Isotope 217 Utonian_Automatic

Chicago jazz groovers Isotope 217 take things in a much more experimental direction on this, their second full-length recording. From the opening crackle of “LUH,” which sounds like rats chewing on the power cables have already begun the entropic processes of degeneration, it’s clear this collective is on a different trip than their 1997 album The Unstable Molecule. In fact, it’s about two-thirds of the way through Utonian_Automatic before you reach something that resembles Isotope in its previous incarnation — “Looking For Life On Mars” is a funky, frantic acid jazz track that recalls early ‘70s electric Miles before it evolves into a more electronic trip that suggests that this year’s remix EP with Commander Mindfuck and Designer was more than a distraction. John McEntire and his Tortoise bandmate Doug McCombs are behind the board, and their fingerprints are all over this, but ironically, by largely abandoning the groove, Isotope has succeeded in moving away from the Tortoise feel that has suffused their work from the beginning. A beautiful step in brand new directions that don’t feel second hand. (Thrill Jockey)