CD Review: Jim O'Rourke

The Visitor (Drag City)

Jim O'Rourke has spent most of the past decade adding cuddlier credits to his résumé. For a guitarist and composer who once traded entirely in the avant-garde world, there's way more accessibility in being a full-time member of Sonic Youth, producing Beth Orton and Stereolab, and collaborating with Jeff Tweedy. Since withdrawing from SY in 2005, O'Rourke has mostly delved back into his obscurantist side, releasing recordings from his new base in Tokyo that only his dedicated cult were aware of. O'Rourke's first release of newly recorded music for indie-rock fans since 2001's Insignificance might seem like a return to the cuddly.

This is only partially true, since it isn't quite as poppy as Insignificance or 1999's Eureka. Think of the one-track The Visitor as the proper follow-up to 1997's Bad Timing, echoing that record's approach in every way. Both pieces find the middle ground between O'Rourke's avant-garde side and his pop work, toning down the electronics in favor of a warm, easy approach that ebbs and flows throughout several movements. O'Rourke seamlessly blends a multitude of instruments around an acoustic guitar and piano base, allowing plenty of room for several interesting hooks. The Visitor is considerably less demanding than O'Rourke's drone-fest recordings, although the incorporation of jazzy time signatures and squalls of organized noise can be challenging. But its warmth wins out over cold experimentalism, revealing The Visitor to be far more man than machine. — Drabick

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