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Music Consumption: Tortoise
04/15/2001 Tortoise: Tortoise

"Tin Cans and Twine" really does it for me.

03/02/2001 Tortoise: Standards

I first listened to it in the PowerBook in a hotel room in pre-earthquake Seattle, and didn't know quite what to make of it. Maybe it was the small, trebly speakers or something, since once I got it home (missed the earthquake by three hours) it really began to grow on me, and fast becoming a favorite--these guys just keep on getting better! The first tune, "Seneca," begins with a turning-on-the-analog-tape sound, followed by 60-cycle amp hum, which amounts to a "we're ready to rock" signifier. And...rock they do. Drum rolls and modal gestures toward Hendrix's "The Star-Spangled Banner," going for two minutes before...it dies down. And then comes the funkay distorted beetz. It's actually explosive, with great drumming and guitar playing. The atmospheric screams-under-an-overpass work well, too as texture, and the next song, the Harry-Partch-influenced "Eros," is a perfect smart cool-down from the first track. It stays good from there, with perhaps a few missteps in the up-up-and-away vibe break in "Benway" and the lurve-music opening of "Monica." But it's all good, particularly the two "Eden" cuts, which have a mighty groove. It's the smartest ass-moving music you'll hear this year. They rock, get funky, atmospheric...it's good.

05/23/2000 Tortoise: TNT

Still stuck on Tortoise's TNT.

03/27/2000 Tortoise: TNT

Tortoise's TNT -- For quite a while I wasn't so fond of this, but it's grabbed me now. I like the trombone in the title track and the King Crimson flava of "Ten-Day Interval."

"I Set My Face to the Hillside" is a treasure, though. Sure, it sounds like Space Age Bachelor Pad music (not a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned)--the kind of e-z-listening Muzak® constantly piped into restaurants, waiting rooms, etc. When I was growing up, that kind of thing always bothered me; it seemed as if it was firmly entrenched, never to go away, and any culture of authentic feeling (read: rock) would always have to exist in opposition to it. But--astonishingly--it, like everything else, passes with time. It's not the inevitable, casual titan I thought it was, and in its time-weakened state, it seems precious in a way. It reminds me of being a child and going out to dinner with my parents, and it suggests a variety of the optimism of the suburban '50s (a decade during which I didn't exist, oddly enough). I find that I have an affection for the Populuxe era and its post-noir pre-irony. Sure, the Beats were in opposition to that; the spectre of imminent nuclear destruction haunted everyone, and there was that McCarthyism factor. But even as suburbia oppressed with its sameness, it encouraged and required gestures toward the exotic such as this song--a kind of innocent longing toward the Other.

"The Equator," "The Suspension Bridge at Igazu Falls," and "Everglade" do much the same for me. There's a suggestion of "cocktails by the pool with international guests" swankiness that I find attractive. They are (particularly "Everglade") redolent of thick summer nights of possibility and subtle strangeness. Society today gives one so few ways of becoming an adult that one has to grasp what one can. Swankiness is as good of an entry point as any.

12/18/1999 Tortoise

Scoff at me though the hip indie kids will (we are in the post-anti-Tortoise-backlash phase), I've really been enjoying Millions Now Living Will Never Die, particularly "Glass Museum," a nearly perfect confection of a tune with an immensely pleasing guitar tone.