SHUFFLER 0040: YOU SUDDENLY SEEM SO CARIBBEAN
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Tortoise — “Tin Cans Puerto Rican Remix” from A Lazarus Taxon (2006 Thrill Jockey)
Let’s begin by talking names. Wikipedia explains the name of this Tortoise box set of three hours’ worth of odds and ends thusly:
The set’s title is derived from the palaeontological term “lazarus taxon“, meaning a taxon (or grouping of organisms) that disappears from the fossil record only to reappear again at a later point, which in turn refers back to the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus in the New Testament.
That’s actually pretty fascinating, both in its scientific use and in its application here, especially considering the following:
The CDs contain 33 tracks of rare material from tour, compilation and non-American releases, the band’s out of print 1995 album Rhythms, Resolutions & Clusters, which compiled remixes by friends of the band including Steve Albini, Rick Brown, Jim O’Rourke and Brad Wood, and other previously unreleased material including a restored remix by the Minutemen‘s Mike Watt that was delivered too late for inclusion on Rhythms… and subsequently fell victim to a malfunctioning DAT machine.
Why, however, the band decided to call this version of 1994’s “Tin Cans & Twine” a “Puerto Rican Remix” defies understanding. In the end, the song does not suddenly seem so Caribbean, but rather sounds an awful lot like the original. If anything, it’s more unlistenable — the ultra high-register synth part that rides atop the original is ramped up to near dog whistle magnitude, and to little effect. Is that Puerto Rican? I’ll confess I’m not an expert on the island’s music, but I’m puzzled. Maybe the song was reworked in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of the band’s native Chicago? Producer Brad Wood doesn’t seem very Puerto Rican, and he’s the guy who remixed the song, but he did produce the record Tin Cans with Strings to You by the band Far — are those guys Puerto Rican?
In the end I’m torn. I love Tortoise a great deal, and have waxed effusive about them on this blog in the past. But if I’m honest, I feel about this reworking the way I feel about most of A Lazarus Taxon — inasmuch as it’s a Tortoise song, it’s enjoyable and I’m glad to have it, but as Tortoise material goes, it’s rather unremarkable. Maybe it diminshes my fandom somehow, but I’m not sure why this box set was released. I would likely have a different opinion if I owned the actual box set with its 20-page booklet, but as I downloaded mine from eMusic, I find I’m looking for the songs themselves to stand tall, and when they don’t, I’m indifferent, nudging up against disappointment.
Even so, this is a Tortoise song, which still means a whole hell of a lot as far as I’m concerned, so this song and all others in the set needn’t worry about their place in my iTunes library: it’s secure.