Review ·

As the band that led the charge during the great post-rock scare of the mid- to late '90s, Tortoise has had a lot to live up to for quite a while now, regardless of the fact that the members of the band would probably be very happy if they never heard the term "post rock" again in their lives. Tortoise continued to expand and innovate all the way through 2001's Standards, but even stalwart fans found 2004's It's All Around You to be swimming in waters that seemed a bit too tepid. Since then, there's been a busman's holiday in the form of a covers album with Will Oldham and an admittedly excellent boxed set of previously unreleased material, so Tortoiseheads have been drumming their fingers in anxious anticipation for some time now, wondering if and when their heroes would pick up the ball they seemed to drop early in the decade. In other words, all eyes and ears were on Beacons of Ancestorship, the first real Tortoise album in five years.

 

Cagey sonic strategists that they are, the members of Tortoise have neither succeeded nor failed at picking up where Standards left off in the band's evolutionary progression; they've simply thrown their map in the campfire and headed off in an entirely different direction. Well, not entirely. The sounds on Beacons still bear trace elements of the band's former work, but they're organized in a drastically different way. The constantly shifting textures, meters, and modes of old have been replaced by more straightforward, simplified structures and a markedly more visceral feel. The kaleidoscopic flurry of tonal colors has been toned down in favor of a focus on relatively hard-edged synth riffs and what one might even dare to call dance beats. If ever there was a Tortoise album to which you could get down and boogie, Beacons is it.

 

But this new direction doesn't feel like a 180-degree response to the noodly fusion sounds of It's All Around You so much as a natural desire to light out for new territory. It's the same desire that fueled the band's groundbreaking '90s albums and is apparently still deep-seated within Tortoise's collective soul.

  • High Class Slim Came Floatin' In
  • Prepare Your Coffin
  • Northern Something
  • Gigantes
  • Penumbra
  • Yinxianghechengqi
  • The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One
  • Minors
  • Monument Six One Thousand
  • De Chelly
  • Charteroak Foundation

Beacons of Ancestorship is Tortoise's sixth full-length album, and the Chicago quintets' first release of new material in five years, since 2004's It's All Around You. As usual, the post-rockers recorded at drummer John McEntire's Soma. Beacons runs the gamut from dirty techno, atonal punk, bricolage experiments, lo-fi dub, processed synths, and dank spaghetti western tracks. For those taking a trip to the record store, the CD version is presented in a four-panel mini-LP style jacket and the LP is pressed on HQ 180-gram virgin vinyl with an old-style top-on gatefold jacket and MP3 download coupon. Beacons is also accompanied by a series of limited-edition 5-inch records featuring new tracks.

Various - The Toxic Avenger Musical (OSC) Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas II

It's crazy...when I first got my hands on an advance copy I drooled with anticipation - as Tortoise is my favorite band, period.

The sound on the album is so inspired in parts, and so mind-numbingly uninspired in others. Gigantes is by far the highlight for me. And "High Class" is another a close second (followed by Charteroak Foundation. But, beyond that, it's a dissapointment. What's weird is that the album as a whole makes me smile to hear that they've really tried to take a bolder, and more modern stance. That's difficult because they've always sounded modern. So I'm disspointed in the number of mediocre songs on the album, but the record still sounds intriguing. I can't wait for the follow-up 5-inchers to be released shortly after. Hopefully the band kept some gems for those, because there surely aren't many on the new album.

JOhn

I really like the new album, even if it bounces all over the place. Keeps you on your toes and, even when it does slide into a bit of a lull, I don't think it lasts too long. Hard to avoid those lulls with this spacey instrumental stuff, but mostly they pull it off here. Glad to have them back.

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