Review Summary: Millions Now Living Will Never Die may have been what catapulted Tortoise to the larger world, but it took this first album to get there.
For many in Chicago in the mid-90s, this album was the gateway to post-rock, Krautrock, Dub... and anything else Tortoise could find. They took rules from everywhere – and broke them, to create their own game.
They started with two great drummers, two brilliant bass players, added a swingman every bit as talented and versatile as the others – opening up worlds of multi-instrumental possibilities. Recorded at the storied Idful studios on empty studio time, this album is a group of friends hanging out and discovering, just for fun, how to create some of the most unique musical stylings.
Much of the album is based on the melodic interplay of bassists Doug McCombs and Bundy K. Brown is both chill and heavy. Having three great drummers in John McIntyre, John Herndon, and Dan Bitney, they always fit that interplay with brilliant beats majestic. With all of them being multi-instrumentalists, and McIntyre’s production, they always have the perfect headphone frosting.
So much sound, done with such tasteful minimalism.
I never could understand why people thought it was all so serious though – when you listen, you can hear them having a blast! The titles have a sense of humor: Cornpone Brunch, Onions Wrapped in Rubber, Flyrod. I suppose sampling William Burroughs on Night Air adds a bit of darkness – but he was a dark humorist, after all. They even throw in a sample from The Who – all in good fun.
Thursday (horns) Friday (horns) Saturday (horns)… sometimes I forget which album I’m listening to, and expect Armenia in the Sky, instead of Cornpone Brunch – but it’s a fun trick.