Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Funky Chillout music from Tortoise, Sweetback

If you look around a little bit for good Electronica / Chillout music, it turns out there are dozens of bands doing inventive work in the style. Every time I find a good new 1, it leads me to 1 or 2 others. This is awesome because I’ve been on somewhat of a Chillout kick the last year or so. Here are a couple recent discoveries.

A fake pretty horizon perched atop a beautiful waterfall. I see what they did there.

A fake pretty horizon perched atop a beautiful waterfall. I see what they did there.

First is Tortoise. If you listen to this genre at all, you may be familiar with these guys. They released their first album in 1994, but today I want to direct you to their 2004 release, It’s All Around You.  This is a five-piece ensemble all with roots in Indie Rock and some Jazz. Over the years, they have moved toward a more electronic sound but haven’t lost any of their juice. There are a lot of effects and post-production work on this album, but it’s still very musical, not just atmospheric. The whole release is strong, but 3 tracks in particular stood out for me.

  • It’s All Around You – Each of them has a great feel for rhythm and they do a great job of weaving together minimalist playing from each musician into a rich, overlapping tapestry of music.
  • The Lithium Stiffs – Breathy percussion, synthesized vocals, and occasional beeping and popping make this sound like pneumatic machinery in a factory in heaven. Or something.
  • Stretch (You Are All Right) – Electric piano and plucked guitar back this funky bass riff. It doesn’t grab you right away, but after about three minutes the groove building, you’re bobbing your head and noticing the song.


Weak name, forgettable cover, great music.

Weak name, forgettable cover, great music.

The other disc today is the eponymous 1996 debut release from Sweetback.  Members Stuart Matthewman, Paul Spencer Denman, and Andrew Hale used to back Sade Adu (You, know: Sweetest Taboo, No Ordinary Love…). They’ve stayed together without her and worked with different female vocalists over the years. So they’re definitely on the R&B end of Chillout music, which I like a lot. This has a more atmospheric background feel than Tortoise, but the two go very well together.

I grabbed three tracks off this release as well.

  • Gaze –The bass drops two notes per measure and occasional piano spaces out the female backup vocals. I keep expecting Barry White or Isaac Hayes to whisper sweet nothings in my ear during this song.
  • Arabesque – There is some Middle Eastern flavor happening behind thumping bass, a repeatedly attacked guitar chord, and a little R2D2. It adds up to a cool sound.
  • Chord – The bass is a bit more active behind saxophone and jazzy keyboards, but it’s all about the heartbeat percussion in this one.



April 27, 2009 - Posted by | Chillout, Jazz, R&B

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