Jim O’Rourke – ‘The Visitor’

September 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Big Issue #338, September 2009.

The Visitor
Jim O’Rourke
(Spunk/EMI)
****

In a career that has spanned two decades and countless musical guises, Jim O’Rourke has proven nothing if not unconventional. The Chicago experimental musician, post-classical composer and once member of Sonic Youth has graced collaborations and film soundtracks too various to mention.

Even by O’Rourke’s own standards, The Visitor is a departure. Indeed, the now Tokyo’s resident’s first solo album in eight years takes the unlikely form of a solitary, 38-minute instrumental track. But O’Rourke revels in the curious format. Perhaps what makes this oeuvre so charming is its unassuming contours.

O’Rourke eases into his stride with a languid, alt-country guitar motif, growing with subtle peals of keys, woodwind and the eventual jangle of a banjo, before diffusing into an angular shudder of Chicago jazz. For every complication – every nuance and minutiae – there is a shimmering, often evocative resolution. Unlike so much experimental material, O’Rourke’s attentiveness to the emotive qualities of melody is what really drives this work.

One might read The Visitor as a reference to O’Rourke’s own status in Tokyo – the work’s meandering pace and divergent scattering of moods, scenes and vistas mirroring the city’s own web of beautiful contradictions.

Dan Rule

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