12 plays of Christmas – Jim O’Rourke

9. Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs

Jim O’Rourke likes a joke. 14 years ago, on the peerless Insignificance, he offered up an the following humorous insight into, possibly, his home life:

 Is it hot in here, or do I feel a little draft

From these pants that you brought for me to wear

The ones that have no back

Not that he was ever anything but lyrically oblique. There was self-deprecation, joy and sadness and the occasional glimpse of honesty but you could never be quite sure how seriously he took himself, which is not a bad thing.

14 years later we’re none the wiser. His only solo-offering in the interim was a pretty 35 minutes of noisy, instrumental introspection. Not that he doesn’t keep busy. As well as a long stint in Sonic Youth he’s continued to produce and appear on a whole bevy of brilliant records leaving him with a credits roll that should result in the kind of adulation more usually reserved for a Sainsbury’s Christmas advert. Red Apple Falls by Smog; Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco; and Sounddust by Sterolab to name a few.

And so with the usual lack of fanfare Simple Songs was released. Obviously, it’s anything but simple. These 8 tracks sound exactly like and nothing like anything he’s done before. The innate ability for arrangement remains but finds a new level. Hardly heard guitar gives way to swooning strings that are drowned by a stampeding piano. Each play of the record reveals a little more in this cornucopia of sonic delight.

His music remains undefinable and indefatigable. It’s lost somewhere in 70s prog but refuses to become self-indulgent. In less skilled hands it could be a mess, a midlife musical crisis, a car crash unfolding in front of your ears like a badly constructed reality TV programme about poverty. In his it’s a triumph. Some bits and bobs:

You can grab it here.

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