Aidan O'Rourke : Music for Exhibition & Film

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Aidan O'Rourke
Music for Exhibition & Film
Reveal Records

In his book "Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology," philosopher David Abram describes our understanding of landscape in almost musical terms. Sensory cues such as smells and sounds invite specific associations with the places we inhabit in a symphony of life experience. The music of fiddler-composer Aidan O'Rourke likewise treats landscape as an interpretable score, which one need only light with attention to see it burn.

Music for Exhibition & Film is the first in a projected series of EPs dedicated to O'Rourke's soundtracks and incidental music, and its final pieces take direct inspiration from Abram's book. The first of these, "Infuse My Eyes with Molten Grey Skies," features the composer alone at the fiddle, trailing an afterglow of electronic loops and other ghostly permutations. The latter do not simply enhance the potential of a single bowed string, but reveal its orchestral lifeblood. The range of timbre O'Rourke manages to achieve is striking. Low, almost inaudible rumbles drum like the heartbeat of some slumbering leviathan, while arpeggios dance through the stratosphere high above. "Feel the Pulse of this Place" is less ethereal and finds O'Rourke joined by drummer-percussionist John Blease and guitarist Graeme Stephen. This meeting results in a more watery expanse, over which the violin smolders like a funeral pyre.

The album's first half also consists of two pieces, these written for an installation piece by Dalziel and Scullion called "Tumadh." The title is a Gaelic word for "immersion," which is exactly what might occur if you close your eyes and let it. In this instance the formula is flipped, with the above-mentioned trio first spinning its variegated brocade. Deep stirrings and pizzicati bring a wide aerial view into focus. O'Rourke seems to lament a land in peril, a feeling made all the stronger by the tasteful electronic beats scuttling just below its surface. "Immersion" returns him to the unaccompanied fiddle: an analogue traveler following a digital map. Echoing pulses occupy both foreground and background in a conversation of signals and codes. This is the continental drift of communication realized in music.

Fans of worldly-minded ambient pioneers such as Brian Eno and Bill Laswell will find great pleasure in this album, which holds its own in the face of any comparison. However it speaks to you, it is a brilliant, multilayered work of art that survives on emotional insight. - Tyran Grillo

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