Tortoise: Classic or Dud

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I'll recite the conventional argument like a litany.

Are they brilliant post-rock pioneers, forging new terrain with unfashionably organic instruments replicating the structures of minimalist electronica?

Or are they a gigantic scum-sucking dud that harnessed:

(a) hipster cred from once-upon-a-time being in lame punk bands (b) a tape-crashing gimmick that sounded cool the first two [2] times you heard it (c) a very large and fashionable collection of old Can records

and fused the three to produce middlebrow elevator music, Philip Glass wanking in an interminable toked-up jam band, music so inoffensively pleasant as to be unpleasant?

Ian White, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

i'm not quite sure why Tortoise have become the almost hate figures they have (snidey hipsterism?). they are rather dull though

gareth, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I must be listening to the wrong Toroise records (only know Millions and TNT) because the Can/Krautrock comparison always seemed way off. What Tortoise song has the funky drive of Can? Something from the first record? The stuff I hear is just smoothmellow melody.

I enjoy DJed when I listeen to it, which is almost never. And the guitar refrain in "TNT" is excellent. But they've always struck me as pretty, well, I hate to say it, boring. Maybe I'm not listening closely enough.

There's an interesting piece on the Space Age Bachelor website about Tortoise. His idea is that the band is so bland fans of all kinds are able to read whatever they like into the music (i.e., the Slint fans hear Slint, d'n'b fans hear d'n'b, jazz fans hear jazz...all the while none of these things are done well & the synthesis isn't particularly interesting.) Seems pretty accurate to me. But as I say, maybe they'll click for me some day. It's not impossible.

Mark, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I find mysel f at the same time loving Tortoise and being bored by them. I guess its like watching STalker or Solaris

Mike Hanle y, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

"Stalker" & "Solaris" are poss my 2 favourite films. I like tortoise a bit, esp "millions now living...." But Edward Artemiev (soundtrack composer for Tarkovski movies) is, like 10000000x better.

xoxo

Norman Fay, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I wanted to like Tortoise, many of my friends do, and liking them would give me the post-rock cred that I crave... unfortunately, the only album I've got (the first one) is an annoying bore, and come to think of it, it's high time I traded it away.

Sean, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Having found the earlier records, especially TNT, very, very dull, I was really taken with "Standards" - one the biggest surprises of the year. There is definitely a funky edge to trax like Eden 2, Eros and Six Pack, and although you could argue that it's slightly reminiscent of a 'how to make funk from its component parts' science project, it's good fun. I wish they'd lose the marimba (or whatever it is), though.

Dr. C, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Am always surprised at the bile that gets heaped on Tortoise on this forum - sometimes wonder if it's a post-punk hang-up abt groups with v. obvious 'chops' dabbling in anti-chop styles like electronica etc. When I finally saw them live at ATP this year I realised that the bass sound is v. v. important in their music - relatively unusual to see a 'rock' group where the rhythm section is featured more than the guitar front-line, which is why I suppose they attract Can comparisons. They're 'important' because, for me at least, they pointed a way out of the grunge wilderness - and as always, they shouldn't be blamed for all the lame Tortoise imitators who have come along since.

And I LOVE the marimba!! John McEntire one of all the all-time great percussionists.

Andrew L, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Note that Andrew's point was what I was trying to get at during the "NSync makes brilliant record" thread -- bands like Tortoise as a striking new direction after what seemed like the major-label- sponsored "death" of the American guitar band.

And I suppose I'll be the first one here to come out massively in favor of "classic" status. I'm a bit surprised at the number of "dull" tags being put on them here -- I've always found them quite the opposite -- but I can't put my finger on what particular quality might be responsible for that split. I'm guessing it has something to do with context, and the "new direction" posited above: for those who'd spent the years preceding Tortoise's emergence following a largely rock-ish or pop-ish indie scene, I suppose the band was far more likely to seem energized and worth-every-second. If you'd spent the early nineties listening to old Cluster records, perhaps that effect would be diminished. But I'd offer, in their defense, that their lack of dullness has to do with the fact that unlike many of their antecedents, they were surprisingly not all about texture: their compositions have always struck me as far more sophisticated, melodic, and linear than many of the units one might argue they sound like. Which is to say: I think their "sound" is a red herring in terms of evaluating them, because the definable compositions beneath that "sound" would hold up equally well with a different presentation. I love bands like this, where what seems like a "sound" in the presentation sense turns out to be created more by the composition -- more by what they're playing -- than how they're playing or producing it.

As for classic status, this was cemented for me by Standards. I was somewhat afraid that they'd seem a little pale by that point, with the freshness of the scene long worn off -- but it still amazed me. I think they're one example of the genre that will continue to have relevance whatever the fate of the scene.

Nitsuh, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Oh, DISCLAIMER: the construction above isn't necessarily intended to read that Cluster were "all about texture." More that Tortoise's early-90s peers were using those sorts of Germanic influences more as wallpaper than as 2x4s.

Nitsuh, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

'Millions Now Living' (excellent J.W. reference, a slap at Jacko perhaps?) was great, it gently persuaded the listener to follow where it was going, and soon you were somewhere you didn't expect to get but was glad you got there. 'Standards' was dreadful, so linear in its execution that all the elements just sat there, not gelling, not even touching. The joins showed, except they didn't even join anything. (As I said on the N'Sync thread, it sounded like they were confused by musical questions that had been solved in the pop field years ago and forgotten, like they're trying and failing to reinvent the wheel over and over again, whereas Stereolab at least comes out and admits they're reinventing the outboard motor.)
Oh, and to be really unoriginal, I agree with everybody who says they destroyed Stereolab.

dave q, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

One of the really great mysteries of recent times: I genuinely have no idea what people enjoy about their music. I mean, I can see the point of a lot of stuff I can't stand (metal, really dull housey stuff) but Tortoise really bewildered me. I got sent one of their albums (TNT possibly) sat down and gave a decent listen. Or tried to, but after half a track the urge to do some filing overcame me. Doesn't have anything to do with pop (in the broadest sense) as I understand it. Do people who like Tortoise like Keith Jarrett and other things I can't fathom?

Mark Morris, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I like the first three albums quite a bit, though I find myself listening to TNT more than the other two. As 'Millions' happened to be in a box on top of the stack I just moved, I put it in the player this morning for a long nap. I think the mention of 'Solaris' is apt; sometimes, Tortoise are boring. I don't really mind. It's rather pleasant sometimes. Lots of music has boring parts, I think people are just misled into thinking Tortoise's are more boring because they're quieter or more repetitive, or whatever.

I've only heard Standards a couple times and found it dire. I will try again though eventually. The opening to the first track: awesome. The 'funk' - scary.

And yes I like Keith Jarrett.

Josh, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

thank you josh. i always suspected that tortoise fans actually like boring music.

sundar subramanian, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Ha ha, you jest but some of the tapes you sent me were boring - BUT I STILL LIKED THEM. Oh the maddening contradictions.

Josh, Tuesday, 31 July 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Tortoise, by their pre-Standards work (as I don't know the new one), can't be judged on pop terms. Nor on technoid dance terms, nor on jazz terms. They come close, I think, to the pleasures of classical music as delivering slow, cumulative, payoffs. Indeed they are blissfully calm often, but that frequently conceals detailed rhythmic and melodic structure and growth. Tortoise = ambient?

Sterling Clover, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Yeah Tortoise = ambient or that's the way I use it (I like all the albums). And 'Djed' is good dope-smoking music, it has that "err, how did we end up here" quality ;)

Omar, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I can't say if Tortoise wrecked Stereolab yet because Dots And Loops is on high rotate for me at the moment,but I resent the omnipresence of John McEntire and wish he didn't have to pop up on every other post-rock record.

Damian, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Further to Omar's dope-smoking test - 'Djed' is 'wow, leave this on', whereas 'Standards' is 'Just how long has this fucking thing been on?'

dave q, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

See, I think we might have isolated the problem here: Tortoise (and their equally boring associates) ended up to some extent being marketed at people (ie: me) who have no interest in them or any music that burbles away in the background. Maybe on the grounds that the audience was meant to follow the Squirrel Bait - Slint - Tortoise path. And so we listened to Tortoise - because people said "hey listen to Tortoise!" and thought "What is this noodley shit?" and were resentful, and thus ranted about it, whereas I never rant about Keith Jarrett because he and all that other boring stuff exists in another realm that never bothers me.

Mark Morris, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I just want to mention that I'm wholly surprised so few people here like this band. I feel like I should have some better argument as to why they're not dull or boring -- because I honestly can't see how someone might find this the case -- but not a whole lot springs to mind. I'd argue with the "noodling" tag, however, as everything of theirs (with the possible exception of the first record) is pretty highly structured and through-composed, and it's only on Standards than anyone (Parker, mainly) starts taking "leads" in the noodly sense.

I also think there's a performativity issue here: groups that sound like them are usually best listened to as non-performative creations, while they're best appreciated as a tightly-organized performative unit? Seeing them live changed my take on this slightly, and made me like them even more. . .

Nitsuh, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I would've guessed there were some more who like the band too, Nitsuh. Give em a few days. ;)

Josh, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

ambrose, where are you? lost under a huge pile of Thrill Jockey records?

gareth, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Theory: out of all the "post-rock" bands, Tortoise uniquely managed to thoroughly strip the blues away from their work. Thus, for them the post- is not a prefix, but a negation. This is both their blessing and their curse.

Discuss.

Sterling Clover, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

do you see it as something special that a post-rock band is doing this? because blues-less rock is hardly a new thing. (but i don't hear all that much blues in post-rock anyway. if anything, tortoise's jazz influences might bring more blues to their music.)

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

All traces. The guitarwork is unblues (as opposed to ANY rock guitarwork) -- focused on tone and duration rather than harmonics, tune, et cet. The rhythms are unblues -- not a 4/4 with downbeats on 1 and 3 to be found. The melodic figures, such as they exist, owe no debt to the blues tradition -- they're not minor so much as modal. I find this quite unique.

Sterling Clover, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Maybe that's why I like them. I tend to want my music scrubbed as free from blues as is reasonable to expect from a blues- derived genre like rock.

Nitsuh, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Nitsuh -- rilly? Why's that? (In this vein, the velvets had the short period where they banned blues riffs fromt he band. Well, relatively long period. It helped them resist the claptonizing invasion, granted, but never destroyed the fact that Booker T and Green Onions were pretty damn similar at some fundamental level. That goes twice for Sister Ray.)

Sterling Clover, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I don't know, Sterling. I think it has something to do with my very earliest musical influences being new wave (a pretty blues-free idiom) at ages 4-6, and then a lot of oldies (in the 50s vocal-group doo-wop sense) for a few years after that. I grew up fairly anti- rock, never really understanding why my fellow middle-schoolers liked Guns 'n' Roses or Bon Jovi or really anything more rock than pop. I got over this around age 13 or so, as I really started listening to music in an exploratory way, but that anti-rock (or anti- bluesy rock, anyway) feeling has lingered. Hence lots of arguments, as a teenager, about why many of my friends liked Smashing Pumpkins and I didn't: it was the stadium-rock guitar that was turning me off.

Never understood Zeppelin, or the Stones, or anything with that up- front blues/rock feel. Well, I understand it now, and can enjoy it, but it's not a formative influence like it is with most people.

Nitsuh, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

i love tortoise. im not going to justify myself, even though im scared to be so bold.... i really like them. i especially like the stuff they did that even tortoise fans HATE ie not the 1st 2 albums.....

am i a dickhead

ambrose, Thursday, 2 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

just managed to get to a computer, gareth..it was hell out there, all those toroise tour 7"s and nice cover artwork.... in fatc i love ALL the horrid wishy washy boring 'nice' artists on the archtypal boring, wishy washy etc label THRILL JOCKEY!

sam prekop, have my babies!

brokeback! i luv yr noodley bass nonsense.

er, and all the other ones.

anyway, thrill jockey do have the lonesome organist who is well good.

oh, im gonna fight my corner a bit re tortoise. many people here nad everywhere think they are very boring....well, many people here (maybe the same) luv missy elliott and her '....so addictive'. well i am listening to it now (1 pound from russia....) and i think THAT is pretty boring.

er i dont know what that proves, but im just a bit bored myself, of snide hipster posturing......i guess everyone likes having a common

, Thursday, 2 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Would depend on yer definition of post-rock there, Sterling. Are they further away from the blues than Seefeel? Limit it to just Thrill Jockey and we're talking a whole 'nother matter.

Tim, Thursday, 2 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Maybe that's why I like them. I tend to want my music scrubbed as free from blues as is reasonable to expect from a blues- derived genre like rock.

Have you tried black-metal? It's a lot more amusing than Tortoise, and there's no blues at all!

Kris, Thursday, 2 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Well, you got me there. I never thought of seefeel as postrock. Laika, on the other hand.

Sterling Clover, Thursday, 2 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Nitsuh, it's interesting that you bring up Smashing Pumpkins here, who I've always considered to be pretty damned un-bluesy. Corgan's guitar playing is often very modal - "Quiet" is in, like, F# Phrygian, dude! Seriously, though, I think you're a lot like my roommate in this respect, who says he pretty much despises blues influences. But I think it might be the arena-rock posturing that turns him off even more than the blues influences. He says that hair metal, and most 70s stadium rock, actually make him feel physically ill. What do you think about that stuff? BTW, I do like a lot of Tortoise's stuff, although I don't feel much personal connection with it at all. It's fascinatingly clinical, if that makes any sense. My favorite Tortoise track is #2 off Millions...

Clarke B., Tuesday, 7 August 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
reviving to counter the tortoise hating:

tortoise albums = inconsistent;
tortoise singles = great (the duophonic "gamera", the first two singles, the tortoise vs. autechre remixes, the jim o'rourke remixes).

the japanese digest compendium that blends the original tracks with rhythm resolutions and clusters remixes is the high point for me, "djed" is incredibly dense in sound.

anything done with bundy k. brown i've found to enjoy.

TNT lost me (although the nobukazu takemura remix is incredible), haven't heard anything since. i think that jeff parker is a good guitarist in theory, but his stylistic methods (volume pedal and overt jazzisms) were off-putting and eventually turned me off to the band.

gygax!, Friday, 17 January 2003 19:41 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

overt jazzisms

Parker is a member of the AACM, you know.

gygax! whaddaya think of Pullman?

hstencil, Friday, 17 January 2003 19:44 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

reviving to counter the tortoise hating

A nobly doomed effort.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Friday, 17 January 2003 19:56 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i thought he was great in Lost Highway...

*raspberry*

you know, I never heard pullman but I really liked that Directions In Music thing with doug scharin. haha, wasn't chris brokaw also in that band? drums or guitar?

and Ned, why don't you go flounce off?

gygax!, Friday, 17 January 2003 20:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i think millions... is a great album. it's overflowing with new ideas and new collisions and really seems to be the product of a bunch of good rock'n'roll musicians all of a sudden falling in love with the possibilities of dub, jazz, and electronic manipulation.

everything afterwards, while still often enjoyable, just seems like smooth-jazz noodling in comparison.

arjun (arjun), Friday, 17 January 2003 20:07 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

haha, wasn't chris brokaw also in that band?

No, but Ken "Don't Call Me Bundy" Brown was.

hstencil, Friday, 17 January 2003 20:10 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i saw them at that thrill jockey party at hackney ocean in september. i thought they were the most boring, audience-hating bunch of retards. it was such a predicable, routine performance.

and the audience wasn't much better. standing their stroking their chins and furrowing their brows. i was trying to fucking dance, dammit!

fields of salmon (fieldsofsalmon), Friday, 17 January 2003 20:53 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i can't say i really like, nor listen, to tortoise much any more (just put on the Gamera single - not too bad), but they were a major stepping stone in my musical knowledge back in the day.

near the end of college, listening to lots of "college rock" (pavement et al.), i discovered tortoise, and it really blew the door open for discovering non-rock bands that are amazing and influential. while not necesarilly introducing me to lots of styles, they made me really interested in new territories -- dub, kraut rock, prog, electronic, minimalist composers like steve reich and terry riley, ennio morricone, glitch [through label mates oval], more out forms of jazz.

i think after a while the whole post rock scene became very same-y, especially from the second generation of post-rock bands, who's influences were tortoise, rather than all of the aforementioned styles tortoise borrowed from.

i once met the band, while they were Tom Ze's back up band, and they were complete assholes

and Standards was a big steaming pile of dog doo

JasonD (JasonD), Friday, 17 January 2003 20:57 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

oh, and after really getting into the styles of music which Tortoise built their sound around, i realized it's been done way better 30 years earlier

JasonD (JasonD), Friday, 17 January 2003 21:10 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i saw them at that thrill jockey party at hackney ocean in september. i thought they were the most boring, audience-hating bunch of retards. it was such a predicable, routine performance.
and the audience wasn't much better. standing their stroking their chins and furrowing their brows. i was trying to fucking dance, dammit!

I saw them at the NYC show, and it was no good either. I've seen them a bunch live, tho, and that was the first time they were truly sucky. And I've danced during those other shows, too (and unlike Out Hud, they did not command me to!).

i once met the band, while they were Tom Ze's back up band, and they were complete assholes

hehehehe, well I can see that. Was that when Ze played Park West? I was at that show. Anyway, McEntire's kinda shy, which makes him seem aloof (I don't think he played with Ze). Herndon is kinda bratty sometimes. But Doug, Bitney and Jeff are some of the nicest guys I've known, ever. ESP. Doug. That man is totally a saint. Unpretentious, down-to-earth, willing and able to chat about anything/everything in a really cool way. If most "hatas" got to meet Doug and just talk with him for five mintues, their icy hearts would melt. Or not. I say that tho 'cause a lot of the hating has little to do with the music, and much to do with a (mis)perception of their personalities.

and Standards was a big steaming pile of dog doo

No disagreement here, bro-dy. Don't know why I own this.

hstencil, Friday, 17 January 2003 21:41 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Really liked the first LP and the "Gamera" 12" and the "Why We Fight" 7". And the first remix LP. Everything else I have forgotten about.

mosurock (mosurock), Saturday, 18 January 2003 00:07 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Hstencil you have back-up: I think Donut Bitch, during his whirlwind tour of the U.S., accidentally wound up chatting with some very nice guys by the Empty Bottle (one of whom turned out to be Doug).

nabisco (nabisco), Saturday, 18 January 2003 00:21 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Dud. At a certain moment when post-hardcore / stagnating "indie rock" was tapped out, Tortoise came along and made every bad choice in moving beyond their roots. The choice to go instrumental; the academic "appreciation" for and "tasteful" emulation of a swath of very safely canonical-type avant-garde/underground/jazzish/dubby musics, each becoming drained of its life-blood when brought into the Tortoise mix; the pretentious "professionalism" of the band (whose members each seemed to want to be known as instrumental "players" in their own right); the deliberate "professionalism" of the production (from within the band itself); the feigned "unprofessionalism" of the TNT cover art; the messing with Stereolab (see above); the patent lack of fun in both their recordings and their live shows; the god-awful live cover version of the Art Ensemble of Chicago;---ACK ACK ACK! Yeah, they really bug the hell out of me. I sense that their intentions are generally good and yet the result is so bad--maybe that's what really bothers me. I mean it seems like they genuinely care about the music they like and which influences them, they have laudable DIY tendencies in wanting to also be repsonsible for the production side (thinking of McEntire here), they have some kind of ambition to push themselves into new directions--and yet, and yet all these bad things people say about them seem true, and I don't enjoy them a whit. So right but SOOOO wrong.

arch Ibog (arch Ibog), Saturday, 18 January 2003 03:55 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

and Ned, why don't you go flounce off?

Shan't.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Saturday, 18 January 2003 04:06 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

the god-awful live cover version of the Art Ensemble of Chicago

Oh jeez ... what AECO tune did they butcher?

Mr. Diamond (diamond), Saturday, 18 January 2003 07:42 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Not sure that took "guts", exactly

albvivertine, Monday, 12 March 2018 18:26 (six months ago) Permalink

Oh come on, Morricone is a sacred cow of sacred cows (even if my suspicion is that more people cite him than listen to him)

Paul Ponzi, Monday, 12 March 2018 18:43 (six months ago) Permalink

the paris texas soundtrack is the fountainhead of shit hokey guitar americana

ogmor, Monday, 12 March 2018 20:40 (six months ago) Permalink

nah

Paul Ponzi, Monday, 12 March 2018 20:50 (six months ago) Permalink

who else are you going to pin it on

ogmor, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:00 (six months ago) Permalink

Ry Cooder is a guy I feel similarly meh about.

Fedora Dostoyevsky (man alive), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:16 (six months ago) Permalink

He's an incredible player who has recorded really no solo material I want to listen to. Morricone, on the other hand ...

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:26 (six months ago) Permalink

xp well, if we're talking the past twenty years or so, John Fahey is probably responsible for a lot more subsequent guitar mediocrity than Cooder.

I guess both of those guys' styles are easy for intermediate guitarists to superficially imitate. You don't hear a lot of young guitar players aspiring to sound like Fripp or Ribot or Michael Hedges

Sorry for the digression here!

Paul Ponzi, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 00:42 (six months ago) Permalink

Michael Hedges is fucking terrible so there's that

The Desus & Mero Chain (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 01:03 (six months ago) Permalink

I mean if ppl are gonna shit on Fahey then diss kids for not wanting to be the Jaco version of Fahey

The Desus & Mero Chain (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 01:04 (six months ago) Permalink

despite his rep v few people have a clue what Fahey was even up to, & the best known slices of what he did have largely been influential on the culture at the "damn fingerpicking in open tunings creates such a sweet vibe!" level and the ensuing mediocrity is really nothing to do with him.

how it functions as a soundtrack is a separate discussion, but paris texas is v much all about summoning up that sweet atmosphere, so however clumsily it's aped, there's less to misunderstand. this reminds me of the deliciously not-wrong-but- review of jack rose's red horse, white mule which compared his cover of dark was the night to the paris texas soundtrack

ogmor, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 01:08 (six months ago) Permalink

I even bought that Ipecac comp of 'weird' Morricone material curated by Alan Bishop, hoping for a gateway, but the constant annoying sex noises made me want to fling the CD from the moving car

― Paul Ponzi

i wasn't really nuts about that bishop comp

the hard thing about dismissing morricone is that he's done so much stuff that it's hard to genuinely claim one's heard enough to say he's no good

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 02:12 (six months ago) Permalink

if he was better wouldn't he have done stuff everyone would know to be good despite the volume

j., Tuesday, 13 March 2018 02:37 (six months ago) Permalink

if walt rockman was any good he could psychically project his best songs into everybody's mind instead of having them buried on records nobody heard for decades

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 02:59 (six months ago) Permalink

I mean if ppl are gonna shit on Fahey then diss kids for not wanting to be the Jaco version of Fahey

― The Desus & Mero Chain (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, March 13, 2018 1:04 AM (eleven hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I think you misunderstand me--I'm definitely not shitting on Fahey. I'm suggesting his style is not especially difficult to ape compared to some other guitarists I named at random whose music is singular and instantly recognizable the moment you hear it (whether you like it or not).

and give me the "Jaco version of Fahey" over inept indie rockers mangling ragas and "country blues" any day

Paul Ponzi, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 12:51 (six months ago) Permalink

I'm listening to michael hedges properly for the first time & I would like to formally curse ilx

ogmor, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 13:31 (six months ago) Permalink

Fahey is almost like a theoretical virtuoso. Ry Cooder is a real virtuoso, but not that interesting to me. The Brits like the Pentangle or Fairport folks, there's some virtuoso for you, on point *and* on theme.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 14:41 (six months ago) Permalink

But then, I always thought Jim O'Rourke a sham and fraud. So ...

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 14:42 (six months ago) Permalink

what's a theoretical virtuoso? like... a composer?

ogmor, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 14:58 (six months ago) Permalink

Like, Fahey's big thing is often emulating the spirit of all these old blues guys. So it's less that he has to be a flashy player and more that he must capture that sort of primitive vibe. Like playing a character as much as playing the guitar.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 15:30 (six months ago) Permalink

ha yeah, he is much more interested in character/poses/drama/performance/irony etc. than his emulators, who are largely aiming at copying the scenery

ogmor, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 15:35 (six months ago) Permalink

thinking about it, i think pajo is a better guitarist than all the other guys we've mentioned

ogmor, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 15:36 (six months ago) Permalink

based on what? (I like Pajo)

Paul Ponzi, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 16:14 (six months ago) Permalink

I bit of what I reckonry, but with Cooder/Fahey it's like the difference between the picturesque and the sublime: the former is safe, soothing and maternal, the latter is Other, dangerous, disturbing. Both equally valid, like, but only one is truly imitable.

Fwiw, I think Tortoise are more the former.

And Jim O'Rourke is kind of fraud, I think (and wouldn't mind be called on it), but he's like David Byrne or someone, where they come so close to the line it actually ceases to matter.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 16:15 (six months ago) Permalink

Fwiw, I think Tortoise are more the former.

It's not like they named a song on their first album "Ry Cooder" or anything.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 16:18 (six months ago) Permalink

xxp all the others besides Fahey, obviously, I'm not being absurd. Pajo is quietly original and distinctive in his harmonies, tunings and phrasing, and his low-key greatness is attested by his facility for gorgeous elliptical melodies & counter melodies, and he occasionally gets to those moments of joyous heart-bursting immediacy that are worth more than Good Guitarists' whole careers

JOR is very mannered and arch and composerly and sort of hideously superficial but I like him anyway

ogmor, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 16:34 (six months ago) Permalink

JOR, man, that guy...no comment. I've now listened to TNT four or five times after basically not hearing it for over a decade. I think it only seems profound, it's wallpaper, but there are moments I adore. Miles, Jon Hassell, David Behrman, they cut them to shreds, though.

eddhurt, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 19:36 (six months ago) Permalink

Serious question: would you know who Hassell and Behrman (and possibly even Miles) were if you had't heard Tortoise first? I ask because I will freely admit that a lot of this post rock stuff was a gateway for me to dub, fusion, and lots of other music that I listen obsessively to today. I'm sure I was aware of Miles Davis before Tortoise, and might have even heard Kind of Blue or something, but that feeling I got when I heard IASW for the first time and thought "ohhhhh...so this is where it all comes from" might not have ever happened if I didn't read in an Isotope 217 review that that Miles record was a major touchstone for all those Chicago guys

Ditto latest ILX punching bag Jim O'Rourke, without whom I wouldn't know Tony Conrad, Folke Rabe, Loren Connors, possibly Fahey, etc

While I would definitely rather listen to Jon Hassell or Miles than Tortoise or Gastr Del Sol (Behrman not so much), I think the idea that they "cut them to shreds" is maybe overstating it a bit

Paul Ponzi, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 19:57 (six months ago) Permalink

Tortoise has hooks, though. And beats. That's why it's much less wallpaper-y than what I've heard of Jon Hassell. And why it holds up better than an Isotope 217 or Chicago Underground Duo record. The idea of someone soloing over their music is, like, gross to me.

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 20:06 (six months ago) Permalink

Jordan otm. I can hum every tune on TNT and I haven't heard the damn thing in over a decade

Paul Ponzi, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 20:13 (six months ago) Permalink

miles davis is one of the greatest musicians of all time

tortoise made a few nice timely records

j., Tuesday, 13 March 2018 20:54 (six months ago) Permalink

Paul, I heard Hassell, Miles, Behrman, Morricone, Reich waaay before I heard Tortoise, whose music hasn't led me to one single thing. To me, Tortoise is an afterthought, sincere young fellows trying to make their nice little demi-fusion thing or whatever that is, and without the balls of the best fusion stuff, or jazz. I like TNT, and it does have some hooks for sure. I think it's a triumph of editing and trimming for sure. To my ears Jon Hassel's stuff is way richer, way less concerned with superficial aspects of music like "hooks," and just plain deeper--his Bluescreen stuff is as kinetic as the music he's imitating or lifting from, wheras Tortoise is...more pallid, suburban, kinda neurotic in a way. This is part of my whole disagreement with post rock--for sure I worked my way backwards from, say, Mahavishnu Ork to Duke Ellington, but at the same time I knew plenty about real jazz--Ellington, 'Trane, Parker, Armstrong, Earl Hines, Basie, Ornette--when I was sitting around grooving to Birds of Fire and whatever the fuck it was, King Crimson or some such thing. My generation, at least, knew about the stuff; and I think the post rockers were just too damned clean, too convinced they were onto something that transcended the dirty old world of jazz and rock. I can't take it very seriously, but as I say, TNT is a record I still quite enjoy, perhaps partly for nostalgic reasons.

eddhurt, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 20:57 (six months ago) Permalink

superficial aspects of music like "hooks,"

Oh no you did not

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 20:59 (six months ago) Permalink

Morricone bores me tbh. Tortoise's ersatz Morricone > Morricone. And it's still probably my least favorite part of Tortoise.

― Fedora Dostoyevsky (man alive), Monday, March 12, 2018 5:25 PM (twenty-seven minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

dude do you even know how many soundtracks Morricone has released? in different styles? it's not all speghetti western harmonicats

brimstead, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:11 (six months ago) Permalink

Ry Cooder is a guy I feel similarly meh about.

― Fedora Dostoyevsky (man alive), Monday, March 12, 2018 5:16 PM (yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

there's something really conspiratorial about the omnipresence of ry cooder.. like what is the point of ry cooder records? who are they for? sorry, ry.

brimstead, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:13 (six months ago) Permalink

I assume much of this is generational (I was born in the mid-80s). Like Paul, I heard TNT and Millions Now Living Will Never Die before I started obsessively exploring Miles Davis' discography or delving into krautrock and the like. I was vaguely aware of their existence (mostly thanks to my dad, who occasionally listened to pre-Bitches Brew Miles and later Ash Ra Tempel when I was a kid), but they felt more alien to me than Tortoise, whose relative primness had a didactic quality (cue the thread about 'record collection rock' that was revived a month ago or so), which I suppose is precisely what irritates some of you. Anyway, I do feel like that cleanliness is part of the point. The muzakification is a strategy (doesn't matter whether it's conscious or not) meant to bring out the extent to which these once 'vital instances of spontaneously innovative genius' are now commodities, in line with all the rest, and emphasizing their status as a now-reproducible stock of gestures can actually be quite touching in its own right. I don't really listen to Tortoise anymore but I do think back on the aforementioned albums quite fondly.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:25 (six months ago) Permalink

I think it's key that Tortoise's prime coincided with the golden age of reissues and boxed sets. Everything from Krautrock to weird folk to out jazz suddenly became not just available but promoted by labels as Something You Need to Hear (often because said labels did not promote it the first time around).

xpost Well, I suppose in the '70s he was a bit of a "roots" curator - later, too, with the likes of V.M. Bhatt, Ali Farka Toure and Buena Vista, when his role was more explicitly to introduce people to stuff they hadn't heard. As a sideman, he's an ace, playing with Randy Newman, Beefheart, the Stones (he taught Keith about open G, iirc), and as a historian he's pretty cool, too. A cult figure, to be sure, but one of those "glue that holds things together" sorts. There are some great interviews where he goes into depth on, for example, Blind WIllie Johnson, Blind Blake, and Robert Johnson, who, per the importance curation, was barely compiled before the 1990 comp, iirc. Before everything from Harry Smith's comps to collections of random '78s started getting re-released, the stuff Cooder was drawing from was pretty underground and obscure, I want to say, outlets outside of hardcore blues/folk players and collector circles.

So yeah, I don't listen to him or want to, but he served/serves a role.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:28 (six months ago) Permalink

You could probably slot him alongside peer and likeminded kook David Lindley.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:34 (six months ago) Permalink

I heard all the jazz stuff before Tortoise (though not Can or Neu or anything like that). I first got into TNT through some jazz school friends who were (and are) amazing musicians and had already metabolized all the jazz history and chops they would need. So it was a cool perspective to see that as a starting point instead of an end goal, like, what are you going to do with all that? And TNT was a great example at the time.

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:34 (six months ago) Permalink

I guess in a sense Tortoise at its best was truly a fusion band.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:37 (six months ago) Permalink

Post-rock was just fusion all along.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:40 (six months ago) Permalink

That I don't agree with. Unless you mean that all music is fusion, in which case, sure.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:48 (six months ago) Permalink

xp great post, pomenitul, and I think you are right in identifying the generational difference. I'm a little older than you, and sounds like I'm a little bit younger than eddhurt, but your experience mirrors mine. As I stated upthread, Tortoise was absolutely crucial to my checking out music that I might have otherwise taken years to find, and for that I am grateful. I also still think they're a great band, no qualifiers; I saw them three years ago on the Catastrophist tour and they were excellent

Paul Ponzi, Tuesday, 13 March 2018 21:56 (six months ago) Permalink

Ry Cooder is a bad-ass guitarist, and his later records, like Chavez Ravine, are great. Very humane efforts.

eddhurt, Wednesday, 14 March 2018 00:38 (six months ago) Permalink

this thread is a complete clusterchinstroke

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Wednesday, 14 March 2018 02:28 (six months ago) Permalink

There is definitely a generational thing about Tortoise and the comment about reissues in the 90s is otm. Tortoise sounded alien and fascinating to me as a 19 yer old in 1995-96. They were transparent about their influences and that’s what led me to hearing Can, Reich, Morrisone,Lee Perry and electric Miles. Sure I might have heard all that in due course but Tortoise was my gateway and I’ve never held it against them.

I mentioned upthreas my thoughts about Jeff Parker joining the band midway through TNT. They became “less adventurous” but they also became less slavish to their influences. Standards is when they finally just started to sound like Tortoise.

sctttnnnt (pgwp), Wednesday, 14 March 2018 03:41 (six months ago) Permalink

three weeks pass...

If you told me this Joe Chambers track was a primary influence on TNT, I would not be at all surprised

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEWEC5lv_Co

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 5 April 2018 22:33 (five months ago) Permalink

i'll have to check that album out, i love New World from 1976. it even has semi-tortoise-y mallet percussion action on "chung king"

brimstead, Thursday, 5 April 2018 22:43 (five months ago) Permalink

"chung dynasty" i mean, god wtf brimstead

brimstead, Thursday, 5 April 2018 22:43 (five months ago) Permalink

now you've got me thinking about stan freberg

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Friday, 6 April 2018 00:06 (five months ago) Permalink


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