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The Visitor

Artist: Jim O'Rourke
Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor CD
Label: Drag City
Regular Price: $13.95
On Sale For: $5.58 
Year: 2009
Format: CD


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The cat's back in the bag again -- try not to throw it in the river this time! This one is special: Jim O'Rourke has delivered his first new solo album since 2001. Working relentlessly since he burst onto the scene in 1989, Jim has played, recorded and mixed a couple hundred records -- but only a dozen of them have been Jim O'Rourke-endorsed products that bear the name that gives his promise of quality. That relative handful of albums has established a brand that's been burned deep into Jim's flanks. Is it any wonder that he fled the western hemisphere; never leaves his Tokyo apartment and isn't seen in public anymore without a strong drink in his hand? So anyway, it's been a long time since one of Jim O'Rourke's popular music records. The Visitor hasn't made us wait as long as Chinese Democracy but it has made us wince a lot less. Call it Jim's Japanese Democracy -- a republic of one inside the studio where it was recorded and mixed. The Visitor is a seriously all-O'Rourke affair -- all the sounds you hear are Jim and Jim alone. So this time you can't blame any of those session dudes and their bloodless line readings -- the chill you're getting is a one-hundred percent O'Rourke effect.

As a matter of fact, it might be more like two hundred percent -- some of The Visitor is tracked so deep, it took two hundred tracks to hold it all. It doesn't sound like it though -- to Jim's credit, the mix sounds very minimal, very straightforward -- not like several hundred tracks at all. Call it his invisible wall of sound -- Spector without the gun. But what Jim lacks in firearms, he makes up for in desire. Speaking of sound, all the classic O'Rourke-isms are here, for you musicologist types: percolating banjos, smooth electric leads, organic, kicking drum sounds, the flickering of shakers to the left and right, mellow but ominous woodwinds, sounds that indicate 'vintage' (before turning left and running out the door), sonic jokes, sonic tear-jerkers, sonic jerkoffs, all wrapped in spacious yet subtle left to right placement of everything in the picture. There's moments of low comedy next to high drama and juicy melancholy with a seeming lack of regard for proximity (which of course is just what Jim wants you to think, that's how jaded and perverse he is!). Plus -- sudden surging rhythms! A roil of noise or two! Constantly shifting moods! Things that aren't what they seem! The Visitor is sort of 'O'Rourke Does O'Rourke' -- Jim recontextualizing everything he's done over the years, and throwing out the bullshit. The one thing you won't hear is his voice -- perhaps another O'Rourkian self-examination? Or maybe he's just saving it for all the name-calling on his next album. At the end of the day, The Visitor doesn't overstay its welcome -- call it a cautionary tale, rest of the music world! And get ready for redefinition -- Jim O'Rourke is back.
Jim O'Rourke (all instruments)
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