JIM O'ROURKE

 

As far as renaissance men go Jim O'Rourke could handle the patronage of a very extended Medici family. As a producer his skills have brought out a mahogany toned richness in the work of Smog, Wilco and Sonic Youth to name his more mainstream clients. Simultaneously O'Rourke is also at home adding even more texture to the inner workings of Nurse with Wound, Merzbow and Whitehouse.

 

First coming to prominence in his early twenties as a member of both Illusion Of Safety and Gastr Del Sol, O'Rourke became the in demand producer / collaborator with the avant garde of an older generation: Faust, Tony Conrad, The Red Crayola. However, O'Rourke also revealed a rainbow-wide pallet ensuring a reputation for a widescreen working practice that took him outside the underground. Nowhere is his breadth of vision more in evidence than the trio of solo albums recorded in quick succession at the turn of the century and released on Domino. The Jim O'Rourke solo trilogy traces a line of heritage through Great American Music as though he were curating an O'Rourke endorsed Hall of Fame.

 

Bad Timing draws on the steel string drones of Robbie Basho and John Fahey and helped rehabilitate the career and kick-start the influence of Fahey (whose comeback Womblife O'Rourke produced). Eureka showcased O'Rourke's mellifluous voice for the first time and drew on the kick drum bagatelles of Van Dyke Parks and the orch pop of early 70s Burbank. O'Rourke followed up these two beautifully constructed essays in arrangement and detail with the raucous Insignificance: a re-working of the modal guitars of The Allman Bros and the everyman sophistry on The Doobie Bros and 70s studio Grateful Dead.

 

Lurking beneath the sophistication of his sound O'Rourke's lyrics are often deliberately vituperative and unsavoury. This sense of the magic being interrupted by something malevolent is echoed in the fact that each album in the trilogy takes its title from a movie by the maverick filmmaker Nicolas Roeg. Roeg's sense of richness, candour and mild nihilism is blotted on these recordings. Having concentrated on his solo output O'Rourke then joined Sonic Youth as a fifth member for a trio of albums. The highlight of this collaboration was Murray St on which O'Rourke's input as producer recalibrated the bands dynamics to great effect. His on stage presence as bassist or guitarist allowed one of the richest catalogues of the last twenty years to be re-plundered and re / mis-interpreted nightly. Few artists seem as capable of wearing so many hats simultaneously and so successfully; currently O'Rourke's interests lie in film and animation confirming him as one of today's true auteurs.

 

 

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FILES BY JIM O'ROURKE

Image: insignificance
Listen to: Good Times
by Jim O'Rourke