One of Jim O’Rourke’s earlier albums I got genuinely acquainted with was 1993’s Remove The Need. At that time it caused an unequivocal response inside yours truly, which has been reoccurring whenever the Chicagoan elected to present us with consistent portions of acousmatic deftness. I became a believer then, and have stayed loyal to the man’s vision to date. No regrets whatsoever – and we’re still learning.
“Removing the need” is exactly what the music of this quadruple CD does, where “need” can be translated in different ways. Genre classification; harmonic definition; understanding of the acoustic sources; identification of the composer’s goal. It is sufficient to spend quality hours with these sounds to negate, in an apparent contradiction, the very concept of time elapsing. In other words, you will forget about issues connected to temporal subdivision, or the necessity of “planning”. Sudden realizations inform ephemeral instants of internal peacefulness, then disappear after leaving a trademark “anxiety of awareness”. We distinctly feel the intuition and its ensuing consequences, yet remain entirely conscious of the impossibility of communicating that fleeting experience to someone else. Especially if that someone has been trained to swallow predigested truths.
All of the above, as O’Rourke knows too well, is only achievable through the layering of sonic grains of varying origin over extended working periods. The palette may comprise modular synthesis, field recordings, processed instruments plus whatever else you could pretend to recognize. The composer, rather obviously, doesn’t specify: at this level of profundity, the whats and the whys are not important. The resulting matter is mostly fluid, silently permeating the environment, altering a somewhat unstable balance via metamorphic waveshapes, occasional bursts of interference reminding us that we’re still having to pay our dues to a physical condition. Notwithstanding the constant mutability, a protective cocoon of suggestive frequencies is slowly woven; the wholeness can even integrate with a tranquil outside reality if one, like the chief alchemist, shares the brain-cleansing luck of living in a rural area.
While reading an interview to O’Rourke by Marc Masters, I was sincerely moved by this passage: “I don’t want it to be about me. There’s this work that I did; if you’re interested, it’s there. That’s the level I want it at. I just want to put the stuff up, and it’ll exist there for as long as I’m alive, and then it’ll disappear, and that’s it. (…) Actually, the easiest way would be if somehow I could send the music to people directly. But I don’t necessarily know who they are”. A close resemblance to Phill Niblock’s “it is what it is” philosophy, seeking for a purity of expression that no dose of ego can contaminate. The desire of getting in touch with akin souls while depriving oneself of – again – the “need”.
In the limited world of charlatans, nonsensical wisdom ultimately dies. In the acceptance of infinity as the lone certainty, the actual transition between diverse states of consciousness involves a being’s capability of vibrational transmission, in conjunction with a receiver’s rational incorporation of the message. Look around, choose your own ground. And, be thankful.