Last year my slowly dying indie store got a consignment of super cheap Drag City and Kranky stuff. Stuck in that consignment was a couple of sneaky copies of Jim O’Rourke’s double CD opus, Long Night … and freaking long it is – its two tracks coming in at 78 minutes each. Ridiculous on the face of it, but this might be one of the best ambient drone records you’re likely to hear.
This was recorded in 1990 when he first finished college yet it’s easy to think of O’Rourke in the context of his hook friendly rock albums like Eureka and Insignificance or his membership of Sonic Youth but O’Rourke’s early history spanned not only the experimental Americana of Gastr Del Sol but also slow burning drone pieces. The repetitive tones on Long Night move microscopically yet purposefully when they do. The real question I had when I listened to Long Night was “Is it any good.” I mean I enjoyed it and this sort of stuff works for me but I’m not really sure why it does. I suspect that the tonal calm allows me to drift off because there is nothing that deep listening would accomplish here. There are no hidden noise subsets of recognisable forms peeking through the clouds of drone. It is a simple movement of sound through different pitch. When the sound is pitched low the sound becomes almost liturgical. In the last twenty minutes of the first track the tones move around to such an extent that they almost create a tune of sorts. Almost.
If the first track fell passive the second epic is a much more forceful drone piece. It’s use of movement throughout makes it a much more interesting piece than the first track.
If you’ve ever wanted to explore the different side to Jim O’Rourke, this might be the record for you. For drone nerds it is definitely the shit.