12 Songs, 56 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

As the prime movers of the instrumental post-rock scene, Chicago’s Tortoise have single-handedly injected a level of musical virtuosity not often associated with the indie-rock genre. However, the band has always understood that a flurry of notes alone does not make a group and have centered their explorations on muscular grooves that reflect the autodrones of Kraftwerk. Their sixth studio album and first in five years, Beacons of Ancestorship stakes out some new territory in its Moog-loving keyboard excursions. Their love of primitive, funky synths gives a sinister ‘80s video game appeal to much of what they do. When they turn it up for overdrive on “Yinxianghechengqi,” the sound turns ominous and grinding and makes the album’s previous dark excursions — “High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In,” “Prepare Your Coffin” — sound positively jovial. “The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One” is their standard Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti-western homage. “Minors” has a subtle funk under its placid, pleasing tones. Tortoise makes background music that refuses to stay in the background.

EDITORS’ NOTES

As the prime movers of the instrumental post-rock scene, Chicago’s Tortoise have single-handedly injected a level of musical virtuosity not often associated with the indie-rock genre. However, the band has always understood that a flurry of notes alone does not make a group and have centered their explorations on muscular grooves that reflect the autodrones of Kraftwerk. Their sixth studio album and first in five years, Beacons of Ancestorship stakes out some new territory in its Moog-loving keyboard excursions. Their love of primitive, funky synths gives a sinister ‘80s video game appeal to much of what they do. When they turn it up for overdrive on “Yinxianghechengqi,” the sound turns ominous and grinding and makes the album’s previous dark excursions — “High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In,” “Prepare Your Coffin” — sound positively jovial. “The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One” is their standard Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti-western homage. “Minors” has a subtle funk under its placid, pleasing tones. Tortoise makes background music that refuses to stay in the background.

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Ratings and Reviews

4.5 out of 5
40 Ratings

40 Ratings

Stan Dupp ,

Well worth the wait

Another jewel in the crown that is Tortoise. It took quite a while, but this is new LP kicks!

trtsfan ,

Classic Tortoise

Tortoise are no "has-beens". They are timeless innovators. Incredible synth work, amazing grooves.

mr2percent ,

Coffin = prepared

On their latest, Tortoise make a return to more experimental territory. 2004's "It's All Around You", for all its strengths, lacked the experimentation and unpredictability that previous albums (2001's "Standards", 1998's "TNT" and 1996's seminal "Millions Now Living...") enjoyed. It was, for lack of a better phrase, "tortoise by-the-numbers". Not necessarily a bad thing, but the album didn't hold up as well on repeated listens.

"Beacons of Ancestorship" takes the Tortoise sound (which, admittedly, is difficult to describe) and adds several new layers to digest. As always, analog syntheziers buzz wildly throughout, jazz guitar punctuates and provokes, and polyrhythmic percussion dominates. it's when the band introduces something new and out of left field where the album ultimately succeeds.

For instance, "Penumbra" wouldn't sound out of place on one of Madlib's "Beat Konducta" compilations, "Gigantes" adds a touch of the Far East, "Charteroak Foundation" sounds ahead of the beat and right on time simultaneously, and "Yinxianghechenqi" adds a raw energetic tone previously unheard in the Tortoise universe.

But it is the album's opening one-two punch that is most impressive. "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In" and "Prepare you Coffin" set the tone for this album. Tortoise hasn't hit such a high in only two songs since the "Djed"/"Glass Museum" pairing on "Millions Now Living Will Never Die".

It'll undoubtedly end up in my end of the year top ten, and if you're a Tortoise fan, I highly recommend it.

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