With its proclivity for one-off singles, remixes and compilation appearances, Chicago instrumental rock act Tortoise has long been the perfect candidate for boxed set treatment.With its proclivity for one-off singles, remixes and compilation appearances, Chicago instrumental rock act Tortoise has long been the perfect candidate for boxed set treatment. Those rare tracks have finally been rounded up for the three-CD/one-DVD collection "A Lazarus Taxon," due this week via Thrill Jockey.
"For a few years, I have definitely wanted to collect all these things floating around out there and make them available to people," bassist Doug McCombs says. "Some of the things on here are a few of my favorite things we've ever done."
McCombs is especially partial to tracks created in concentrated bursts like the tour singles "Vaus," "Madison Area" and "Waihopai," as opposed to Tortoise album material, which is notoriously slow to develop. "Almost every one of those songs are things we threw together in a day," he says. "We realized we needed a single to bring on tour, went to the studio, made up a song, recorded it and mixed it. Those are cool little documents."
Also near and dear are tracks like "Gamera" and "Cliff Dweller Society" from Tortoise's brief incarnation featuring multi-instrumentalist Bundy K. Brown, who only appeared on the band's self-titled 1995 debut. "At the time those were recorded, that was the pinnacle of the era with Bundy in the band," McCombs says. "We had definitely arrived at something and then suddenly Bundy wasn't very interested in being in the band anymore. 'Gamera' puts a period on that, and that's a really important track for that era."