The first release in Editions Mego's Portraits GRM series, Shutting Down Here combines recordings Jim O'Rourke made at Paris' legendary GRM studio three decades apart -- at the beginning of his career in the late '80s, and in the late 2010s, when he was a renowned figure in experimental music -- as well as sessions at his own Steamroom studio in Japan. Though the concept of the young artist collaborating with the mature one is fascinating, O'Rourke doesn't use it showily. Shutting Down Here isn't so much a duet as it is an orbit that reflects the underlying unity of his music. With the help of pianist Eiko Ishibashi, violinist/violist Atsuko Hatano, and trumpeter Eivind Lonning, O'Rourke brings together electronics, found sound, and minimal composition into a startling work with a lot of depth at any given moment. At one point, a swell of strings seems to compact itself into squealing electronics; at another, the acoustic instruments divide the air into spaces within spaces that all hum with anticipation. The play between Shutting Down Here's unpredictable layers of sounds and silence feels spontaneous, but loose patterns slowly emerge over its 35-minute span. The instructions to "adjust your volume accordingly" are worth heeding to fully appreciate the intensity of its peaks and the lows of its valleys as it looms, recedes, and contrasts tiny percussive textures with massive, spaceship-like drones. A bittersweet melodic motif surfaces briefly here and there in one of the piece's more overt acknowledgments of structure, making it feel all the more significant; the same could be said of the trumpet and found-sound climax that happens two-thirds of the way through the piece, ushering in its tense yet contemplative final section. Led by hypnotic pulses and Ishibashi's sensitive playing, the piece closes with a more deliberate sense of finality than might be expected. From its eerie beginning to its twilit end, Shutting Down Here's rotating and lapping elements are remarkably conversant with each other, at times evoking works like 1995's Terminal Pharmacy and at others nodding to his prolific output in the 2010s and 2020s in mysterious and poignant ways.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares