Isotope 217 seems like more or less a side project of Tortoise, with a couple of other members thrown in, perhaps more like a remix of Tortoise, but not really. Isotope appears to be the more free-form jazz space that the folks from Tortoise use to let their hair the rest of the way down. Although the free-form nature of their work isn't at all apparent on their first album (The Unstable Molecule), which is a reasonably straightforward blend of jazz and a wee bit of funk. I was quite unprepared for seeing them live, then, when they threw all sheets to the wind and appeared to improvise for almost their entire set. Each of their subsequent albums, Utonian Automatic, and the recently-released Who Stole the I Walkman? gets progressively closer to what I recall of their live sound - in other words progressively more challenging.
Links of note:
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