Last week Thrill Jockey released A Lazarus Taxon, a three-CD box set by Tortoise that collects a big chunk of remixes (both by and of the band), various Japan-only bonus tracks, compilation tracks, and rare singles. There’s also a DVD of music videos, an appearance on Chic-A-Go-Go, and some fascinating live footage, including performances at the Deutsches Jazz Festival in 1999 with the Chicago Underground Trio and Fred Anderson. The third disc of the set reissues the long-out-of print 1994 remix album, Rhythms, Resolutions, and Clusters, appended with a previously unissued remix by Mike Watt that was lost in the mail when it came time to release the original record.
Bands that have been around as long as Tortoise, especially local ones, can be easy to take for granted. And when their early accomplishments are absorbed by other musicians, with time they might not seem as interesting or important. But Tortoise's reputation as humorless or pretentious has never been deserved--any group that tries to be progressive gets called that. It's true that a few of the remixes, as well as a fair number of the bonus tracks, are dispensable (can’t that be said of most bonus tracks?), but one of the things I like about some of these singles and compilation tracks is how the band reworked specific songs into new tunes. “Why We Fight,” a 1995 single on Soul Static Sound, borrowed material from the Duophonic 12-inch “Cliff Dweller Society,” while “Source of Uncertainty,” a track from the Mo Wax compilation Headz 2, was a different mix of “Why We Fight.”
Rhythms, Resolutions, and Clusters was pretty radical for its time: a rock band, albeit a stylistically expansive one that didn’t “rock” in a conventional manner, releasing an entire remix album of material from its eponymous debut. While dance music producers had been remixing music for decades, usually to enhance its club- or radio-friendliness, Tortoise were one of the first rock bands to embrace the remix as compositional terrain.
Bang the Head Slowly: Uncomfortable, Unemotional, Isolating Metal at a Snail’s Pace, Monica Kendrick’s review of an Earth show last year at the Empty Bottle, will be included in the forthcoming Da Capo Best Music Writing 2006. It's also available in the Reader's paid archives.
The Like Young, the local husband-and-wife pop-rock duo of drummer Amanda and singer-guitarist Joe Ziemba, has just announced that its upcoming tour will be its last. According to a post on their website by Joe, “We're no longer interested in being a part of an industry which, with a few exceptions, is often cold, cynical and senseless. The financial, mental, and physical strains are constant. The resulting victories are few.” What turns out to be the band’s final album, Last Secrets, was released by Polyvinyl Records in May. Their final Chicago gig, on Friday, September 1, at the Hideout, kicks off the tour, which ends in Houston on September 16.