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Tortoise re-release series, part 6 – Beacons Of Ancestorship (revisited)

Thrill Jockey

After the, quite frankly, cheesy and banal efforts from Tortoise on their previous album It’s All Around You, it was understandable if one found themselves without their hopes raised for Beacons Of Ancestorship, released in 2009. However, it comes as a relief to report that this is a vast improvement on the album beforehand; and is also a work that sees the band branching out into new territory without the tendency to repeatedly fall back on familiar tropes like they did on Standards from 2001.

They open confidently with “High Class Slim Floatin’ In,” all La Düsseldorf-esque motorik drums and fuzzy guitar riffs. The Krautrock references don’t end there as the synth melodies resemble Harmonia. In fact it appears that Tortoise had dragged

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Tortoise re-release series, part 5 – It’s All Around You

Thrill Jockey

Tortoise’s fifth album, It’s All Around You from 2004, tells the listener from the outset that they are in for no surprises whatsoever. On previous albums; and especially with the proceeding Standards, Tortoise showed that they were a band who could take off into several directions. Unfortunately with It’s All Around You they made it absolutely clear that they chose the most tedious and uninspiring one.

The album cover is a dead giveaway as well, recalling the awful Athena poster look of the artwork on albums by bands such as Weather Report. The music also resembles the smug Jazz Fusion of Weather Report. Cloying guitar melodies nuzzle up with an over-familiar use of the vibraphone in what is

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Tortoise re-release series, part 4 – Standards

Thrill Jockey

The way Tortoise opens Standards, their fourth album, suggest that they want to have some fun with the listener’s possible preconceptions. The buzz and hum of a guitar amp makes way for a bombastic passage of music wholly unlike what Tortoise are known for. It could be that they’re poking fun at their own reputation for subdued, restrained compositions. Or indeed it could be a wider swipe at the whole ‘post rock’ genre in general; a term that makes the band bristle.

This anthemic opening sequence of “Seneca” sounds more like MC5 or The Stooges; a large dose of psychedelics mixed in with garage rock fuzz. However, it is a false start; which cements the notion

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Tortoise re-release series, part 3 – TNT

Thrill Jockey

When TNT came out, some of the band members mentioned whilst interviewed that using Pro Tools had given them too many options, and that they had feared at one point that the album would lack direction. Lacking direction would be a harsh criticism for TNT, however it could definitely be said that it’s a sprawling album, and can become aimless and like something akin to sonic wallpaper from time to time.

By now listeners knew what to expect from Tortoise, and indeed the opening track “TNT” delivered their trademark sound. Relatively upbeat, pretty serious and muso, it opens with jazzy drum frills which give way to a guitar riff straight from the band’s workbook. Dubby effects and muted horn riffs come into play in what

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Tortoise re-release series, part 2 – Millions Now Living Will Never Die

Thrill Jockey

By the time the second Tortoise album appeared on the scene, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of time dedicated to the discussion as to whether they were in the spirit of Prog, or Krautrock.

This debate seems a little perplexing now, especially when one remembers that Tortoise started operations in the early to mid 90s. However, it’s important to remember that the year Millions Now Living Will Never Die was released, 1996, was just a year after Julian Cope released the Krautrocksampler book; and it had become de rigueur for rock albums with a leftfield bent to be compared to the radical music that hailed from Germany during the late 60s and early 70s.

It seemed that much

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Tortoise re-release series, part 1 – Tortoise

Thrill Jockey

The arrival of Tortoise brought along a discussion surrounding the widespread use of a new genre term that described a supposedly emerging musical genre. The term was ‘post-rock’ and, at the time, seemed to be the focus for as much debate as the band were themselves.

Supposedly coined by music journalist Simon Reynolds, the term appeared to be much maligned at the time. Deemed as po-faced, as was much of the music which fell under the banner, it shared space in the musical room of shame alongside IDM (intelligent dance music); surely the most irritating of all genre titles.

Reynolds first used this term when reviewing the Bark Psychosis album Hex for The Wire; and indeed post-rock was initially attributed to the British underground

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Tortoise – Beacons of Ancestorship/Remixes

Thrill Jockey

Tortoise - Beacons of AncestorshipAre Tortoise feeling their age? Beacons of Ancestorship, their sixth album and first album proper in five years, is littered with references to age. Ancestorship is a reasonable pointer, with Tortoise being the ancestors of course. And the title “Prepare Your Coffin” is pretty explicit. Not that Tortoise are letting it show musically. Beacons of Ancestorship kicks out into a noisy fuzz-fest at points. It was introduced to me as being synth heavy, which is right on the money. Tortoise have augmented their sound with a fat bank of analogue synths and begun to explore the territories of electronica. The result is an odd eclectic album, at points noisy and reassuringly angular, then at others well … er … funky. Never really thought I’d be saying that

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