P.  I’ve never figured this out about the E.P., who really is doing what? I don’t want to.  The joy in listening to this E.P. repeatedly is trying to identify the Chicago area musicians on it.   The joy is felt in every one of their performances.  Rarely does an E.P. with many collaborators sound so joyful and well-rehearsed. By the end of Fall Again, you’ll be singing along like a child, giddy, or a pirate, drunk.

Rarely does nonsense feel this religious, rejoiceful and absurd.  Is this listening experience kinda like falling in love with a crazy person?  Or  maybe to some it’s like believing in a random idea put forth by one of the many crazy religious organizations out there involving their money making myths about the Lord, God, Creation? Sure and sure.



I’ve never figured out the lyrics to any of the songs on this E.P., I don’t want to.  The way they sit, sung so passionately by Oldham on top of classical pop arrangements and major melodies are mesmerizing.  Chords and vocals are performed so smooth for anyone’s ears.  Your elders can cook afternoon soup to this and hum like many do to Andrea Bocelli records on Saturday and Sunday late afternoons. Rian Murphy, Archer Prewitt, Jim O’ Rourke and God knows who else must have been a joy to watch in the studio.  This is one of the finest collaborations ever caught on tape.  For years I’ve had this theory that Stephen Malkmus of Pavement makes an unlisted, vocal guest appearance behind Oldham during the 2:30 mark on track 2.  I doubt it but this is the myth I’ve created for myself listening to this E.P. for 10 years.  Take a listen and then create your own.  That is what it means to love music.

Track 2, Fall and Raise It On, contains these random lines;  sell me a peach o’ the ba ho… ate for the sake of all… waig an as’ a tode…  Phonetically absurd, Oldham taps into what I’ve always assumed is a sailor’s heartbreak on tracks 2 & 3, companion pieces based on subtle references to boating or being a sailor?  Maybe just being drunk in love?  Strings, horns and backup singers weave ooos and ahhhs below and above the ocean’s moans.  Song of Most recalls John Cale’s, Paris 1919.  Bouncing strings and congos rise to pass through a pointless chorus eventually joining subtle back up singers giving way to an amazing line that goes;  ah ee stood ape-hole.  The song continues to rise, the strings magnificent, the background ‘ahhs’ louder, washboard and timpani join in.

Just when you’re accepting this E.P. may contain the most beautiful 3 songs you’ve ever heard that mean nothing and feel everything, the last cut takes shape, Song Of All.  It’s a slow reward for a closer requiring about 1:50 till the rest of the gang joins in briefly for what remains of this 4 song masterpiece.  It ends and you want to repeat track 1, Fall Again.

Featuring 2 of indie rock’s most prominent influences in Chicago area label owner, Rian Murphy (Drag City), and a critically acclaimed songwriter, Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billie/Palace Brothers), nothing defines the beutiful strange midwestern/Chicago music scene pre-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot so well as this does.  This E.P. is a reminder that there was beautiful, colorful, sounds bursting from the Chicago underground before Wilco exposed some of it’s seeds to the world.  10 years have passed, hipsters & developers moved in to take over the neighborhoods and some of these brilliant musicians moved west, east and out.   Some of you just missed it, this E.P.’s a reminder as to how great the ’90s Chicago underground indie scene was.

All Most Heaven is a little fertile musical reminder of a Pre-Yankee Chicago.

dD |  sMs

Rian Murphy & Will Oldham's "All Most Heaven" E.P.Andy Whorehall

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