Originally published in Delusions of Adequacy Feb. 10, 2006
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jim O’Rourke!
Well, perhaps not, but it can be downright frightening how close in tone, composition and structure American guitarist Mike Tamburo’s work on Beating of the Rewound Son comes to O’Rourke, whose acoustic guitar mannerisms and flare for tabletop experimentation have clearly left their mark here.
There’s shades on the Music Fellowship disc of the Faheyisms of O’Rourke’s Bad Timing, the abstract avant-constructions of Terminal Pharmacy and early Grubbs/O’Rourke documents like Crookt, Crackt or Fly, even the Minimalist insinuations of Happy Days.
This is terrain that’s rarely visited by imitators and even more rarely visited with endearing results but Tamburo pulls it off while still managing to craft a record that feels, oddly enough, like its sculpting its own orbit.
And that’s an important point to make.
Tamburo, no mere mimic, is far from making some sort of vague homage or carefully studied reprise to the O’Rourke (or Grubbs) canon: this is an engaging record in its own right.
Tamburo’s solo debut proper only runs five songs but those songs are scrawled across epic-length canvases and lend the record a startling kind of clarity, as well as a refreshing form of sonic wonder.
Songs like “Adam’s Fruit Temptation” and “Something About Dangerous Women” define that form — long-playing instrumentals that meander, fade and flourish between emotive acoustic guitar passages, drones and textured passages of electronics and found sounds.
The pieces don’t always fit together, varying in tone and key as much as recording source, but that seems to lend them the invigorating, hear-it-as-it-forms quality of improvisational guitar. It’s those loose threads that provide the record with some of its most distinctive moments — the tingling climbs and airy descents of finger-picked scales on “Something About Dangerous Women;” the jangling acoustic notes fluttering together in an understated crescendo three quarters of the way through the nearly 17-minute-long “And You I Will Love Like Yoko Ono;” the drunken, vaguely remorseful piano and pulsing keyboard swells that close “Kremblin Krab.”
There may be some who suggest Tamburo is tapping into too much Gastr-worship, that his spare, somber compositions, which can suggest with their silences as much as they define with their cartography of notes, are too closely descended from Crookt, Crackt or Fly or Mirror Repair.
Maybe there’s merit to the argument.
But his first solo outing feels like it picks up where releases like that left off 10 years ago, continuing to build unspoken narratives out of dissonant guitars and a mood created less by clearly defined verses and bridges than a landscape of dirges and unexpected refrains. It’s an impressive disc and an even more impressive debut, if he chooses to build on it.
I, for one, am waiting for the duet with O’Rourke.