Sunday, January 8, 2012

Best Albums of 2011 #7 Bill Orcutt - How the Thing Sings (Editions Mego)

Bill Orcutt is clearly a madman, assuming his recent solo work is an indicator of that kind of thing. Armed only with a crummy old acoustic guitar missing a string and outfitted with a pair of found pickups, Orcutt spins out tunes unlike any other. Indeed, no one else plays the guitar like Orcutt does. In some ways it feels like he's taken the blues and distilled it to its absolute core. Very little of the original artifact remains. Instead, some pure, unadulterated essence that retains the core power of the most potent works of that genre remain but in the guise of something else altogether. What that is is tough to put in words. Suffice it to say, Orcutt's playing is both utterly unhinged and decidedly manic while simultaneously being truly virtuosic. Orcutt plays as if he sold his soul to the devil for guitar skills but in the process became possessed by the Beast. His strange, yelping, growling and atonal wordless vocalizations only confirm this suspicion.

This is deeply emotional and affecting music, tapping into something primal both in form and in substance. Orcutt's not only an amazing guitarist because he can play his instrument with a blazing, superhuman speed and intensity but because he can make it say things no words could muster, can root out something deep and dark from the musician and the listener. How the Thing Sings is intensely powerful music and an absolute must-listen.

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