JIM O’ROURKE – Long Night

One of the most unfathomable works by Jim O’Rourke, Long Night was conceived in 1990, the bright young man nearing a degree in composition at Chicago’s DePaul University. Like other opuses of his early career, it has remained desolately weeping in the archives until Streamline’s chief Christoph Heemann decided to render the life of considerate beings a little better, for two hours and a half at least.

The dilemma, now. I intimately know – ever since the very first listen – that this is a superb effort, deserving to be mentioned on a par with determinate chapters in the curriculum of Eliane Radigue, Charlemagne Palestine and, in a fractional way, David Behrman (to which the score is dedicated, yet the slightest hint to this composer’s oeuvre can only be sensed in the final section of disc one, where the electronic waves start travelling around quite a bit following over a hour of steadily shifting motionlessness). What worries is my utter failure in explaining why the music is that good, four consecutive listens already in the bag. After all, this ought to be a “traditional” drone piece – the inner resonance, the superimposition of harmonics, the illusion of events that aren’t actually happening, and so forth. I mean, we might try to use the stuff as environmental incidence – and get slapped in the face by our silliness. There’s something in here that comes right out of the speakers: “No, son. You must pay attention. You can’t read a magazine while this is going on”.

Consequently, the concentration does get put in but the sounds elude your ability of categorization. They budge, morph, change gradations, communicating movement yet remaining stationary. On top of everything, they work subliminally, and not in a New Age sense of “relax”: these substances crawl into the nerves and under the skin, benign worms causing valuable inspiration. Let’s not even deepen the breakdown of that extraordinary fragment where at one point – a good chunk of part two already elapsed – an overlapping accumulation of non-existent string and keyboard instruments seemingly materializes in Riley-esque ecstasy, genuinely inciting to watch the firmament and lose ourselves in bewilderment once and for all, pushing the whole towards the purest kind of minimalist energy. No chance of actually defining what the hell is happening, though. Oscillators could be used as a mechanism for interior development, I’m left thinking, although many derelict scientists of the psyche believe that the human machine has a preference for Mozart and the likes. Not anybody’s fault of course: we’re not going to stop, go back and deal with those who are impeded by their own limits. It’s just not possible anymore. Evolution claims its victims, and Jim O. was there aged 21, if you get my point.

If some reader feels that this “magna cum laude” judgment is vaguely unbalanced, they’ll have to bear in mind that this writer is a junkie for albums such as Remove The Need, Tamper and Disengage – episodes to which this CD should be paralleled, together with Mizu No Nai Umi. In essence, material fairly hated by its composer, at least according to what was declared in past interviews. Not a problem for me: a private inside niche has already been found for Long Night, which still refuses dwelling on it. But I’m repeatedly taking pleasure in its unapologetic majestic sluggishness. Every minute of it enriches the blessed listener.

Streamline (distributed by Drag City)

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