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TORTOISE

Tortoise

Post Rock/Math rock


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Tortoise Tortoise album cover
3.44 | 37 ratings | 7 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential


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Studio Album, released in 1994

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Magnet Pulls Through (4:38)
2. Night Air (3:51)
3. Ry Cooder (7:07)
4. Onions Wrapped in Rubber (6:41)
5. Tin Cans & Twine (4:24)
6. Spiderwebbed (8:34)
7. His Second Story Island (2:42)
8. On Noble (4:10)
9. Flyrod (3:29)
10. Cornpone Brunch (4:45)

Total Time: 50:21

Line-up / Musicians

- Dan Bitney / bass, guitar, percussion, vibes, marimba, keyboards, baritone saxophone
- John McEntire / drums, modular synthesizer, ring modulator guitar, electric harpsichord, keyboards
- John Herndon / drums, vibes, keyboards, sequencing
- Doug McCombs / bass, bass 6, guitar, lap steel
- Bundy K. Brown / bass guitar

Releases information

CD Thrill Jockey thrill 013 (1994 US)
LP Thrill Jockey thrill 013 (1994 US)
CD Tokuma Japan Communications TKCB-72227 (2001 Japan)
CD Thrill Jockey, Headz thrill-jp 018, HEADZ 39 (2004 Japan)
LP Thrill Jockey thrill 013 (2012 US) (remaster)

Thanks to syzygy for the addition
and to The Bearded Bard for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy TORTOISE Tortoise Music


TortoiseTortoise
Thrill Jockey 2016
$13.97
$21.14 (used)
Digest Compendium of the Tortoise's WorlDigest Compendium of the Tortoise's Worl
Thril 1996
$6.91 (used)
Tortoise RemixedTortoise Remixed
2001
$29.99
$8.97 (used)
TNT by TORTOISE (1998-03-10)TNT by TORTOISE (1998-03-10)
Thrill Jockey
$26.80
TNT by TortoiseTNT by Tortoise
Thrill Jockey
$33.39
It's All Around You by TORTOISE (2004-04-06)It's All Around You by TORTOISE (2004-04-06)
Thrill Jockey
$31.74
Remixed by Tortoise (1996-10-20)Remixed by Tortoise (1996-10-20)
Thril
$71.05
Tortoise by Tortoise (2004-12-27)Tortoise by Tortoise (2004-12-27)
Imports
$74.59

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TORTOISE Tortoise ratings distribution


3.44
(37 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
11%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
41%
Good, but non-essential (32%)
32%
Collectors/fans only (14%)
14%
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)
3%

TORTOISE Tortoise reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Tortoise is a fitting name for this unassuming Chicago-based instrumental quintet, specializing in exactly the sort of music you might expect to hear from a shy amphibian living comfortably inside his self-made shell. Never mind the Post Rock/Math Rock label, which is little more than a flag of convenience: they're just another unique band marching to the beat of their own drummer, who in this case happens to play a lot of tuned percussion.

Describing the music on their self-titled 1994 debut album can be a challenge (and that fact alone should be enough to recommend it). But a quick study of the instrumentation ought to give you a good idea of their sound. The group employs five musicians: three of them on bass guitar, and three more playing some kind of keyboard instrument (note the electric harpsichord), with yet another combination of three sharing percussion duties (including vibes and marimbas).

Now, take a look at the song titles, some of them mini-masterpieces of Dada absurdity: "Onions Wrapped in Rubber" (a drifting ambient industrial interlude); "Tin Cans and Twine" (the perfect description for such a casual, back-porch sort of jam); and "Cornpone Brunch" (well, what else would you call a cool retro- lounge jazz pastiche with a KRAFTWERK-like vocoder intro?)

You fill in the blanks. In short, this is the work of serious artists with a sense of humor, always a healthy combination when exploring the outer fringes of musical eclecticism. The album may not grab your immediate attention, but give it time: like Aesop's fabled tortoise it might surprise you at the finish line.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Tortoise is the self-titled debut studio album from US ( Chicago) experimental/ post rock act Tortoise. The album sounds much like I anticipated it to sound, so even though Iīm a novice when it comes to the post rock genre thereīs no surprises here.

The music is based on a strong rythm section with two drummers and two bassists ( it might even be three) ( pretty strange constellation) and most songs have a very stripped down sound. The use of vibes in a song like Ry Cooder gives the music a slight jazzy touch, but most songs have repetitive rythms and very little melodic content ( this is my opinion and others might feel differently about it). Thereīs also a couple of more ambient-like tracks in Onions Wrapped In Rubber and His Second Story Island.

The musicianship is very strong and thereīs some really excellent rythmic material on the album.

The production is warm and powerful. Note that really great bass sound.

Even though the album has excellent musicianship and interesting ideas my overall impression of the music is that itīs too repetitive and too many songs sound too much alike. I like some parts of the album but I can only give it 2 stars. I canīt say that Iīm not intrigued and I will definitely check out more of Tortoise music but this album doesnīt really fit my taste.

Review by 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.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars Chicago based TORTOISE were one of the pioneers of the American style of post-rock in the early 90s where they, like others in the breakaway from indie rockers, were interested in experimenting with the hypnotic droning possibilities laid down by the Velvet Underground all the way back in the 60s. While bands like Talk Talk and Slint may have fully nudged the subgenere of rock that utilizes rock instrumentation to create varied timbres and textures outside the confines of traditional rock song structures, bands like Cut de Sac, Labradford, Bowery Electric and TORTOISE are cited as the founders of the American flavored stylistic approach which combined Krautrock with dub, jazz, electronica and minimalism. TORTOISE themselves formed in 1990 when bassist Doug McCombs (from Elventh Dream Day) hooked up with drummer John Herndon and set out to create freelance rhythm sections that took the elements of groove oriented genres such as reggae and add more complex elements.

The results of this experimental approach led to the eponymous debut album by TORTOISE which found a total of five musicians cranking out a plethora of different musical sounds from a veritable army of musical instruments including the usual rock suspects such as bass, guitar and drums alongside vibes, marimba, keyboards, sax, harpsichord and tons of synthesizers and effects. The combo effect of all these sounds delivered in an exclusive instrumental parade of sounds is indeed quite unlike many other artists of the days including other early post-rock bands. While incorporating jazzy elements into the overall hypnotic trajectory of the steady flow of rock led electronically tinged space dub, TORTOISE at this point still hadn't honed their skills to the point of such classics as "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" or my favorite "TNT."

The debut album by TORTOISE is exclusively instrumental and all ten tracks ooze by in the mid-tempo range and in retrospect doesn't come off as anything particularly brilliant since in time TORTOISE themselves would conjure up much more interesting post- rock offerings, but they did garner a lot of attention at the time of this release because of the unusual instrumentation of two bassists, three percussionists and an ample use of vibraphones and marimbas. This album also was released with two album covers, both of which i've somehow accumulated. While both are identical artistically speaking with three dots in three squares on a single colored background, one release shows alternating blue and white coloration while the other is of different shades of tan and brown.

Compared to later efforts, the debut by TORTOISE is a downright lazy affair with a steady groove that never gains very much steam or conjures up a lot of changing it up in the ole dynamics department. While they were successful in garnering the attention they needed in order to create a steady movement beyond the basics, the debut album isn't an album that really stands the test of time as does the following albums. While this is a perfectly satisfying hypnotic groovilistic parade of jazzy dub with Krautrock flavored elements simmering on a low lit pilot light, nothing really erupts into anything memorable either and granted TORTOISE were never known for epic extended jaunts that lead to crescendoes such as Godspeed! You Black Emperor, however they were known for an interesting instrumental interplay that doesn't quite muster up an ecstatic satisfaction level on this one. Not bad by any means but it only gets better from here.

Latest members reviews

5 stars This is my favorite album of Tortoise's. The bass work is elegant and tight, truly spectacular. There's plenty of beautiful math rock polyrhythmic drumming and mallet playing for those interested in highly technical music but what I appreciate most about this album is its consistency. The first nine ... (read more)

Report this review (#1507914) | Posted by liontime | Wednesday, January 6, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In 1994, Tortoise released their first LP, self titled and sporting an elegantly simple album cover. Over the years, they would become one of the premier bands in post rock. This album is quite different from the others in their catalogue, because there aren't so many different effects and techni ... (read more)

Report this review (#278581) | Posted by Neurotarkus | Monday, April 19, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars this is more loose and jazzy than their later records, some magnificent moments on it, some improvised, other written and constructed, listen to TNT , and their brilliant kraut like 22 minutee opener on "millions now living" and youll love this album, john mc entire shines on this album, you ... (read more)

Report this review (#110325) | Posted by | Thursday, February 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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