Tortoise, Post-Rock & Opinions on Michael Kiwanuka

Tortoise

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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Post-Rock

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.

Tortoise

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.

Love and Hate 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.

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