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Tortoise - Tortoise CD (album) cover

TORTOISE

Tortoise

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.36 | 32 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Opening album from one of the more original bands in the last two decades, this self-timed debut is clearly one of the cornerstones on which Post-Rock's foundations were set. The Chicago combo is led by John McEntire who produces the group's works/albums as well. If this album is indeed one of the pioneering form of post-rock, Tortoise's music will always be hard to describe as their music always changes from album to album (and track to track), which is generally not the case with most of the other formations in that niche or pigeonhole. One of the main trademarks of Tortoise is the vibraphones, sometimes two or three simultaneously, but also a more synthetic sound (sometimes Techno-ish or trip Hop) than most of the movement's future star groups.

Musically we're still quite far from talk talk's last few albums, the other Post-Rock cornerstone, opening on clumsy saturated guitar strums, Magnet intrigues the listener and has him perk his attention to a slowly evolving and crescendoing beat, where the intermittent killer bass lines add much drama. One of the album's highlight is the middle section of Cooder, where the vibes come in a charm your eardrums out of your skull, while the drums and bass are jolting out of your speakers?. Awesome stuff, still now, more than 15 years down the line. Some of the group's music can be strictly ambient and sinister as Onions shows with these feedbacks and basic drumbeats, a bit Krautrock-ey or Kosmische ala early TD or early Kluster. Tin Cans builds upon a nagging whistling noise, and turns out to be quite enjoyable. The general moods of the album range from quiet introspective to softly sombre to the Scandic-type melancholies with a tad of trip hop feel (or future trip hop, since this album precedes that movement) and to top it all of gentle techno music touches. The guitar often takes on a bluesy tone (ala Ry Cooder or Taj Mahal precisely, while the bass often strolls around the pace of the tracks. The closing Cornpone Brunch track returns with the vibes, but their delicate sounds get crushed by the grinding guitar parts.

Although many of today's Post-Rock top groups seem to be solely inspired on GYBE!'s sonic realm or Tarentel, it's quite clear that the Montrealers and Friscans owe almost everything to the Chicagoans of Tortoise, and that makes this band uniquely important and unfortunately often eclipsed by the uninventive Mogwai or EitS. Although I discovered Post- Rock's many charms through GYBE!'s debut album, it is nowadays certain that it was actually the beginning of the end in terms of groundbreaking as only Tortoise still innovates, almost two decade after being the instigator.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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