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Tortoise TNT album cover
3.79 | 104 ratings | 16 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. TNT (7:32)
2. Swing from the Gutters (5:52)
3. Ten-Day Interval (4:43)
4. I Set My Face to the Hillside (6:09)
5. The Equator (3:42)
6. A Simple Way to Go Faster Than Light That Does Not Work (3:34)
7. The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls (5:38)
8. Four-Day Interval (4:45)
9. In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Women and Men (7:29)
10. Almost Always Is Nearly Enough (2:41)
11. Jetty (8:22)
12. Everglade (4:20)

Total Time 64:47

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
- Jeff Parker / guitar, bass
- Dave Pajo / bass guitar, guitar

Releases information

CD Thrill Jockey THRILL 050 (1998 US)
2LP City Slang EFA 08705 - 1 (1998 Germany)
2LP Thrill Jockey THRILL 050 (1998 US)
CD Tokuma Japan Communications TKCB-71338 (1998 Japan)
CD City Slang, Virgin 08705 - 2, 845475 2 (1998 UK)
HDCD City Slang EFA 08705 - 2 (1998 Germany)
CD Thrill Jockey, Headz THRILL-JP13, HEADZ 22 (2004 Japan)
2LP Thrill Jockey THRILL 050 (2012 US)

Thanks to syzygy for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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TORTOISE TNT ratings distribution

(104 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Tortoise's third album was their most ambitious to date. With the arrival of Chicago Underground stalwart Jeff Parker the band expanded to a sextet and became effectively a double trio. John McEntire by now had his own computer equipped studio complex, Soma, where the band were able to spend 10 months writing and recording this 65 minute masterwork. The results still sound fresh today, and go far beyond the confines of post-rock.

In some ways this is a difficult album to review. Despite being divided into 12 tracks, it feels like one homogenous entity. Where the 21 minute Djed from the previous album gave the impression of layers being peeled away, TNT gives the impression that each track is a different facet of a the same piece, or perhaps the same piece viewed from a variety of different angles. The sound had changed too; Jeff Parker brings some implacable jazz cool to the proceedings, while there's a hint of Stereolab in the occasional horn interjections (including contributions from Chicago Underground cornet ace Ray Mazurek). The influence of Steve Reich style minimalism is a lot more explicit as well - the urban gamelan which kicks off Ten Day Interval is a recurring theme. What's most impressive is the way that the various influences blend together into a seamless whole. Although often innovative, the sound is never jarring or abrupt and the pieces are full of simple melodies that interweave and recombine into surprising new shapes. In some places you'd never guess that the album took so long to record; the opening track features featherlight drums before the guitar lays down a deceptively simple motif, and the arrangement gradually fills up with nothing ever sounding forced or unnecessary - when the cornet and trombone come in they sound like the missing pieces of the puzzle rather than an embellishment. It sounds as though it was recorded in one miraculous, perfect take. In other places their fondness for electronica and studio effects takes over, but again it is all done with the lightest of touches and every element adds something vital. At times the music hurtles along with something approaching a sense of urgency, and at other times it simply sparkles in the light, and every listening reveals new nuances and fragmentary details. Their painstaking approach to writing and recording this album is more than justified; not a moment is wasted from start to finish.

There are those who argue, with some justification, that post rock is a meaningless label. Tortoise are widely considered to be pioneers of the genre, but on TNT they transcended the boundaries of post rock and a dozen other equally redundant style tags. It's music for the mind, rather than the heart or the feet, but that's one of the defining features of the form. This album is, as the ratings so eloquently put it, essential: a masterpiece of progressive music.

Review by chamberry
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is post-rock like I've never heard before. This is the only album I have by this amazing band but I'm pretty sure I'll buy more after this one. This album is full of sunny melodies and not ever being depresive like most people think of post-rock, and while we are at it, don't expect the signature sounds of post-rock here. One of the things that makes this album unique is the use of alot of instruments that help them blend different styles to their overall sound (like the xylophone used in Ten-day interval, the jazzy sax in TNT or the mixture of the acoustic guitar, harmonica and maracas to make a very nice spanish sound in I set my face to the hillside) and on a side note, they are all multi instrumentalist so all of the instruments are played by them. There are some sprinkles of electronica in the whole album (more notisable by the end of the albulm like in Yetti) to make some pretty nice delicate strange sounds but always smooth and never rough on the ears. Every song is top notch, never boring to the interested listener and the changes of songs aren't really noticable concidering the different type of styles that the album has.

The album in general is very pleasant to hear. There are no cressendos or epic feel here. Just smooth relaxing and, at times, thought provoking sounds. Like in Syzygy's review, It's ment to be music for the mind than for the heart not like most of the post-rock wich are more into the feeling of the music. But, that's part of what makes the album unique.

a masterpiece ment to be heard by everyone. 5 solid

Review by Prog-jester
3 stars Having musically more common features with indie electronics records than anything prog-related, TORTOISE's "TNT" is still a good album to listen. I managed to borrow it from a friend and I think I'm gonna burn myself a copy. Sorry for saying this but I DIDN'T enjoyed it THAT much to find and buy immediately.

"TNT" varies in mood and textures very much. Some vibraphone moments may remind you of GENTLE GIANT (like "The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls"), some tracks are almost Krautrock ("TNT", quirky "Equator"),some ones are pure electronics ("In Sarah...", "Jetty")...others are almost free-jazz meanderings supported with background hisses. As I've noticed, my interests towards this album fall into one and the same category with majority of reviewers - I liked mostly the first half of the album, especially soundscapes like both "Intervals", "Swing from the Gutters", "I Set My Face to the Hillside" etc. If you never heard of TORTOISE, I can compare their style to RED SNAPPER, BJORK, AIR, late RADIOHEAD, and a bit of EitS and SIGUR ROS - at least, that's what I've found there.

Now look at the upper corner of my review.Yep, the right one. This is an album's cover, and it's disgusting and tasteless. The ugliest I ever seen. I'd never buy this one because of cover, believe me!!! :)

OK, while "TNT" is not that kind of album I'll be listening to often and precise, it has some nice "background music" moments and even can be recommended...with a warning: try to pre-listen to it before buying.

Review by The Wizard
4 stars Those who think post-rock is boring and is lacking energy in any form should definitely check this album out. It's entirely instrumental and chilled out but never gets boring. The band always play with energy and manages to keep things interest, even if it never 'rocks out'.

At it's very core this is pretty much an experimental hip hop album. It uses drum machines and electronic beats all the time and has lots of focus on the rhythmic beat of the song. There are also live drums in the mix but the focus is still on electronic rhythms. If the idea of hip-hop turns you off worry not, this is more than mere dance music. It's very arty and progressive and shouldn't fail to provide cerebral stimulation.

There's also a strong jazz influence on the album, as well as a krautrock influence. Echoes of Miles David and Ornette Coleman are to be heard all throughout the album, especially in 'Jetty' and 'Swinging from the Gutters'. The title track is full of loose drum grooves and minimalistic guitars that remind very much of Can, particularly the song 'Pinch' from their Ege Bamayasi album. Some Spanish influence also show up throughout the album, with the use of maracas and Latin sounding scales.

This album is extremely accessible. You get could even get away with playing it at a party. Even people who listen to mainstream top 40 radio could find something to like about this album. I was hooked the first I listened to this album simply because of it's an constantly entertaining and accessible album. If you like music in general you pretty much can't go wrong with this album.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I think this is better than "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" but I pretty much feel the same way about both albums. Again I have to say this music is unlike any Post-Rock music I have ever heard. It doesn't have those soundscapes that slowly build to a climax or those Post-Rock style guitar sounds we're used to. This really is a hybrid of Electronica, Jazz and Krautrock. In fact for this album they had their studio upgraded (they added computers) and spent many months refining their sound. So this one sounds more dense and rich than their last one, but not a lot better really.

Some of the highlights for me are "TNT" which opens with odd metered drumming as the guitar melodies play over and over. A second guitar comes in after 2 minutes and later we get some sax. "Swing From The Gutters" has this steady beat of percussion throughout as well as some dissonant sax melodies.

"Ten-Day Interval" has a fantastic melody that includes vibes as synths come and go. "The Suspension Bridge At Iguazu Falls" is divided into two parts, the first half includes some good guitar while the second half adds vibes and percussion. "In Sarah, Mencken, Christ And Beethoven And There Were Women And Men" again has some steady percussion and guitar but this one also has some spacey synths for a nice change.

A low 4 stars but this is great music to veg out too.

Review by Matti
3 stars Yesterday I wrote about the preceding Tortoise album Millions Now Living..., and noticed to my surprise it had originally a bit higher rate than this one. Well, there seems to be more full rates to TNT, so maybe Millions has some extra points for being a pioneering work in Post-Rock; this is definitely more pleasing album, containing twice as many tracks and over an hour of music. If Millions left me yawning and thinking of uncosy modern interiors without much life in them, I feel TNT is more fulfilled musically; more melodies, more ideas. The instrumentation is richer (I like vibes and marimba here), not so artificial clinging and clanging as on Millions.

Post-Rock seems to have a tradition of as informationless design as possible. Here I missed the track numbers and running times, and also the list of played instruments would be nice (as on this PA page). And what point is in the way the title 'In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Women and Men' (???) has Beethoven written and overlined several times? The amateurish simple cover drawing is OK.

The first listening felt especially nice after Millions, but I still got a little bored with further listenings. The average length is probably above 5-6 minutes but without much progression in the tracks; they could easily be shorter and thus more effective. 'I Set My Face to the Hillside' is my favourite; it is actually quite sentimental (unusual in this genre, I guess) with its Chinese-like melody. Maybe some tracks would be nicer if they were carried on into songs with lyrics, against the principles of Post-Rock. But on the whole, TNT is a very recommendable album to friends of Post-Rock, and also a good introduction to those who are new to the genre. 3,5 stars.

Review by Neu!mann
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.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "TNT" is the third full-length studio album by US post-rock act Tortoise. The album was released through Thrill Jockey in March 1998. Itīs the successor to "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" from January 1996. "TNT" was constructed using overdubs and recording parts and sections at various times. At no point during the recording of the album were all members of the band present in the studio at the same time.

Stylistically the material is very diverse and alternates between dusty lounge jazzy rock pieces to ambient electronica, and other sorts of subdued atmospheric rock (everything is instrumental, as the album does not feature vocals). But as with the first two albums from Tortoise rhythm plays an important part on this album too. Thereīs a great (almost improvised sounding) organic beat going through the album. The bass is not as dominant and loud in the mix as on "Millions Now Living Will Never Die", but itīs still an important part of the soundscape. There are lots of marimba in the music which gives the music its semi-jazzy touch. The link to jazz is further strengthened by cornet and trombone parts and the fact that whiskers are also used frequently.

"TNT" features a well sounding, detailed, and professional production, which provides the material with the perfect conditions to shine. At 64:48 minutes "TNT" is a pretty long album, but itīs a pleasant and relatively interesting release throughout. Itīs almost too pleasant at times, which means that my mind drifts away and the music on occasion ends up being sophisticated background muzak, but itīs not meant to sound negative. Itīs more an effort to try and explain how calmning and almost sedated hypnotic the album can sound. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars Third and very electronica-minded release from the Chicago quintet, who remains stable line- up-wise, even adding a member Parker. While remaining very much a post-rock album, at least in its melancholic moods; this album is a logical continuation of the previous Millions NLWND, going one step further. Their low-key approach is again found in the fairly sober and simple artwork, despite the innerfold being a lot more colourful. As usual, they make the credits hard to decipher, and no-one knows who plays whatever instruments, so you'll have to look up what my great colleagues fished out at the individual album pages (above).

Opening on the rather standard post-rock scheme, generally more electric than electronic, but afterwards, the album soon veers weirder/crazier with the skidding out of control Gutters, where bursts of guitars and others clash with the generally quick (for post-rock) rhythm. The track almost reprises, but dies off quickly to allow an electronic keyboard arpeggio to lay out its web over charming vibraphone percussions, a Ten-Day Interval to Dream of a sequencer-like Tangerine, really. The following Equator seems directly taken from a mid-60's cheesy film soundtrack and is not my fave moment of the album, but it's also nothing really offensive to your eardrums. Simpler Way is again fast-paced and doesn't prepare for Iguazu Fall's, a slower beat-box-like paced track fading out in a low-spectrummed drone Another Four-Day Interval is needed before the rest of the album glides in the different moods already explored, even if the Almost Always track has a disturbing anti-dozing off alarm and the latter part of the album veers semi-techno music; which doesn't sit well with this reviewer, and most likely most progheads.

So their third album TNT is certainly not exploding your eardrums or blowing your mind away, but it's relatively pleasant passé-partout hip-crowd music if you skip that 10th track. The least we can say is that Tortoise doesn't stop advancing in the musical quest, despite having them make taste mistakes and publishing flawed music, but that comes with the experimentations and being at the tip of the avant-garde. Can't strike gold every time you dig in the ground.

Review by Warthur
4 stars On TNT, Tortoise take the jazzy post-rock sound of Millions Now Living Will Never Die and diversify it to create a sonic kaleidoscope of an album. Some sections lay a heavy emphasis on their jazz and fusion influences, whilst other parts are reminiscent of modern electronic dance music, or classic ambient pieces by the likes of Brian Eno. Still more sections mash these influences together into a strange mixture. It took a long while for this album to grow on me, but grow on me it has - like the best post-rock albums, it presents its own sonic world for the listener to inhabit and explore, or which can sit in the background of your life as you see fit, as with Brian Eno's own conception of ambient music.
Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars TORTOISE continues their unique experimental brand of post-rock on their 3rd album TNT which finds a huge grab bag of ideas heaped onto their already eclectic palette. In fact, if someone were to slap on a various artists cover of some sort you might be hard pressed to believe that the 12 compositions on this album are by the same artist. The leading track begins with one of the most "normal" tracks which sounds like a nice airy brand of jazz-fusion. It is a pleasant but unalarming little piece that belies the strangeness that kicks off on the second track "Swing From The Gutters" which introduces an ambient intro followed by an electronic dance groove mixed with some jazz guitar. The third track takes you somewhere else entirely by creating a hypnotic xylophone-like sound that works in a progressive electronic sound.

The entire album is diverse and quite exciting. It is reasonably accessible from the getgo but adds unorthodox elements that make it sound extremely fresh and constantly delivers surprises when you least expect them without being as over-the-top as say the Mr Bungles out there. The track titled "Jetty" is unique as it is the TORTOISE version of a song that was recorded and put onto the album "The Unstable Molecule" by their more jazz-fusion oriented sister band Isotope 217. On that album though is is listed under the French title "La Jetée" which is the name of an experimental film. This is a really cool album that incorporates a plethora of moods. I might have to up my rating in the future as I seem to like this more every time I listen to it but for right now it is a solid 4 star album.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Released in 1998, Tortoise's 3rd album wasn't going to rest on the laurels of their previous album. Instead, the band made an album unlike that of the post-rock heaviness of their prior albums by incorporating a more organic drum and groove sound where the different musicians in the band would add their own sections after the recording of the foundation of each track. What we ended up with is another excellent album from this groundbreaking band, this time with a lot more diversity and unique sounding songs. There are only hints of post-rock in this music which in some instances, is absent all together.

Starting off with the title track, 'TNT' opens the album by establishing a nice groove and a cool, yet simple guitar riff, and, instead of creating an added intensity, they build upon and improvise around the riff in a classic, jazz style, but also utilizing a bit of electronica just to keep things current, and adding in effects and such. Adding Jeff Parker to the band for this album definitely gave this post rock band a jazz edge that would stretch the boundaries of the sub genre even more.

'Swung from the Gutters' opens with a mellow jazz guitar solo before kicking in with an almost tropical vibe in the upbeat percussion. With the dual guitars now added to the band, we get to hear how much more depth has been added to their sound. This track is warm and inviting, and with the change of pace towards the middle, things stay fresh, especially when things turn slightly dissonant and experimental, with a nice mix of traditional jazz and wild effects.

'Ten-Day Interval' starts off with a melodic percussion pattern, again giving the track a nice tropical sound. After some nice effects, a processed piano effect comes in playing the main thematic material. The combination of the two creates an almost trance-like effect without any drums. There is not a lot of development to this song, but it's okay because it is pleasant enough the way it is. Some sound and noise effects play in a minimal way and take us into the next track 'I Set My Face to the Hillside', which begins with a guitar played in a Spanish/European cinematic style against a rhumba rhythm while children play in the background. Later, violin joins in along with accordion and light percussion. I'm a sucker for this retro-European style. Chimes and marimba play the middle section.

'The Equator' is a definite electronic track, at least it starts that way, but guitars are brought in later to drive the melody, but most, not all, of the percussion sound electronic. It has a Brazilian feel to it. 'A Simple Way to Go Faster Than Light That Does Not Work' begins with electronic pulses, but bass comes in quickly to establish a foundation along with percussion and guitars providing atmosphere. This one is less interesting, but at least it is fairly short. 'The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls' has a complex progressive jazz vibe to it. It starts out rather thick, but lightens up as it continues as a more accessible beat starts up and a nice bass generated melody picks up among tonal percussion. It's all the minor nuances in this track that make it interesting, but the melody is nice too.

'Four-Day Interval' sounds like a slowed down version of 'Ten-Day Interval' with deeper sounding instruments and sounds. 'In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Women and Men' is an easy jazz groove with some interesting things added to it, especially with a hard hit in a few places that throws off the rhythm a bit. The last part of it goes into a minimal and free floating jam. 'Almost Always is Nearly Enough' continues in the minimal experimental sound with a slight trip-hop groove that builds a little bit. This is another relatively short mostly electronic track.

'Jetty' starts off with a rapid electronic beat with synth effects. The cool effects established in the previous track are built upon in this track. This track is also trip-hop with some nice jazz elements including both guitars playing solos to the complex electronic beat. The sound gets fuller when real percussion joins in. 'Everglade' begins with a nice atmospheric sound that eventually falls into a nice slow, yet airy vibe. This is nice and laid back without dragging along. It's a nice finish to this excellent album.

There is really a lot of nuance and beauty to this album, with it's laid-back, tropical vibe which depends upon elements of jazz improvisation to carry it along. The sound is not heavy, but is light, yet complex. Everytime you hear it, you pick up on something you missed the last time you heard it. This is also a groundbreaking album where electronics and organics are both used and they compliment each other quite well. Many groups were trying hard to reach this sound back when it was released, and yet Tortoise comes along and does it like it is so natural, like it is just so easy. Anyway, this is an essential album for lovers of jazz, instrumental and boundary stretching music. This is definitely a 5 star album.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Wow. Tortoise is not a stagnant band, they're always changing and morphing, exploring new territories, developing new sounds, and using new techniques, and TNT may be one of the most radical examples of this. Each song is similar yet distinct, and the jittery yet controlled streams of percussion ... (read more)

Report this review (#278487) | Posted by Neurotarkus | Sunday, April 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I don't get what it is with this album, though I can imagine. It's not very progressive, and it's not even so good for fallin asleep like Tangerine Dream. But all in all, it's still quite good, like indie electronic ambient. And it has many influences, like reggae (The Equator), canterbury and af ... (read more)

Report this review (#109146) | Posted by progressive | Saturday, January 27, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The end of pre-post rock (sorry, had to include it somehow) I have recently been sinking into the joyous world of post-rock, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to leave. I find little more moving than the tortured metal of Kayo Dot, the pensive electronica of Ulver, the uplifting joy and beauty ... (read more)

Report this review (#104688) | Posted by Pnoom! | Wednesday, December 27, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is filled with great music. Actually, it should be seen as one piece because the tracks really flow into one another. The best way I like to listen to this album is on a quiet summerafternoon relaxing (like reading a book or just dreaming away). Don't try to analyse the music by it' ... (read more)

Report this review (#80880) | Posted by Julien | Saturday, June 10, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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