Jim O' Rourke has a new album, his first in 8 eight years. It's a single near 40 minute piece, like a sort of folk suite, or just a multi-movement work with many reoccurring themes (I have a problem with pop's use of the term 'symphony', which really refers to the use of the orchestra as an instrument). O' Rourke is an ex member of Sonic Youth, and an old stalwart of the experimental, free jazz and improv scene in Chicago (certainly the most vibrant place in the country for that music for the past decade). But he's also just as well known as a producer and mixer, having mixed Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Joanna Newsom's Ys, and produced Wilco's Ghost Is Born and countless other records. This is an absolutely gorgeous record. The mixing is flawless: it's clean as a whistle, and don't expect to be able to listen at a low volume or vast portions of it will go unnoticed. One would miss not only the detail and thoughtfulness of the orchestration, which is stunning (check out the haunting horn section around 9:30 minutes, just to start), but also simply because O' Rourke hasn't compressed the shit out of everything. so like a classical record, there are sections that are very quiet and section that are quite loud. In form, The Visitor harkens back to a lot of John Fahey's folk classicism. But it dips into so many other styles and textures, and generally plays around so much, that it escapes the religious stoicism of some of Fahey's long form works. Currently my favorite section of the piece begins around 18:30, where out of nowhere a rolling, almost martial beat, a flourish of banjos, and a brass choir tear the roof off the barn, so to speak. Two minutes later, the arrangement has morphed into something so utterly nostalgic and prescient, it's hard to remember just how you got here, through all this twisting and turning, onto a plateaux of some kind, adrift. It's really a three movement work, with the first movement running through a gamut of themes and textures, trying them on for size, the second movement, which moves much more directly, beginning at 18:30 and running through a gradual wilting meltdown before eliding with the third mvt. at the the finger picking figure which picks up at about 30:00. The third mvt gains momentum, building into most exuberant portion of the whole piece before whispering off with a long piano postlude. For those of you with problems with something as overtly beautiful as this record, please drop your b.s. angsty posturing and curl up in bed, or laze in your backyard and listen to this full through, and then tell me it didn't soften you, just a little, in the hardest and most formidable of places.

Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor (link removed at the request of Drag City)

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