Out & About
What happens on December 21, 2012, has--according to the Mayan Calendar--taken a 5,125-year cycle to recur. On that date, a very rare conjunction of the sun with the ecliptic of the Milky Way galaxy happens. (Basically, it's the coincidence of the winter solstice and the heliacal rising of the galactic center. Grab a dictionary and an encyclopedia.) But something far more rare drops on North Texas this week: Dallas welcomes a bill that New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle ain't getting. Thanks to some freak accident, the Tortoise and Mouse on Mars U.S. tours overlap for a few days, and on one of those days, both bands and their opening acts--Nobukazu Takemura with the former and Vert the latter--share the same stage.
Japanese producer Takemura has cropped up on American radar screens only in recent years, but he's percolated through Japanese clubs since the mid-'80s. His hands have twirled hip-hop, trip-hop and acid jazz out of decks early on, but his latest work puts him firmly in the ranks of the glitterati. It's the sort of clicks-and-cuts crackle that 2001's Hoshi No Koe deftly continues. He's probably the only guy around colliding the studied tranquility of the Mille Plateuax label with the frequency abuse of Ryoji Ikeda, and--depending on your tolerance--it's either heaven or hell.
Vert is the nom de performance of Adam Butler, one of the U.K.'s best-kept secrets. Though he's no less avant than Takemura, his experimentation is decidedly more accessible, if not downright infectious. He's a knob-twiddler to be sure, but there's more body rock behind his mix. For last year's The Köln Concert, he culled themes from Keith Jarrett's 1975 opus of the same name and worked them into his own cosmic cluster. And his latest, Nine Types of Ambiguity on Mouse on Mars' Sonig label, combines Sad Rockets' punch with Broadcast's perk minus all the twee kitsch. In a word, it's dope.
Tortoise, Mouse on Mars, Nobukazu Takemura and Vert
The same can't be said for Mouse on Mars' latest, Idiology. German electro abstractionists Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner shirk their usual fractured beats and dub collage to embrace a pop sensibility that they've never before revealed. Which isn't to say that Idiology isn't the band's typically surprising turn--it's a giant step from 2000's excellent Niun Niggung--unfortunately, it sounds like a move backward.
As for headliners Tortoise, what can you say that hasn't been said already about a band that's been the impetus for more editorial ink than Timothy McVeigh's execution date? One thing that's undeniable is that its latest release more than makes up for 1998's TNT, a veritable dud from a band that seemed more potent than nitroglycerine. Hopefully hitting the road with Standards' razor sharp and rhythmically complex instrumentals will finally put to rest the long-held illusion that Tortoise is an improv unit. Standards is as tightly composed as any of Bach's Goldberg Variations, even if it replaces four-part harmony with ProTools. Here's to hoping Dallas doesn't have to wait a few millennia for a bill this solid to roll through town again.