Camofleur (Drag City, 1998)
For: Oval, Jim O’Rourke, US Maple
Byline: A definite contender for my favorite record of all time. A true work of art.
One day, I’ll have a book written about Camofleur. This is a record with so much to unpack, it’s daunting... where to start even? The instrumentation? The formless-forms? The dada-patchwork lyrics? The ingenious electronics? The nakedness of it all, the hollow moments? The fact that to this day, over a decade later, nothing sounds remotely close to it in scope, beauty, or vision? One day... one day, I’ll write a book about Camofleur. Today, I write a blog post. I write a blog post because I fear that Camofleur is in danger of becoming lost and forgotten. It’s the strange and obscure side-project of the magical Jim O’Rourke—his somewhat unlikely collaboration with the post-punk innovating Squirrel Bait’s David Grubbs. O’Rourke’s had his hands in enough masterpieces to solidify his immortality by now. But it’s depressing that he may not be remembered for his greatest achievement. So this is just a little nudge. A little reminder.
Camofleur... This is folk. Gorgeous folk. This is electronics, ambience, free-floating dream sequences, space-station static. This is backwards delay effects. This is trumpets, trombones, saxophones, pianos, organs, slide guitars, strings, woodwinds, accordions, steel drums. This is rock, this is celtic jams (that segue into the most beautiful 3:38 of recorded music I think I’ve ever heard), this is kraut, ballads, this is... pop. This is rubato guitar interludes. This is timing, surprises, twists, turns, jokes, tragedies. This is drums—grooves you’ve never heard or dreamed possible. Best of all: this is emotions. This is poetry, imagery, allegory... wait, wait. Emotional. What a terrible, derivative, cliché word used to describe music these days. It’s not even cool to be emotional (unless you're the Arcade Fire or, more recently, the Antlers) anyway. So, distinction: Gastr Del Sol is not emotional. This is one of the only bands and one of the only albums I’ve experienced that makes me truly emotional. You see, “emotional” in music usually ends up being nothing more than sympathy or empathy. Like watching a movie—you cry for those whom you’ve seen suffering sadness. You cry for others—nothing has really happened to you. Camofleur happens to you. Camofleur makes you suffer. Camofleur makes you joyous. Camofleur makes you scared. It makes you wonder, and inspires your imagination. It is both impressive and expressive. It makes you breath with it, live with it, die with it. “As corpse” is a phrase that will haunt me for the rest of my days.
Hallelujah, Drag City somehow still has this available on LP... grab it up before it’s too late. Study it. Grow with it—let it grow you. After Camofleur, nothing seems impossible. Gastr Del Sol represents the limitless potential of music and the unique hyper-creative abilities humans have in artistic expression. One day, I'll write a book about Camofleur... today I just haven't done it justice.