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coverpic flag US - Illinois - Full Moon 162 - 12/02/09

Jim O'Rourke
The Visitor
Drag City

It's been some years since Jim O'Rourke released a 'normal' album. Over the last years there have been several archival releases from the 'drone vaults'. O'Rourke has been in on the experimental and improv scene for years, and has an amazing CV. Besides his own massive catalogue (plus the Gastr del Sol period), he has collaborated with (includes played with, performed with, produced/mixed for): Wilco, Stereolab, Saint Etienne, John Fahey, Smog, Faust, Tony Conrad, The Red Krayola, Bobby Conn, Beth Orton, Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth, Mats Gustafsson, Mayo Thompson, Merzbow, Nurse With Wound, Fennesz, Henry Kaiser, Joanna Newsom, and many, many more.

I was excited to hear this new one, The Visitor, even though I knew it was holding a 38-minute long (as one track on the CD, but of course split in two for the vinyl) instrumental opus entitled "The Visitor". Not as normal as could be, then. Well... not that O'Rourke ever has been somewhere near the mainstream either, then. Anyway, I was excited to see if this could be something sounding like his fascinating 'Roeg trilogy' (three albums named after films by Nicolas Roeg); Bad Timing (Drag City 1997), Eureka (Drag City 1999), and Insignificance (Drag City 2001). Both yes and no.

The Visitor, or "The Visitor", sees Jim O'Rourke return to the warm sounding chamber-pop moods of his instrumental music, even though I must admit I really like the songs - also those with vocals - on Eureka and Insignificance). The Visitor is more a return to Bad Timing, as it is entirely instrumental, and also has got a (smashed) mirror-ball on the front cover. O'Rourke plays all instruments on the record - guitar, keys, banjo, drums, plus-plus. The Visitor is recorded in Japan, where he's been living lately. The piece is quite lounge-music like, as well as being rather cinematic. The good thing is the aforementioned overall warmth throughout the composition and the performance. "The Visitor" is really comfortable company. It's a friendly visit, one might say, and its fine proof of O'Rourke's skills both as a composer and arranger, and a musician and multi-instrumentalist.

The Visitor is fine and elegant, yes, but it still isn't up there with O'Rourke's more conventional albums. It's good, but I think I prefer some of his "pop albums" after all. With songs clocking in at less than 38+ minutes. Yes, alright, he's a contemporary modernist composer, but some cool rock of the innovative/alternative kind could've been thrown in as well.

The Visitor is dedicated to Derek Bailey (an English avant-garde/free improv guitarist), one of his influences, along with (among others) John Fahey.

Copyright © 2009 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Jim O'Rourke articles/reviews: I'm Happy, and I'm Singing, and a 1, 2, 3, 4, Insignificance, Simple Songs.

© 2011 Luna Kafé