LLAMA FARMERS El Toppo (Beggars Banquet) Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
It's a bit late, but Llama Farmers are being positioned as England's Pixies, circa Doolittle -- think corrosive bursts of noise giving way to stubbornly strummy acoustic passages, unexpectedly twinkly bits and a clever turn of phrase or two. There's also the tag-team vocals of Bernie Simpson and sister Jenni, though nothing on the Llama Farmer's El Toppo outing rattles with the stark force of Monkey Gone To Heaven. No surprise, really.
While not the collection of Ellington and Armstrong classics that the title might suggest, Standards is as close to a "classic" Tortoise record as you could expect from the Chicago ensemble.
After going prog on 98's TNT, the group returns to the established, instantly identifiable sound that made post-rock a sizable record-store category. The instrumental tracks here glide along, driven by loping bass lines, roiling percussion and jazzy vibes. More interesting than the playing, though, is what happens afterwards. The real star of the record is John McEntire's Pro Tools trickery. Realizing that songwriting isn't exactly a forte, McEntire turns Standards into a set of real-time remixes, with Tortoise reworking their songs and their sound as they play and, in turn, making the record more interesting than it probably would be otherwise.