Short Cuts 5: Tortoise, Broken Heart Collector

Tortoise, Vienna WUK, 21 November 2010

The last time I saw Tortoise it was through a haze of sleep deprivation and alcohol at the 2008 Donaufestival, when they (or, more likely, the event organizers) made the audience wait until 1.30am before coming onstage.  November’s altogether more civilized appearance kicked off at 8pm and was over by 10; other than that, it was business as usual for the Chicagoans.  That’s not in any way a criticism; it’s actually rather miraculous that Tortoise are still with us after all these years, still serving up their effervescent and irresistible blend of jazz, funk and instrumental rock.  There’s an unflappable confidence to what Tortoise do, a sense of quiet authority that is reflected in the ease with which the group members take over each others’ instruments and carry on playing.  Mapped out by the meshing interplay of the drums, vibraphone and keyboards, Tortoise music resembles an endless highway, teeming with interest and pleasure at every turn.

Broken Heart Collector, Vienna Rhiz, 30 November 2010

The Rhiz was packed out for this appearance by what, as far as I can make out, is a fluid unit consisting of fun-loving improv-noise-rock trio Bulbul together with Maja Osojnik on vox and devices and Susanna Gartmayer on reeds.  Bulbul seem to relish being fronted by slightly unhinged female singers: cf. 2008’s gig at the Rhiz at which the group gave repeated depth and colour to Carla Bozulich’s angular vocal interventions.   Osojnik was, if anything, an even more arresting presence than Bozulich had been, while her dramatic and surreal texts were thrown sharply into focus by Bulbul’s splintering sonic constructions and Gartmayer’s restlessly agitated reeds work.

David Murobi took his customary great photos of the gig which you can see here.

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