JIM O’ROURKE – The Visitor

A notorious omnivorous listener, Jim O’Rourke makes us ponder at some logically riveting compositional ideas, his instantly identifiable individuality blooming from genuine (or just suspected) musical influences. Technical facility is also an essential issue in The Visitor, an album in which he handles all instruments, thus confirming the remarkable eclecticism that made him famous. The advice we’re given is “play on loudspeakers, loud”, and one immediately comprehends that this is the condition in which the principal’s most stirring harmonic wisdom can shine. The music, comprised by a single 38 minute track, is in fact improved by superior orchestral hues and unobtrusive finesse that only skilled ears will discern, such as the protracted hovering of unusually suggestive pregnant frequencies after a particular chord or superimposition. Details like these, beyond the sheer quality of the composition, are the features that alone render the CD worthy of repeated examination.

The protagonist’s acoustic guitar often appears as the nub around which lots of incidences revolve, yet it’s tremendously fascinating to hear how the Chicagoan develops atypical resonances through the adjacent layering of different instrumental complexions and pigmentations, managing to let them sound as a natural occurrence. O’Rourke’s itineraries denote a world of reflective observation, at times underscored by the secluded melancholy of a piano or by the all-American echoes of steel guitars and banjos. A magnificent interlude about 17 minutes in flows directly into a Reichian embroidery replete with interlocking patterns and arpeggios, an enticing illustration of the man’s command of a huge amount of idioms. The sense of solitude expressed by certain openings is plain touching: the mournful tranquillity of the passage starting at circa 28’ is striking, an underlying concoction of strummed strings and soft-spoken contrasts that, born in slight discordance, might lead a sensitive addressee to a state of lucid bliss.

A few Bacharach reminiscences here, a couple of Steve Tibbetts-meet-Pink Floyd bucolic gradations there; O’Rourke is always willing to show a way in, even to those who tend to associate rather than acknowledging uniqueness. These tokens are glimpses from an achingly irretrievable past, not second-hand postcards. They do not detract from, but instead enrich a record that improves its magnitude with each spin, quiet nature and total unpretentiousness winning upon a stonehearted pessimism.

Call it an unforthcoming classic.

Drag City

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