Band: Tortoise
Album: Gamera EP
Best song: The title track is unstoppable
Worst song: “Cliff Dweller Society” is not as good as the title track. Still great.

It’s hard not to think about one’s origins when thinking about music and its place in our lives. My music fandom and the places to which I go in said fandom, as mentioned here and here, come from a direct line to one evening and my taping songs off the local college music station.

Indeed, that fateful evening is the reason that Tortoise is my favorite indie rock band. If there’s a better place to meet post-rock than “Gamera,” I don’t know it. As a song, “Gamera” has everything. It’s a meandering, repetitive, building song. With a strong bass and drum background, a slowly picked guitar lays out the melody, over and over until it crescendos into electronic noodling and atmospheric keyboards.

However, as a concept, it’s even better.

“Gamera” means as much to me as anything in music. It’s the ideal nature of the early stages of the Internet, when the web was used mostly for scouring and finding those who identified with you. It was the late 1990s/early 2000s Internet, before Spotify, or Pandora. It was the time when you weren’t recommended everything, but you liked what you liked and you had to know how to find things.

This is how I came upon Gamera. I knew the song and, of course, I knew the band. But, the EP from which the song came was simply impossible to find. It was a limited edition EP; fewer than 10,000 copies had been pressed and only on vinyl.

You have to understand, my exuberance for music when I was 18 was enormous. It was doubly important for me to own every possible limited EP and 45 my favorite bands had released. Just having “Gamera” on a tape was not enough; I needed to find it (and “Yaus” and “Why We Fight” and “Lonesome Sound” and other early singles) to add to my collection. Again, this was in the infancy of Napster, though these songs weren’t even online anyway.

So, I took to message boards, online commerce and the like. I, luckily, found the EP on eBay after a tip from the boards (I am not kidding). The EP cost me $90, including shipping, to get the thing from England to my dorm room in Columbia, Mo.

Totally worth it.

It’s hard not to look back and not see the foolish nature of spending so much money on a piece of vinyl that I’ve used, possibly, fewer than 25 times (if that). It was money wasted, especially considering the song’s placement on the Tortoise box set I’d pre ordered the first instant I could.

But, the story isn’t just mine. Technology made it easier for me than it had for those before me; the people who’d attended screenings of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in colleges in the early 70s, before the movie came to the states. Or the ones who wrote letters to England to get the TV show on in the States during the same time. It was easier than the Grateful Dead (guh) bootleg guys, meeting in stadium parking lots to exchange tapes. It was easier than the D&D heads who would meet to exchange whatever it is they exchange.

This kind of extreme fandom is hard to explain, but it speaks to a quality I can respect: curiosity. I wanted ownership of my curiosity about Tortoise, a band I adore. I wanted to go through the trials and tribulations of gathering all the band’s material, through whichever method I could.

The Internet makes this a different animal, of course. Between peer-to-peer networks, pirate sites, Pandora and the like, it’s easy to learn about any media around. It take the effort out of so many things, certainly; I can access so many things at my fingertips.

It’s stupid, but, as I get older, I get that thing that old people get. I bitch about how hard it was back in my day. We had to go to the store to buy our records. We had to ask clerks about which other bands we’d like if we like Rainier Maria. We had to tape songs off the radio. We had to watch movies in the theater.

I hate this about myself, but I cherish what I had to go through for Gamera. It’s not a great album cover, but the record is framed in my apartment because it means so much. Nostalgia is powerful.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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