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If you're going to write a bad review, do it well


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Witness this review of Tortoise's album that was on Pitchfork. I don't even know their music but I really liked the writer's style:

Next month, the Japanese toymaker Takara, purveyor of the electronic dog translator Bow-Lingual and the artificial songbirds Breezy Singers, will market The Dream Workshop, or "Yumemi Kobo." The device looks like a cheap viewscreen attached to a baby monitor or shower radio. For ¥14,800, users will (theoretically) be able to create and control their dreams. After the sleeper inserts and ogles an image associated with the desired dream, the bedside contraption emits odors, soothing music, and voice recordings during deep REM sleep to steer the brain through the proper nocturnal narrative.

Having received a prototype of the toy for an article in Cold Sweat, the magazine of nightmares and nightmare culture, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and review The Dream Workshop and fifth Tortoise album, It's All Around You, together. I followed the instructions, drank a bottle of wine, inserted the smooth atmospheric rambling of Tortoise into the sound drives, and went to bed. In my dream, I threw a stone which ricocheted off the head of a Blue Jay, and into the soft breast plate of an American Goldfinch. (One should not use the Breezy Singers songbird simulators with The Dream Workshop.) On the second try, I scanned the fantastic artwork of It's All Around You into the Workshop's monitor and stared intently into the image.

Looking at the cover, I hoped to take a dip in the waterfall, cross the bridge by the rainbow, or wander down into the L.A. grid that glows like bioluminescent deep sea creatures. Oliver Wasow's surreal, technicolor images of social decay, natural awe, and disaster begged to be experienced in a state of lucid dreaming. In fact, even Tortoise themselves seem so overwhelmed by the majesty of the images that these 10 songs sound more influenced by the digitally enhanced landscapes than some collective subconscious muse. Clearly, the seasoned Chicago ambient jamband hopes to whisk listeners through these beautiful, unreal vistas. Unfortunately, they just end up emulating the hi-glossed cardboard the scenes are printed on.

As I lay in bed, the album's opening title track gracefully lifted off with John McEntire's skittering helicopter-blade percussion and Doug McCombs' lightly turbulent bass. Jeff Parker, Tortoise's most significant member, pointed to bushes and dawn-illuminated mist with his languid, soloing guitar, setting the mood for "The Lithium Stiffs". Here, Kelly Hogan's vocals-- little more than Calgon ahh's processed through a keyboard-- perfectly emulated the state of relaxed awe. It's the most emotional piece of music Tortoise have yet created, working the numbing psychotropia of the title against the joyous exaltations of Hogan's vertiginous sighs. The bass deepened dramatically, mimicking the throb of an eardrum pulse cupped against a pillow. But much as Hogan's vocals beckoned and hinted at audio bliss, they sadly dissipated, leaving the brain little to focus on but percussion, chimes and vibraphone, like your amplified heartbeat, or a dripping showerhead in the dead black night of your home.

"Stretch (You Are All Right)" naggingly fought The Dream Workshop for my attention in such a manner. Here, after a promising start, Tortoise stubbornly began to adhere to their tested formula of studio-perfect skittering and vibraphone. (Is there a more monotonous sounding instrument than vibraphones? Even at their best they sound like florid doorbells.) Finally, my brain gave in fully to slumber out of bored frustration. It's All Around You, too, settled into REM sleep at that point. Even the band's busy percussion on "Dot/Eyes", electronic glitch on "By Dawn", and, uh, more skittering percussion and glitch and vibraphone on "Unknown" and "Five Too Many" seemed as instinctual and unnoticeable as fluttering eyelids, letting the subconscious spend more valuable time in dreams or the decayed island city depicted inside of the digipak. The titles alone struck me as profoundly insightful. "By Dawn"? If I was lucky. "Five Too Many?" Indeed.

Finally, by the concluding "Salt the Skies", Tortoise and The Dream Workshop synched up with effect, taking me into the rusty, charred landscape of the inset photograph. Clouds gathered. John McEntire quickened his drum hammering. Oil lines exploded in flames. Jeff Parker let feedback spill from his guitar. And as the final chime ebbed with the darkness, I awoke. The beginning of a dream, and its climax, always stick most to memory. Tortoise, too, lure you in with nifty production tricks and winding melodies at the start of the album, and build to closing climaxes, just as they've done in the past on "TNT", "Seneca", and "Speakeasy." It's the middling middles that have always bogged their albums.

More frustrating, however, is that, after the scrappy Standards, where Parker spiked the mix with sparks and grime, Tortoise have pressed their music back into Scandinavian furniture. Cold Ikea percussion frames hold downy white duvets of keyboards, the music sterile and functional. Looks lovely in the storefront window, but isn't quite comfortable for heavy petting or watching baseball. Like Japanese toys-- The Dream Workshop, and the Furby and Tamagochi before it-- Tortoise obviously spend hours in the lab honing the science, but the finished product comes with a one-time novelty factor. The most insipid reviews of instrumental music inevitably refer to the music as "soundtracks to the best film never made!" Sadly, Tortoise have been outdone by the still photographs accompanying their music.

-Brent DiCrescenzo, April 8th, 2004

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I was thinking of a Shain Shapiro meets Heady Epic style.

'So now let us travel over this broken down path eastward where a cum guzzling stream of litanies and abuse leads us to a band called Grand Theft Bus. And now let us travel west, do I take you with me fair reader, to the nest of dank nuggets, overgrown pubic zones and painful pretension that is Victoria and a heady little band called Wassabi.'

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Headiness Is A Warm Gun

By Shain Shapiro

You know some people point to affluence as an influence in the jamband world and at first I just kind of say huh? I mean thinking about stuff is fun and everything but I like to jam it out ya know. What I can relate to is that at an incredibly early age, I am very mature for my age in case you were wondering, I related deeply to the electric white boy funkgrass of the Fat Cats. It was in this crucible (I looked it up if your wondering) that my love of generic jam music really flourished. Now I can confidently say that the Gabe Dixon band is way better than the Slip because in case you didn’t know I write for jambase, jambands and the internationally acclaimed toilet reader Revolving Door. Never heard of the Gabe Dixon band? There’s a reason, because you aren’t heady enough and you obviously haven’t listened to enough of this kind of music to have as sophisticated an understanding of all of this ya know stuff. Obscurity is what makes bands good unless they’re actually bad which is not the case here (I mean in terms of the Gabe Dixon band) cause they’re obscure but ya know good. I think the Slip is just trying to hard to be smart even though their effortless mastery of their instruments and craft is undebatable at the most fundamental of all levels. I hate when things are too hard to figure out ya know. But back to me. I was raised in a nice area of Toronto and was exposed to marijuana by Ira and Kevin Shwartz who lived near me but you still had to take a bus and everything. When I smoked marijuana and listened to Dave Matthews for the first time I realized that this was it for me, it was more profound then my first thumb through Cheri or Swank (which incidentally took place around the same time). I realized that I was home, that I was going home, that I was gone. And that’s why Headiness Is A Warm Gun.

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retaliation shainhouse!!

When I smoked marijuana and listened to Dave Matthews for the first time I realized that this was it for me, it was more profound then my first thumb through Cheri or Swank (which incidentally took place around the same time). I realized that I was home, that I was going home, that I was gone. And that’s why Headiness Is A Warm Gun.


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For a life, born of lust, rage and pilage, I introduce you to me, I me mine. Whether by chance, or being miracle'd, entrenched in a spiral of mediocrity, I bred myself on the laughable laurels of others. Superheroes beknown, I became Tick'ed' off, atop the gold perch of Napolean's humble beginnings. Trustafarians, groupies and wooks languished in a life, so lost in religious praise of their rise to Babylon, I felt it was time to bring forth the revolution according to Luke. Mounds of opiates and grass would help fill my holy grail with hops and barley. The senses flooded my synaptic firings, I mused effortlessly, as I channeled the Greek Gods.

For now, I was given my one chance at total enlightenment....................but for once only, to become, Headier Than Thou:

My wayward way was set, I was no longer a wandering spirit.

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I'm an egotistical machiavellian pain in the ass.

By: Luke 'Kung' Bowden

Firstly, listen to me because I'm always right, even when I'm wrong. Even though I'm not supposed to use contractions in formal writing, I'm right because the Slip and Ween are more intrinsically conjunct than the slop you refer to as String Cheese. When people are just trying to have a good time and enjoy themselves, critisizing them and raising a manufactured verbal iron fist is much more respected than just telling them that they suck. You know, I can't be like all the other academic thespians, because I bought the super sized thesauras yesterday, and I like over compensating for my pompous taste in music by sprouting big words all over the place.

Secondly, you're only allowed to like and enjoy what I tell you to, because if I don't like it, it's bad and you're wrong. I mean, how can you not think that The Slip and Ween aren't the two best bands parading the North American yuppie circuit. Their music is almost two smart for you, so right up my alley because my musical intellect rises above your jester like penchant for SCI and anything else that is bad because I say so.


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