Bill Orcutt - S/T
It’s become quite evident that Bill Orcutt has been extremely busy since his return to performing and recording in 2009 following the hiatus from his anarchic trio Harry Pussy. In less than 10 years he’s amassed 12 LPs and 16 7”s, whether with collaborators like Chris Corsano, Sir Richard Bishop, John Moloney or Okkyung Lee.
His most fruitful of these years may have been his tours and subsequent releases with percussionist and drummer, Chris Corsano. That period saw him brutally exploring the guitar in Ornette Coleman-like onslaught as Orcutt’s harsh obliteration of the strings was in lock-step with Corsano’s annihilation of the kit.
Those performances present an interesting backdrop to his first ever record of solo guitar recordings. Orcutt is decidedly in a more reflective state on his new self-titled album reworking songs and ideas he had presented in other settings. He draws upon inspiration from another guitar explorer, Loren Connors, as he translates and improvises American standards such as “Old Man River”, “White Christmas” and even the “Star Spangled Banner.” If you are expecting versions of songs resembling the original versions, then you’ve never heard Bill Orcutt.
What’s so impressive about his approach on Bill Orcutt, is his ability to conjure intimacy and chaos within the same song. His subtlety and nuance on tracks like the standard “Old Man River” is beautiful and then hair-raising as begins to destroy the lovely sounds he just created. On the 19th century Christian hymn, “Nearer My God To Thee,” he barely breaches the melodic figures of the song before taking on a wild trip of diminished jazz chords and frayed fretboard pyrotechnics.
What he does to everyone’s favorite holiday tune, “White Christmas,” and “Over The Rainbow” for that matter, are some of the more lovely moments on the record albeit, with structure and familiarity extremely compromised. His sole original composition, “The World Without Me,” is a stunning example of his ability to juxtapose melodic beauty and transcendent noise within seconds.
Each time I drop this LP on the platter, I find new things to love about this record. While I haven’t heard the entirety of his catalog or all of the Harry Pussy records, it’s hard to imagine Bill Orcutt sounding better than this. (Dom)
Check out a track here.