Reasons I Am Great

by Bill Orcutt

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    “The sounds here represent an apex for this particular portion of Bill Orcutt's journey. I would probably mark the beginning of this era as 2012's “Star Spangled Banner” single, where Bill's vocalizing, and avant blues harmonics begin to parallel certain aspects of Loren Connors' work. Orcutt's playing along these lines was interrupted by sessions & live shows with Chris Corsano and Bill Nace, as well as electric guitar excursions that all displayed rather different profiles.

    But there was a definite sense that with at least some of his live solo shows, Bill was intent turning the Great American Songbook into a massive commentary on avant garde techniques. A lot of musicians have tried this in little spurts over the years, taking extremely familiar musical themes and using them as crowbars to break into the minds of squares who would otherwise deny them entry, but this never seemed to be Orcutt’s motive. It always felt more like he was doing something sculptural, like Ed Keinholz or George Herms -- taking objects so banal they existed almost entirely on a subconscious level, and using those as the building material for a whole new language of guitar gesticulation. There were places where this overlapped sonically with some of Connors' work (which was natural enough since Loren was using Mark Rothko's palette-of- limitation as a way to re-contextualize the blues as art music), but these were transitory episodes.

    In a way, Bill's playing of this period is conceptually closer to that of John Fahey, whose desire to syncretize the high art of 20th Century compositional music and the low art of American Traditional forms remains largely misunderstood, because Fahey appeared so un-serious about it. But Bill's way of reintroducing technique into a style of playing he had begun by using textures almost exclusively, is very apparent here. By woodshedding these tunes diligently, he has succeeded in reducing their guts to a series of tone fields he can recreate in any sequence. Then he can splice them together to create new subliminal musical texts in much the same way Burroughs and Gysin's cut-ups used known words and phrases to create entirely new and original images streams. The more you listen to this one, the deeper it gets.

    I am inclined to like everything Bill does, because I think even the projects he treats as virtual toss-offs have a lot of content if you take the time to parse them out. Reasons I Am Great is as far from a toss-off as anything he's done. And you really better check it out.” — Byron Coley

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“The sounds here represent an apex for this particular portion of Bill Orcutt's journey. I would probably mark the beginning of this era as 2012's “Star Spangled Banner” single, where Bill's vocalizing, and avant blues harmonics begin to parallel certain aspects of Loren Connors' work. Orcutt's playing along these lines was interrupted by sessions & live shows with Chris Corsano and Bill Nace, as well as electric guitar excursions that all displayed rather different profiles.

But there was a definite sense that with at least some of his live solo shows, Bill was intent turning the Great American Songbook into a massive commentary on avant garde techniques. A lot of musicians have tried this in little spurts over the years, taking extremely familiar musical themes and using them as crowbars to break into the minds of squares who would otherwise deny them entry, but this never seemed to be Orcutt’s motive. It always felt more like he was doing something sculptural, like Ed Keinholz or George Herms -- taking objects so banal they existed almost entirely on a subconscious level, and using those as the building material for a whole new language of guitar gesticulation. There were places where this overlapped sonically with some of Connors' work (which was natural enough since Loren was using Mark Rothko's palette-of- limitation as a way to re-contextualize the blues as art music), but these were transitory episodes.

In a way, Bill's playing of this period is conceptually closer to that of John Fahey, whose desire to syncretize the high art of 20th Century compositional music and the low art of American Traditional forms remains largely misunderstood, because Fahey appeared so un-serious about it. But Bill's way of reintroducing technique into a style of playing he had begun by using textures almost exclusively, is very apparent here. By woodshedding these tunes diligently, he has succeeded in reducing their guts to a series of tone fields he can recreate in any sequence. Then he can splice them together to create new subliminal musical texts in much the same way Burroughs and Gysin's cut-ups used known words and phrases to create entirely new and original images streams. The more you listen to this one, the deeper it gets.

I am inclined to like everything Bill does, because I think even the projects he treats as virtual toss-offs have a lot of content if you take the time to parse them out. Reasons I Am Great is as far from a toss-off as anything he's done. And you really better check it out.” — Byron Coley

credits

released December 3, 2020

Recorded April 3 2015 at EYEDRUM, Atlanta, GA.
Cover photograph by Jim Hensley.
Thanks to Sharon Leslie.
PAL-062 © & ℗ Palilalia Records 2020.

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