There are certain things I love more than writing, talking about or listening to music. And that, my friends, is learning. As Plato remarked in one of the seemingly endless platitudes designed to be quoted on T-shirts for University professors for 2000 years, “knowledge is the food of the soul.” Thinking that you know everything is essentially the equivalent of saying you’re full when you only had a slice of toast for breakfast. Or, you know, being one of those girls with an eating disorder. Finding out about music I’ve never heard of, or never had the spur to discover fully myself, is one of the few simple pleasures left in the Internet age. More importantly, you can’t get that kind of recommendation just by surfing a blog aggregator and downloading the ten most popular tracks of the day. To fall down the rabbit-holes of the endless trip that is Western music, you need to go following other people. Incidentally, that’s how I landed up discovering Tortoise.
I get coffee at a really hip place in Bondi, where we have a mutual caffiene-for-tunes arrangement that has been going for well over a year now. Incidentally, the place is actually a wine bar. In lieu of the fact that I’m usually the only person not drinking vino at four in the afternoon, my chats with the staff their inevitably turns to music. Most of the time, it’s about hip-hop. With Andy, though, it’s pretty unpredictable. When Andy gets excited about something, you can either go along with him or get the hell out of the way. He’s one of those people whose eyes still light up when talking about a great gig they went to a fortnight ago. And as he kicked the machine into life to make me a macchiato a few months back, Andy started raving about Tortoise.
There was no way I could fake this. I knew about the band, but I’d never heard any of their music. It just hadn’t crossed my radar. And so rather than simply getting out of it by using the ‘oh, I don’t really dig them’ response, I asked Andy what made this band so great. His long-winded, eyes-widened and impassioned answer made me want to check out this band more than anything I’ve ever read online in my entire life. To paraphrase: “They’ve got like, two drummers and two guys who play vibraphone, but there’s also a marimba or something and they all rotate and it’s just fucking mind-blowing, man.” As a percussionist, I was now fully aware how criminal it was that I had no idea about this band. So Andy picked up a business card, scribbled down three phrases and handed it to me. “There; those are the albums you should start with. TNT is amazing, then you should move on to Millions Now Living Will Never Die. It’s only like, eight tracks but it’s unbelievable.”
You can always learn something new if you’re open to new ideas. Tortoise have fast become one of my favourite new bands, despite the fact that many of their songs don’t have lyrics. The interplay of mallets, drums, guitars and staggeringly intricate chords result in a surprisingly chilled out, blissful listening experience. This is the missing link between music for musicians and music for the average man. Everything here could be set to a film about self-discovery, and ad about New York, visuals that correlate to everything and nothing. ‘Ten-Day Interval’ is a slow building masterpiece in an album full of them. You wouldn’t be far off if you thought you were listening to a live version of Air. And while I’m assured by Andy that no two Tortoise albums sound the same, and then when I move onto the next one my head will expand in a different direction, I’m pretty happy with where it’s gone thus far.
Cheers, Andy. You make a great coffee and even better conversation.
Tortoise – ‘Ten-Day Interval’
Beat the hare .
PS: D goes away for a week tomorrow. In his absence I’ll be opening up the floor to guest posts from some of our favourite friends on the Internet. Stay glued to your screen…