Review

Bill Orcutt

How The Thing Sings

Editions Mego • 2011

Once again, Bill Orcutt has fetched his battered guitar from the attic. How The Thing Sings picks up exactly the same loose ends left by A New Way To Pay Old Depts two years ago and tries to work out a version of post-modern blues. Basically, this music consists of three components: the instrument, in this case a guitar, vaguely tuned; the instrumentalist, Bill Orcutt, who knows how to fold the strings of his guitar in an absolutely unique way; and the space, which is to transmit the guitar tunes but also serves as resonating cavity for all kinds of sounds. And exactly those other sounds are the crucial thing here – the microphone was installed so that really every noise was to be recorded. There, you can here a wrong note, here, the sound of fingers thumping onto the guitar’s wood, gliding fingertips on top of the strings, all in all, the conscious demonstration of the instrument as an entity. And then the sound travels even further into the room, one can hear how Bill Orcutt’s flannel shirt crumples, how he breathes heavily along his crooked nasal septum, and, when it’s really quiet, one can hear the dust crackle. Hence, not only are the skills impressive (ie. the technique of how to decline tone sequences in frantic speed) but also the method with which the musician and the room around him become part of the music. This way, it’s almost an immediate physical experience to hear Bill Orcutt crow, chirp and meow, as he does in The Visible Bosom, while his fingers flit over the strings as quickly as mice. Within 35 minutes of playing time, Bill Orcutt switches abruptly between arousing preaching and introverted soliloquizing, challenges himself, his instrument, even the recipient, and tells of things impossible to articulate through words, but only through emotions, through sorrow, anger, pain and love. And should exactly that not be the definition of every kind of music?