Friday, September 30, 2005

Tortoise (MN: 35)

Tortoise- Millions Now Living Will Never Die

I’ve always thought of Tortoise as a bunch of indie guys playing jazz- jindie rock, I guess. You know, the kind of tasteful, nuanced performances that fuse traditional jazz structure with the occasionally cerebral sensibilities that informed a whole generation of kids who listened to mathy post-rock ship rock. Buncha dudes on stage playing not-rock instruments with rock authority, gracefully waxin’ and milkin’.

The latter half of ‘Millions’ contains five such compositions, songs that I can hum without the benefit of a record, the same way that Rich Ladew can hum a John Zorn song (okay, maybe that’s not such a good example- the same way that Rich can hum a MILES DAVIS song. There we go!) The first half is this meandering, nineteen minute attempt at ambient that has a few too many identifiable sounds and a little bit too much structure to pass as anything but a collage of unfinished ideas. It’s not bad, but when I pop on ‘Millions’ I’m inclined to eschew the bullshit and skip right ahead to what basically amounts to a very good five song EP.

Tortoise- Standards

More of the whole jindie thing, except the electornica dabblings come across as more seamless, streamlined into the smooth, mathy jazz confines of the songs rather than sitting on the side, shouting and drawing attention. There’s some cool, weird effects added to some of the traditional instruments, some bleeps and bloops on the side, but none of it ever falls into the trap of acting simply as signifier. Everything, in other words, seems to be in a place for a reason.


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