Wilco’s Mikael Jorgensen and the Modern Folk Tradition
By David Cotner 11/27/2013
You might think of folk music as something rooted in either the Middle Ages or poverty — likely not in the eerie warble of a theremin, or the shuddering sine wave produced by an oscillator. And yet Mikael Jorgensen — the pianist and keyboardist for left-field rock combo Wilco — sees things in an entirely different light. He’s got a new double album with partner Greg O’Keeffe out on new New York label Butterscotch Records, and he’s hitting the road for a clutch of performances that take the concept of folk music to heights both evolved and communal. His recent live action at Soho’s Judith Charles Gallery served as a taste of things to come for his appearance on Thursday, Dec. 5, with David Scott Stone (of DFA Records, LCD Soundsystem and tireless DJ at famed L.A. all-ages club The Smell) to expose his notions to a wider audience.
The album’s artwork is from a series called “Lightning Drawing,” a stunning collage of different photographs of wild lightning arranged to create an image that looks nothing less than a root system for a majestic forest, is by Ojai artist Cassandra C. Jones. She’s married to Jorgensen and has made a career of art that involves seeing the finer details in the humdrum, envisioning something larger made from the dregs and seeds littering the mind’s eye. It suits Jorgensen’s assertion that electronic music is merely folk music transmogrified for a new age. Electronic music — and by extension, dance and experimental music — reaches a large portion of the populace, both populist and pedantic. (Academics like to dance, too even if it’s just their brain cells that are wiggling.) While the “Scarborough Fair” of EDM has yet to make itself known, the synthesis of images and ideas in Jorgensen’s latest song cycle leads one to hope that such folkish greatness is just on the horizon.
Jorgensen, who’s also recorded albums by Bobby Conn, Califone and Glenn Kotche at John McEntire’s SOMA Studios in Chicago, also has that rare gift of being able to see where music in that folk vein is coming from. Working on assorted creative endeavors at street level, he’s able to see his innate love of technology communicated through the 10 songs on the album that retain its human touches. It is, after all, a record named for its two composers. Lightning, dance rhythms and the desire to communicate with others elsewhere are things that dovetail seamlessly with the current affections for tablets and smartphones. And ultimately, the hum and whir of technology’s advances might be the most poignant folk music there is.
Mikael Jorgensen performs at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, at W20 Lounge, 598 E. Main St., Ventura, 643-6800.