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Tortoise - TNT CD (album) cover

TNT

Tortoise

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.68 | 68 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Chicago's best-kept musical secret is one of the few bands able to brag of being truly progressive, by sounding like nobody else, least of all themselves on earlier albums. Since first learning about the group here at Prog Archives I've been able to sample all five of their studio albums to date (all within a single week, thanks to a well-stocked Erie County library system), and I'm more than a little amazed at how little they owe to any other Prog band or musical tradition.

Actually, that isn't entirely true. There's a subtle undercurrent of classic Krautrock in a lot of their music, and it surfaces again on the band's third album, released in 1998. Listen, for example, to the minimal rhythms of "Swing From the Gutter", clearly influenced by (but in no way an imitation of) the hypnotic, heartbeat grooves of CAN.

Rumor says the album title is an acronym for Tough and Tender, not the more explosive trinitrotoluene. If true, the music here definitely leans more toward the tender end of the equation, with a relaxed but confident sound balanced somewhere between experimental post-rock and cocktail lounge jazz (a weird combination, but it works). And the album continues a Tortoise tradition of quirky song titles, with "A Simple Way To Go Faster Than Light That Does Not Work", and (my favorite) the goofball Zen koan "Almost Always Is Nearly Enough".

The music itself (all of it instrumental) tends to unfold with a disarming, seemingly arbitrary sense of structure: beginning somewhere, ending somewhere else, and often exhibiting no real urgency to get there. But the mood varies to an astonishing degree, from the sunny Mediterranean vacation of "I Set My Face to the Hillside" to the techno-lounge psychedelia of "Equator", and to the ambient tuned-percussion mantras of "Ten-Day-" and (four tracks later) "Four-Day Interval".

For the sake of lazy reference I'm reminded of Yo La Tengo, another outsider band (from backwoods New Jersey) operating under its own peculiar rules. But the emphasis here on toe-tapping geometrical rhythm (three of the six players are credited with percussion; and four play bass guitar) puts Tortoise in a class by itself.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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