When I first heard Tortoise's album Millions Now Living Will Never Die, I was blown away by it. It was this strange amalgamation of electronic and acoustic music that hooked me in completely from the start. At the time, it was something unlike I had really ever heard and I've been hooked on them ever since (and have even gone back and got their first self-titled disc that I missed the first time around). Also when I heard them, though, I knew that they were a prime group for the remix, and within months my suspicion had been confirmed by 12" records with remixes by several big-name artists. Several times I debated purchasing them (even though I'm not really into vinyl), but eventually held out.
Then, last year I saw that the group had gone and done something very cool and compiled all the tracks onto one disc for easy purchase and an uninterrupted listen. With 8 tracks and almost exactly 60 minutes of remixes by big names as UNKLE, Spring Heel Jack, Luke Vibert, and Bundy K. Brown, I was sold instantly.
This disc is nearly exactly what you'd expect from the different artists and their marriage with the Tortoise tracks, and that's not a bad thing most of the time. UNKLE opens the disc with the Bruise Blood Mix of the epic "Djed," paring it down from it's original 22 minutes and adding in a nice, thumping beat. The familiar elements are there, but nearly all of them seem to be amplified just a bit, giving the track quite a bit more snap than the original. Tortoise member John McEntire gives the same track a reworking on the second song, "Tjed." It's even more unrecognizable than the UNKLE version, and instead completely takes off in it's own new direction, sounding a lot like a Mouse On Mars playing instruments instead of bloops.
Markus Popp of Oval fame does quite a number on the two tracks he remixes, giving them a completely new life of their own (with titles "The Bubble Economy" and "Learning Curve," I'm not even sure which tracks he used as source material). Instead of sounding like remixes, they really have become more of Oval tracks with their strange repetitive loops and odd noises that Popp seems so fond of.
Spring Heel Jack turns "Galapagos" into a slick little drum and bass track with their reworking of "Along The Banks Of Rivers." The original really only comes into play during several segues that the song goes through, but it works well. Jim O'Rourke turns in a long, drawn-out affair with a couple of shakey stops and starts in which the chopped-up drumming bits are the only thing keeping the song from flying apart.
Crazy Luke Vibert (he's everywhere, I tell you) adds his own mix of "The Taut And The Tame" with a goofy/spooky drum and bass version of the track that sounds like it could have come off his Drum And Bass For Papa disc as Plug. Strangely, it's also the song that's left most intact by remixing, even though he adds his own playful style. It's strange hearing Tortoise hopped up on goofballs, yet strangely appealing at the same time. The disc ends with an 11-minute minimal piece by Bundy K. Brown in which simple elements from a couple different songs are taken and built upon very slowly, but never adding much more than some light drums and a couple light blips of sound.
Overall, the disc is an excellent group of tracks from different artists and it goes to show that remixes work a whole lot better when songs are actually deconstructed and then built up from the ground again. Instead of having a bunch of re-hashings of songs you've already heard, the disc really is 8 tracks more inspired by Tortoise than anything else. It's not to say that they aren't present in spirit, but the disc has a life of its own and provides the perfect addendum to a Tortoise collection.
Note: the album link above goes to the import version of the disc at Amazon.com. If you hurry, though, you still might be able to order the domestic version at the Thrill Jockey website.