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A Lazarus Taxon

Tortoise symbolized the changing face of indie rock during the latter part of the Bill Clinton '90s. College kids and the liberal jet set didn't have much to gripe about under Slick Willy's administration, and they had money to blow on music that existed outside of tried and true rock in the booming economy of yore. Seamless, instrumental post-rock was only a symptom of the times. Flipping the switch on these socio-political factors explains the decline in the group's popularity when the Bush blitzkrieg rolled over the United States.

A Lazarus Taxon rounds up Tortoise's most obscure offerings, remixes and unreleased material. These are gems that only dedicated fans with lots of time and resources could track down and covet, including the much-sought-after Rhythms, Resolutions & Clusters LP.

Until this three-disc CD/DVD box came along, much of the band's material was lost. Even the name A Lazarus Taxon is a paleontological term referring to species that disappear and reappear from extinction, previously found only in fossil records.

At full stride, Tortoise wandered dangerously close to the sounds of elevator music. "Madison Area" and "TNT Takemura Remix" rekindle that breeziness. But the clicks, drones, glitches and rhythms found in "Blackbird" recalls the funky and experimental meandering that gave Tortoise appeal in the first place.

Videos for "Four-Day Interval" and "Galapagos" are reminders that no matter how good Tortoise can be, their music doesn't translate into film.

The box comes packaged in a series of stark black-and-white photos by retired Swedish police car accident scene photographer Arnold Odermatt. Odermatt shot his assignments in various states of cleanup, metaphorically summing up these alternate takes on some of Tortoise's greatest works. There's beauty in the wreckage that's visible only in the debris of these happy accidents. 4 stars

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