Jim O'Rourke (musician)

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Jim O'Rourke
O'Rourke performing with Sonic Youth in 2004
O'Rourke performing with Sonic Youth in 2004
Background information
Born (1969-01-18) January 18, 1969 (age 54)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, record producer
Instrument(s)Guitar, synthesizer, piano, bass
LabelsDomino, Drag City, Tzadik

Jim O'Rourke (born January 18, 1969) is an American musician, composer and record producer.[1] He has released albums across varied genres, including singer-songwriter music, post-rock, ambient, noise music, and tape experiments.[2] He was associated with the Chicago experimental and improv scene when he relocated to New York City in 2000. O'Rourke is best known for his numerous solo and collaborative music projects, many of which are entirely instrumental, and for his tenure as a member of Sonic Youth from 1999 to 2005.


O'Rourke performing in Minneapolis, 2003

O'Rourke was born on January 18, 1969, in Chicago, Illinois, United States. He is an alumnus of DePaul University.

O'Rourke has collaborated with Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Kim Gordon, Steve Shelley, Derek Bailey, Mats Gustafsson, Mayo Thompson, Brigitte Fontaine, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Merzbow, Nurse with Wound, Phill Niblock, Fennesz, Organum, Phew, Henry Kaiser, Flying Saucer Attack, and in 2006 mixed Joanna Newsom's album Ys. In 2009, he also mixed several tracks on Newsom's follow up Have One On Me.[3]

He has produced albums by artists such as Sonic Youth, Wilco, Stereolab, Superchunk, Kahimi Karie, Quruli, John Fahey, Smog, Faust, Tony Conrad, The Red Krayola, Bobby Conn, Beth Orton, Joanna Newsom and U.S. Maple. He mixed Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album and produced their 2004 album, A Ghost Is Born, for which he won a Grammy Award for "Best Alternative Album". During the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, O'Rourke collaborated with Wilco member Jeff Tweedy and pre-Wilco Glenn Kotche under the name Loose Fur. Their self-titled debut was released in 2003 with a follow-up in 2006 entitled Born Again in the USA. He also mixed the unfinished recordings that made up a planned third album by the late American singer-songwriter Judee Sill, recorded in 1974 and mixed by O'Rourke for a 2005 release.

O'Rourke was once a member of Illusion of Safety, Gastr Del Sol[3] (with David Grubbs)[4] and Sonic Youth. Beginning in 1999 he played bass guitar, guitar and synthesizer with Sonic Youth, in addition to recording and mixing duties with the group. He withdrew as a full member in late 2005, but continued to play with them in some of their side projects.

In early 1993, O'Rourke formed an avant-rock group with Darin Gray and Dylan Posa called Brise-Glace. The band released one studio album, When in Vanitas..., in 1994. They also released a 7" in the same year titled In Sisters All and Felony/Angels on Installment Plan.

O'Rourke has also released many albums under his own name on a variety of labels, exploring a range of electronic and avant-garde styles.[3] His most well-known works may be his series of releases on Drag City, which focus on more traditional songcraft: Bad Timing (1997), Eureka (1999), Insignificance (2001), The Visitor (2009) and Simple Songs (2015). The titles of the first four albums all refer to films by the British director Nicolas Roeg; the first three by direct reference to film titles, the fourth being titled after a fictional album within Roeg's film The Man Who Fell To Earth.

With music director Takehisa Kosugi, he played for the Merce Cunningham dance company for four years. He was guitarist for the 1999 premiere of Cunningham's ballet Biped with Gavin Bryars in Berkeley, California,

O'Rourke received a 2001 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.

Since 2013, O'Rourke has used his Steamroom Bandcamp page to release material. Steamroom releases have included reissues of rare or unpublished older material, as well as original newer pieces.

Work in films[edit]

Drag City discography[edit]

Partial solo discography[edit]


  1. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. p. 721. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  2. ^ Cooper, Sean. "Jim O'Rourke – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Richards, Sam (May 18, 2015). "Jim O'Rourke: indie's unsung perpetual polymath". The Guardian. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  4. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 522-3
  5. ^ Bowe, Miles (July 26, 2018). "Catching Up With Jim O'Rourke". Stereogum.com. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  6. ^ Lim, Dennis (June 22, 2008). "Soft-Core Auteur Turns Attention to Radicals". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2010.
  7. ^ Ruiz, Matthew Ismael (4 May 2023). "Jim O'Rourke Details Hands That Bind Soundtrack Album, Shares New Song: Watch the Video". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 4, 2023.
  8. ^ "Jim O'Rourke announces vinyl series for Editions Mego". tinymixtapes.com. April 14, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2019.

External links[edit]