Isotope 217 is a spin-off of sorts of the Chicago-based "post-rock" band Tortoise. (You jazz snobs please bear with me a moment here.) Over the past view years there's been a "movement" (for lack of a better word) of so-called "alternative rock" bands that draw upon distinctly non-rock sources: electronic music, dub & jazz, as well as little-known European avant-rock bands of the 1970s. Isotope 217 features members of Tortoise along with some killer up & comers of the Chicago jazz scene. The extremely boss Rob Mazurek plays trumpet & cornet in a manner that combines the influences of Don Cherry AND Freddie Hubbard at their respective 60s peaks. Jeff Parker's guitar is virtually crystalline - but without the edges smoothed away. Like some of the earliest & best of the ground-breaking 70s jazz fusion groups - Weather Report, pre-Headhunters Herbie Hancock - utonian_automatic is a foremost a group music.
Another big inspiration seems to be Miles Davis' oft-underrated mid-70s stuff (albums like Pangea and Dark Magus) as well as Les McCann's Layers album. This is dense, rhythmic, driving stuff, as well as dreamy, evocative & probing, where the funk rhythms are a part of the music as much as the eerie, Twilight Zone-like textures. If you dig Miles' electric stew, the classic album Ring by Gary Burton & Eberhard Weber, Soft Machine before Mike Ratlidge left, Tony William's Lifetime (with J. McLaughlin & Larry Young) and the first two Weather Report albums from 1971, this excellent disc is for you.