Photo: James Hadfield/Time Out
by Brendan Nagle Music Obscure Object

Jim O’Rourke | Shutting Down Here

July 27, 2020

Shutting Down Here represents a clear advancement of O’Rourke’s familiar ideas and is one of richest sonic achievements.

In a recent interview, Jim O’Rourke called his latest work, Shutting Down Here, the “most meaningful” album of his career. “It’s almost 100% exactly what I wanted,” he told Tone Glow’s Joshua Minsoo-Kim. “It’s the closest that I’ve gotten.” It’s a statement that carries some real weight for fans, especially given that his thirty-year career has produced well over 100 albums, many of them beloved. Shutting Down Here is the inaugural release in the Portraits GRM Series, a collection of works commissioned by experimental label Editions MEGO and storied avant-garde institution INA GRM. O’Rourke’s 35-minute piece is at times a mystifying work, but it remains deeply enthralling across its entire runtime, its richness of detail rewarding focused listening. Here his acute sense of dynamics is at the fore, gradual swells and sudden flares giving shape to a patchwork of sounds. Synthetic textures, field recordings, and acoustic 

instruments (courtesy of distinguished players Eiko Ishibashi, Atsuko Hatano, and Elvind Lonning) are balanced against one another, the disparate blend of digital, analog, and natural sounds often inducing a disorienting effect. Largely resisting melody, O’Rourke crafts a haunting atmosphere that doesn’t always register as musical in the traditional sense, but this only makes the album’s rare melodic moments more special –– most memorably, around the ten-minute mark, when delicate, swelling strings threaten to burst out from beneath a layer of synth noise, only to be overtaken again by dissonance. O’Rourke considers Shutting Down Here part of a lineage that begins with his 1995 record Terminal Pharmacy, and indeed it feels like something of a culmination of his electroacoustic work, a clear advancement of the ideas he has been working with for the last few decades. It’s also one of his richest sonic achievements to date.

Published as part of Obscure Object | Q2 2020 Issue.