Tortoise, Post-Rock & Opinions on Michael Kiwanuka

With an eclectic all-instrumental blend of rock, jazz, dub, electronics, and the avant-garde, Tortoise emerged as the leading band of Chicago's so-called "post-rock" scene in the 1990s. On its seventh album The Catastrophist, the group has introduced a radical new element: vocals. Tortoise joins Jim and Greg for a conversation and performance. Jim and Greg also explore the history and legacy of the post-rock movement. Plus, a tribute to Alan Vega of Suicide and a review of the new album from British soul musician Michael Kiwanuka.

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genre dissection


With Tortoise joining them in the studio this week, Jim and Greg take a moment to give a primer on the post-rock movement. Like virtually all genre labels,“post-rock”is a term rejected by most of the artists associated with it. It generally refers to a set of mostly instrumental bands in the 1990s who used non-traditional instrumentation and a collage-like approach to blending genres. Jim and Greg trace the origins of the movement to German krautrock, experimental '60s jazz-rock bands, and dub reggae. There were major post-rock acts across the globe, including in the UK (Stereolab), Montreal (Godspeed You! Black Emperor), and especially in Chicago. From Tortoise to Gastr Del Sol to The Denison/Kimball Trio, Chicago's scene fostered an eclectic experimentation with styles.





By the late '90s, Tortoise became the leading band of not only the Chicago scene, but the global post-rock movement. The all-instrumental band was founded by Doug McCombs and John Herndon as a bass and drums duo in the late '80s, inspired by Jamaican rhythm-section-for-hire Sly and Robbie. Eventually the band came to include John McEntire, Dan Bitney, and jazz guitarist Jeff Parker. Tortoise received massive critical acclaim for the 1996 album Millions Now Living Will Never Die and 1998's TNT. On the latest record The Catastrophist, the band experiments with the strangest innovation of all: vocals. Tortoise joins Jim and Greg for a conversation and live performance.


Remembering Alan Vega

Alan Vega This week Jim and Greg pay tribute to Alan Vega, former singer for electronic protopunk band Suicide. Jim discusses the importance of Suicide in transforming the conception of the synthesizer from suitable for use solely in melodic or dance music into an abrasive instrument. Suicide's music often warranted extreme hate from crowds of listeners, and their aggressive electronic music helped pave the way for punk music. Suicide was widely influential and beloved by many artists –even Bruce Springsteen has been covering the band's music. Vega passed away on July 16 at the age of 78.

reviewLove & HateLove & Hate available on iTunes

Michael Kiwanuka Love & Hate

British soul artist Michael Kiwanuka first came to public attention after opening for Adele in 2011. Five years later, he's released his second album called Love and Hate. While his first record had a vibe that resembled classic soul folk artists like Bill Withers, he went in a different direction the second time around. Greg loves Kiwanuka's sophomore effort because of his departure from his initial style. He thinks that Kiwanuka has found his voice as an artist, speaking out about his experiences as a "black man in a white world" as he sings in a track with the same name. Greg thought his collaboration with Danger Mouse really elevated his music to another level, he gives this album a Buy It. Jim also thought very highly of Love & Hate. He admires his willingness to speak openly about issues he is passionate about, and appreciates Kiwanuka's melding of different genres. Jim also gives the album an enthusiastic Buy It.


Featured Songs

  1. The Velvet Underground, Lady Godiva's Operation, White Light/White Heat, Universal, 1968
  2. Neu!, Hallogallo, Neu!, Astralwerks, 1972
  3. Public Image Ltd, The Suit, Metal Box, Virgin, 1979
  4. King Tubby, Flag Dub, Fatman Tapes II, Culture Press, 2000
  5. Henry Cow, Nirvana for Mice, Legend, Virgin, 1973
  6. Gastr Del Sol, The Seasons Reverse, Camoufleur, Drag City, 1998
  7. The Denison/Kimball Trio, Monte's Casino, Neutrons, Quarterstick, 1997
  8. Stereolab, Metronomic Underground (Wagon Christ Mix), Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Duophonic, 1996
  9. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Storm, Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven, Kranky, 2000
  10. Labradford, WR, Mi Media Naranja, Blast First, 1997
  11. Tortoise, Ry Cooder (The Beer Incident), The Digest Compendium of the Tortoise's World, Thrill Jockey, 1996
  12. Grace Jones, My Jamaican Guy, Living My Life, Island, 1982
  13. Brian Eno & David Byrne, Help Me Somebody, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Sire, 1981
  14. Tortoise, The Catastrophist (Live on Sound Opinions), The Catastrophist, Thrill Jockey, 2016
  15. Tortoise, Magnet Pulls Through, Tortoise, Thrill Jockey, 1994
  16. Tortoise, Djed, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, Thrill Jockey, 1996
  17. Tortoise, The Taut and Tame, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, Thrill Jockey, 1996
  18. Devo, Jocko Homo, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, Warner Bros., 1978
  19. Tortoise, TNT, TNT, Thrill Jockey, 1998
  20. Tortoise, Seneca, Standards, Thrill Jockey, 2001
  21. Tom Zé feat Tortoise, Defect 3 Politicar, O Pirulito da Ciência, Biscoito Fino, 2009
  22. Tortoise, Shake Hands With Danger (Live on Sound Opinions), The Catastrophist, Thrill Jockey, 2016
  23. Tortoise, Gigantes, Beacons of Ancestorship, Thrill Jockey, 2009
  24. Tortoise, Rock On, The Catastrophist, Thrill Jockey, 2016
  25. Tortoise, Yonder Blue, The Catastrophist, Thrill Jockey, 2016
  26. Tortoise, Tesseract (Live on Sound Opinions), The Catastrophist, Thrill Jockey, 2016
  27. Tortoise, It's All Around You, It's All Around You, Thrill Jockey, 2004
  28. Suicide, Dream Baby Dream, Dream Baby Dream / Radiation, Island, 1979
  29. Suicide, Frankie Teardrop, Suicide, Red Star, 1977
  30. Michael Kiwanuka, Love & Hate, Love & Hate, Interscope, 2016
  31. Michael Kiwanuka, Black Man In A White World, Love & Hate, Interscope, 2016
  32. Michael Kiwanuka, Cold Little Heart, Love & Hate, Interscope, 2016
  33. Michael Kiwanuka, Father's Child, Love & Hate, Interscope, 2016
  34. Herman's Hermits, Dial My Number, Both Sides of Herman's Hermits, MGM, 1966
  35. Alice Cooper, Elected, A Fistful of Alice, Manhattan, 1997
  36. Jim O'Rourke, Women of the World, Eureka, Drag City, 1999
  37. Moby, Porcelain, Play, V2, 1999
  38. Eddie Cantor, If You Knew Susie (Like I Know Susie), The Eddie Cantor Story, Capitol, 1949

Footnotes Tortoise Jim's Uilab DIJ Eleventh Dream Day on SO Powerhouse Sound on SO Michael Rother (Neu!) on SO Michael Kiwanuka Greg's review of Love & Hate New York Times Obituary of Alan Vega