September 13, 2006

Something Big

A few days ago I was handed a CD containing hours of music by the illustrious Jim O'Rourke. My only previous experience with O'Rourke's music were the magnificent Eureka and Insignificance albums, both of which are more grounded in pop-music than much of his previous work. I also knew him as a member of "supergroup" Loose Fur, a collaborator with Sonic Youth, and the man behind the production of the last two Wilco albums. His pre-Eurkea work is as varied and interesting as one would think. He has dabbled in noise on more than one occasion, but has also crafted some shockingly beautiful instrumental tracks that showed signs of the pop-genius he later demonstrated.

My favorite of this material so far is the brilliant Bad Timing. It combines O'Rourke's love of subtle noise and acoustic instrumentals into a satisfying 4-song opus. The gentle guitar picking of "There's Hell in Hello But More" descends into a layered drone. "94 the Long Way" takes a simple progression and builds upon it by adding more an more instrumentation, before slowly simplifying itself once again for a resounding resolution. Title track "Bad Timing" is another acoustic guitar riff, slowly embellished with dissonant strings and computer generated effects. Closer "Happy Trails" begins with a harsh drone which slowly fades into the requisite guitar that then augments itself into a New Orleans-style romp replete with a horns section. The entire album is reminiscent of the pop sound he would later bring to the forefront with Eureka and Insignificance, but it still retains many of the more experimental elements, such as noise and modulation, which characterized his earlier work. This album was without a doubt the most impressive of the selection of O'Rourke's earlier work that I received.

When O'Rourke left Sonic Youth last year, in order to devote more times to his films, it was inferred that he would not be doing to much in the way of music for quite some time. Aside from a few small releases of older work within the past year or so, this has proved itself to be the case. It's disappointing that a person of such talent seems content to go on an indefinite hiatus, leaving relatively new converts such as myself sifting through his older solo work and collaborations with the avant-garde to satisfy my cravings. However when you're in the middle of a great song like "94 the Long Way", it seems to make the wait a little more bearable. Take your time Jim, we'll still be here waiting.

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