Tortoise’s last album, TNT, was a synthetic creation, assembled entirely in Pro Tools, but the gigs the band did in support of it were some of the most coherent, consistent, and entertaining they had ever played. And although the material on the group’s recent Standards (Thrill Jockey) wasn’t directly developed on that tour, there’s little question that it drew on that live energy–Tortoise has never sounded so much like a working band on record. Each song focuses intently on a handful of ideas: the beautiful fusionoid “Monica,” for example, is constructed from a couple of complementary melodic patterns, but what makes it tick is the way different instruments drop in and out of the mix or get scrambled as through a kaleidoscope. And on the requisite Morricone tribute, the brisk “Blackjack,” a few gorgeous twangy guitar riffs get retrofitted for different instruments–including a synthetic harpsichord!–with dynamically different voicings. Tortoise has been on the road for the last few months, so these shows ought to be drum tight. Also on both bills is Japanese composer Nobukazu Takemura, who on his new Hoshi No Koe (Thrill Jockey) makes no effort to sound live: the quasi-classical piece “White Sheep and Small Light” sculpts lovely, mannered contrapuntal lines with obviously synthetic clarinet and string sounds; elsewhere Takemura further explores the serene tones, soothing static, and jagged digital errors of his previous work. Tuesday, June 19, 9 PM, with the duo of Fred Anderson and Robert Barry, and Wednesday, June 20, 6:30 PM, with Bride of No No and Designer, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. Takemura also performs Wednesday, June 20, at 12:30 PM at Borders Books & Music, 150 N. State; 312-606-0750.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.