Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jim O'Rourke The Visitor 2009

Jim O'Rourke's The Visitor makes for a rather difficult assignment, but here goes anyway. I'm not even sure quite how to describe this music to you. The entire record is one piece of music, and it's all instrumental. O'Rourke plays most of it himself, and some reports have said that he assembled the music from snippets of things lying around. That may be true, but what comes out is very much a cohesive work.

O'Rourke has been around for quite a while. He has credits on over 100 releases between his many roles. He has made numerous solo recordings, he's produced and recorded others, including a Grammy for producing Wilco's A Ghost Is Born. He was a member of Sonic Youth for several years. He made two records with Jeff Tweedy and Glen Kotchke in a group called Loose Fur. He's made ambient music, noise rock, and oddball pop.

This new one is between ambient music and oddball pop. There are almost jazz-like elements, there are almost classical structural elements. Almost. There are fairly long spells of gently strummed and picked guitars and delicate keyboards, followed by sprightly orchestrated pop passages. Themes fade out to be replaced by new ideas. It is mostly melodic, with only a few dissonant moments. It really plays out like a modern pop symphony. I know that's going out there a bit, and I'm not saying it's Mozart. But it certainly has at least as much depth as some of John Rutter's twentieth century classical music.

If you've got 38 minutes to devote to one piece of music, this is probably like nothing you've ever heard. I don't know if it's "good", or "great", but I liked it, and it certainly is an enjoyable kind of different.

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