June 1999
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Sounds From the House

Three Short Album Reviews

by Todd McCafferty

Tortoise/The Ex In the Fisktank EP

This 6-track collaboration between Tortoise and The Ex released on Konkurrent Records is the best post-TNT release by Tortoise and my first introduction to The Ex. Tortoise is known for its meditative and deliberate tracks, usually introspective instrumental tracks, enhanced with minimal post-production work. The descriptions of The Ex characterize it as dynamic and tension-building, so a collaboration between two diverse styles of music-making excited me to say the least, especially since Tortoise reign as the gods of post-rock.

"Tortex" does not disappoint.

The most shocking element for me was the addition of The Ex's vocals, a rambling, rhyming free-association mess which grew on me after repeated listens. Basically, the final product is a hard-sounding Tortoise with vocals. It starts out with "The Lawn of the Limp" a very Tortoise-y song, augmented by stronger percussives and the aforementioned vocals. The hardest track to stomach is "Huge Hidden Spaces" which features low bass rumbles, like Kranky on crack, and culminates in scracthy, screetchy, finger nails on chalkboard-type noises. My cup of tea! This is a nice departure for Tortoise, but it is a horizontal move. Its different and intersting, but I still prefer Tortoise's own sound. Well worth the seven dollars I paid for it on vinyl (the only way to listen to it BTW), but I hope that Tortoise continues on its own developmental past.

Buy In The Fishtank EP at Amazon.com!

Pole CD2

Pole is Stefan Betke, who masters most of the Chain Reaction/Basic Channel's releases and his music definitely takes a cue from their minimal house sound, but instead of boom-tsss-boom-tsss, Pole takes the crackle-pop- crackle-pop approach. All sound sourcing for Pole is from a defective 4-Pole Waldorf Filter Stefan received from a friend, hence the name. Sequencing and shaping the Waldorf's glitched output, Pole creates minimal techno sounds, influenced by dub in an abstract way. CD2 is only six songs, making it more of an EP than an LP, which actually works to its advantage. Pole's first release, CD1 was interesting and fresh but it went on too long for me. I like my minimal music in minimal doses and CD2 does just that. The dub is more prevalent and a little more complex. Although in the end I really don't see how much longer Betke can continue with this line of music, it is fresh and interesting but gets boring with repeated listens.

Buy CD2 at Amazon.com!

DJ Qbert Wave Twisters: Episode 7 Million: Sonic Wars within the Protons

DJ Qbert is the Christ Almighty of the DJ scratching world, leader of the Invisbl Skratch Piklz, and generally acknowledged to be the best turntablist alive. That is why Wave Twisters was such a disappointment for me.

It is definitely enjoyable and there are some utterly sickening displays of skill, but I want more for a full release. The record, a "concept album" about teeth fighing in protons or something, is bogged down by long intros. Highlights include the previoiusly released "Invasion of the Octopus People" found originally on Bomb Hip-Hop's Return of the DJ Volume II compliation, displaying the talents of the whole ISP crew. The album definitely is a must-have for any turntablist enthuisiast, but I prefer the DJ Disk album much more, it is more innovative, fuller, and progressive. DJ Qbert might be the king of the turntablists, but this album doesn't adequately display his talents.

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