Monday, February 25, 2008

Tortoise – "Galapagos 1 (remix)"

I mentioned in Friday's post that I used to play that really long Bowery Electric track during my DJ sets when I needed a smoke. For those of you who don't live in a major American city, a little background. California banned smoking in bars years ago. New York followed suit when Bloomberg got elected, and Philly just started it about a year ago, right after I moved here; I can't catch a break. And Boston did it some time ago as well.

Anyway, I've learned to live with it, to the point where I now go outside to smoke even if I'm in a city that still allows it, but when I was DJing it was a little trickier. I had responsibilities, after all, so I had to time it right. That's where this week's smoke-break classics come in. The trick is to roll one ahead of time so you're ready to go (if you're a cheap-ass who rolls his own smokes), then figure out in advance what you're going to play after your smoke-break record. When the long one starts playing, you throw the next one on the other deck, cue it up to the first beat and run outside. That way you can just run back in and hit play at a moment's notice. If you're vigilant, any song over six minutes should suffice.

I wasn't a club DJ, I played hang-out music in a bar, so most of my records weren't 12"s filled with ten-minute dance remixes. I played a mix of shoegaze and triphop and anything head-bobbing in between. But there were still remixes.

In the 90s it became common for rock bands to embrace dance, hiphop and other emerging electronic styles. For a while, rock bands putting out dance remixes became de rigeur, at least among the hipper ones. The band that arguably kicked this trend into high-gear was Chicago post-rockers Tortoise, who released an entire remix album after only their first studio album.

Following their second album, they released a series of four 12"s (numbered 1, 3, 4 and 5, for some reason) featuring celebrity remixers screwing with tracks from their most recent release; this would shortly become common practice in indie rock. This track is from the third, numbered 12.4, in the series.

I always liked Spring Heel Jack, so much so that I once mistakenly purchased a CD by ska band Spring Heeled Jack; what can I say, the cover looked techno-y enough. Maybe it was the rock pedigree; one of them was a guitarist in Spiritualized, though I didn't know this when I first heard them. As a young guitarist/rock loyalist, I hated electronic club music until I was about 21, and what brought me around to it was jungle. Spring Heel Jack were responsible for the first jungle track I really dug, a song called "Double Edged Dub" on the seminal Macro Dub compilation.

They keep it pretty simple here: you've got a bowel-rattling synth bass; some mellow, but standard, Amen breaks; and the song's primary guitar hook, just enough of the original to make it recognisable. In fact, I played this once between sets at an Unlove gig and C— came up and asked me if this was some Tortoise remix or something. So there you go.

Buy it... on vinyl. (The original 12" is apparently titled Rivers, though there's no indication of this on the label.)

From my deck to you: Tortoise remixed by Spring Heel Jack – "Galapagos 1"

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