Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor

We first picked up Jim O'Rourke's 2009 record The Visitor for largely ancillary reasons to the music itself. First, we admired his work with Wilco so readily, we figured there had to be something rewarding in his own output.  Second, the record is somewhat unusual in that it was never released in mp3, by O'Rourke's choice.  It was only released on CD and vinyl, and required (gasp) actual physical interaction.

The result was that two years ago, we picked up a thick slab of vinyl with a bit of excitement and a heavy dose of curiosity. However, things being what they are, the disc languished in its cellophane.  First, we didn't have a turntable hooked up.  Then we were moving and there were boxes to unpack.  Until, finally, last week we opened the record.  We've been spinning it ever since.  It's as novel as it is exceptional.  Which is to say, in both cases, extremely.

O'Rourke entreats the listener to "Please listen on speakers, loud." in the record's jacket.  And yet, this Ziggy-esque request is not (presumably) for quite the same reasons.  O'Rourke's record is not a rock album, per se, and it is certainly not glam.  Rather, one can assume that the high volume request is firmly seated in the desire of a mixologist's wish that his music be delivered in the same form he created it.  In O'Rourke's case, this means the delivery of a dynamic, lush, and modern form of chamber music.

That description may seem a bit vague, but once you hear the record, it feels startlingly accurate.  All of the instruments on the record are close miked, and this intimacy extends across the entirety. It gives the songs character and warmth akin to a jazz record. The interplay gives the impression of a group of tightly knit musicians making music in the privacy of bedrooms or dens, away from the prying eyes of the public.

The Visitor serves to solidify O'Rourke's place as a character unto himself, truly owning the word unique.  This music is neither easily defined nor categorized.  Instead it is a brand all it's own, enjoyable to listen to a hundred times over, and full of nuance and subtlety.  It is a treasure waiting to be discovered in the shelves of record shops, and a reenforcement that maybe it's time that you put down your iPod for an hour or two, and give the old turntable a spin.

mp3: You didn't read the first paragraph, did you?