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Tortoise Standards album cover
3.44 | 60 ratings | 11 reviews | 10% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Seneca (6:20)
2. Eros (4:26)
3. Benway (4:46)
4. Firefly (3:56)
5. Six Pack (3:11)
6. Eden 2 (2:08)
7. Monica (6:30)
8. Blackjack (4:07)
9. Eden 1 (2:36)
10. Speakeasy (6:18)

Total Time: 44:18

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

Releases information

CD Thrill Jockey THRILL 089 (2001 US)
CD Warp Records WARP CD 81 (2001 UK)

Thanks to syzygy for the addition
and to The Bearded Bard for the last updates
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Buy TORTOISE Standards Music

TORTOISE Standards ratings distribution

(60 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(10%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (37%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

TORTOISE Standards reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Tortoise are what I think of as 'texture rock'; they utilize rhythms, lines, sounds and ideas as a basis for music as opposed to normal structure. This sets them apart from almost any other contemporary rock band, even among those also pegged as postrock. The group allows their music to start moving on its own, carefully adding, subtracting or changing parts for atmosphere and effect as they string together strange and intriguing sounds from prog rock, industrial, psychedelic, dub/dance hall, and particularly film music. If you're craving something different but still enjoyable and still rock, Tortoise's 'Standards' is top notch nu-rock.
Review by Neu!mann
4 stars It's always nice to discover a group of musicians with more than three working brain cells between them, and this semi-legendary Chicago quintet is certainly one of the smartest acts around. Since 1994 they've accomplished something truly rare in today's disposable music market: producing a small but vital body of work with a unique, evolving style that defies easy analysis.

On their fourth studio album (and first in the 21st century) the band obviously made an effort to update their equipment, and their sound alongside it. The music - as always, entirely instrumental - is still drawn around an almost geometrical grid of shifting, overlapping rhythms (three of the five members play bass guitar). But now the beats are stronger than before, and frequently exhibit more aggression than you might expect from the formally attired Post Rock professors depicted on their page here at Prog Archives.

Maybe that extra muscle accounts for the higher overall rating of this album within the greater Tortoise catalogue. By 2001 the band had already polished to a diamond-bright sheen its patented blend of ambient space jazz and Martian lounge music (as heard on the tracks "Firefly" and the second half of "Benway", respectively). But here they add an extra layer of digital trip-hop trance grooves (listen to the twin bookmarks of "Eden 1" and "Eden 2"), creating a seamless, unclassifiable composite as accessible as it is experimental.

As I said: a style that defies easy analysis. Maybe it's enough to say the music of Tortoise, and this album in particular, stands up easily on its own without the crutch of close examination.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Standards" is the fourth full-length studio album by US, Chicago, Illinois based post-rock act Tortoise. The album was released through Thrill Jockey in February 2001. Itīs the successor to "TNT" from 1998, although the two full-length releases are bridged by the 1999 "In the Fishtank 5" EP.

Stylistically the material on "Standards" continue the electronic tinged and ambient experimental/post-rock style of "TNT" (1998). There are elements of electronica, jazz rock/fusion, lounge jazz, post-rock, and other intriguing musical experiments found on this instrumental release. Tortoise have increased the use of electronics on "Standards" and sometimes it all becomes a little too ambient and directionless, but itīs still relatively sophisticated and pleasant listening muzak (in the most positive meaning of the word).

"Standards" is well produced and itīs obviously performed by a skilled unit of musicians, but itīs hard not to feel that the album sometimes is just pleasant sounding background music, which wasnīt meant for more in depth listening experiences. Still a a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Chicago's Tortoise was the first band labeled as "post-rock". They do not sound *anything* like GYBE, Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky. Trans Am was another band labeled "post-rock" early on but they are not on PA(don't think they belong here anyway). I don't understand why Tortoise is not more well-known. They are far more experimental and skilled than any of those bands who create moody guitar-based instrumentals with lots of crescendos. In fact, Tortoise is the only band I know of that has 3 bassists and 2 xylophone players(!) Their fourth album is my personal fav and it rawks a littler harder than any of their other albums. All instrumental, the music here is a mix of jazz, ambient, techno and avant-rock. There are some who will say that Millions... or TNT are better albums; those people are silly, don't listen to them. Granted, "Djed" on Millions... is the finest 20 miutes this group ever recorded, but the rest of the album leaves a lot to be desired.

The amount of instruments and effects they use on this album is impressive. One minute you will hear something that sounds like 70s RIO, the next some kind of early 80s R&B, the next like something you would hear at a rave in the 90s. Most if not all the members are multi- instrumentalists. Bass seems to be the most dominant instrument and there is little guitar, but more on this album than others. You hear influence from all kinds of genres ranging from dub reggae to Krautrock. Actually the only genres they wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole it seems would be punk and metal. You get the idea: very diverse music but generally not loud and heavy. I have never heard anyone who even comes close to sounding like these guys.

I could never do a track-by-track analysis for these guys because their music is just too hard to describe. If you listen to the PA stream of the song "TNT" then you will have absolutely no idea what this album sounds like. Generally no two songs, let alone albums, sound alike in the world of Tortoise. If you are even slightly interested in this album I would suggest looking on YouBoob for some of the songs to see what they sound like. Of course I have no idea if anything from this album is currently uploaded to YouTube...why would I, I have the CD, geez. A solid 4 stars.

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars This is the group's more controversial album with that American flag and its obtuse liner and info notes. I'm not quite sure why it took the band around four years (aside the replacement of Pajo with Parker, the other fours remaining from day 1) to release Standards after that mediocre Millions album, but it's only a minor improvement to these ears in musical terms. Indeed we're still quite far away from the debut's excellence or the future albums to come. Indeed the electro-pop (already all-too present on the previous album) is again taking the lion's share of this album, but it's definitely less soporific; although I'm not sure we're better of in terms of ear-friendliness. Actually it's pretty hard to call Standards a post-rock album, because very few moments on the disc can pretend to be called so. There are still some trip- hop moods (but the usual Krautrock ones are gone) which saves the album from being an experimental techno music. Not exactly my cup of Earl Grey, for the mix is definitely awry and even stale. Best avoided, just like MLNWND, despite this one keeping you awake.
Review by Warthur
3 stars A heady mix of electronic noise, post-rock textures, and free jazz and fusion outbreaks, Standards finds Tortoise in a somewhat more abrasive mood than on TNT or Millions Now Living Will Never Die. I'm inclined to agree with zravkapt on ProgArchives' assessment that there's something about the sound of Standards which might put listeners in mind of RIO material - not that it sounds anything particularly close to the sound of Henry Cow, Samla Mammas Manna, Univers Zero or other RIO founders, but there's the same inspiration that Henry Cow sometimes showed to take a leaf out of the free jazz playbook and see just how far rock music can be exploded. A worthwhile experiment, but the nature of any experiment is that some experiments will be successful and some will fail, and Tortoise aren't quite selective enough with their cuts here to cull out the occasional failed experiment.
Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars What starts as a monumental processed drum barrage with twangy, ringing notes on a majestic guitar soon settles down into a more album-typical groove on Standards.

Deftly interlocking rhythmic structures come together in an electronica-infused instrumental clockwork, where buzzy or electronically clean trip-hop-ish percussion snap and pop beneath this well-defined algorithm of simple but countless little melody lines and effects. It's punchy, clinical and occasionally busy or mechanical, but given a certain level of fluidity by removing and adding new parameters in a model only known to the band members themselves.

I would hardly call it properly atmospheric, since all the sounds are so very clearly delineated. There is room for a certain warm and suave lounge ambience to seep into the arrangements, especially during the jazzier bits that represent the other side of the album, but it's more of a slick, cerebral nature than something that touches me emotionally. At time it's a bit more ambiguous and coldly space-like in what it radiates, but still safely kept away from any kind of excess. Disciplined and moderate.

Regardless of all the little chimes, buzzes, twirls and prattle and an objectively rather rich instrumentation, the majority of the compositions feel a bit vacuous, a bit too deflated and sparse, to really live up to the potential. It's the feeling of a vast and pure white canvas with just enough paint to cover it in dots here and there. Decently colourful patterns occasionally emerge, but most of them struggle to convey a proper image. And just as things actually do come together and send some experimental sparks flying, away we glide on a nondescript and airy slippery slope into anonymous jazzy smoothness. But perhaps that slight minimalistic streak, the abstract lightness and fleeting nature of it all is what so speaks to people. To me it's only the busiest arrangements that really work, and they are occasionally a joy to listen to.

Clever, professional, but ultimately disappointing.

2 stars.


Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars TORTOISE doesn't believe in stagnation. They have proved from album to album that they are only interested in experimenting in any direction they please. With their fourth album STANDARDS they make avant-garde and experimental rock even weirder and more extreme than previous releases. While they can still be classified as a post-rock act, they have a much looser approach to their music this time around borrowing equally from free form jazz and electronic sound effects all sewn together with a post-production effect. In fact it all kinda makes me think of a trippy electronic band like Coil who delved into the avant-garde jazz world. It is all fairly mellow so don't expect energetic outbursts or anything of the sort.

The music is just weird! It has interesting electronic beats competing with jazzy lounge music and at times the different parts seem to drift off into their own worlds creating a detached sounding wild ride but it usually comes back together somehow. There is a whole random feel to this album as well as it meanders from track to track with little keeping a unifying feel but somehow all being alien enough to make you feel like you are walking through a giant forest of bizarre plant-like creatures on another world where carbon isn't the main bonding element in organic chemistry.

It took many more listens to get into this one as opposed to the albums that came before but it did click with me after I accepted its bizarre charm and adapted to the strangeness that unfolds. TORTOISE prove to me again that they are a unique musical outfit that demands new directions with every move they make and if you have what it takes to keep up with their ambitiousness then you will not be disappointed by this strange concoction of post-rock gone astray.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The fourth full length album from Tortoise, called 'Standards' released in 2001, sees the band stepping even further away from the post rock genre they helped create. After the jazz-infused sound of the previous album 'TNT', the band took it upon themselves to keep exploring, which is what the best bands do, and not getting stuck in any one formulaic style. 'Standards' sees Tortoise instead adding more electronic sounds and utilizing more post-production and focusing less on melodic structure and more on subtle changes.

The beginning track 'Seneca' however, does not reflect the overall movement to a more minimal sound as it begins with thick layers of rolling drums, crashing cymbals and thick guitars. After a 2 minute introduction in this manner, a heavy drum pattern is emphasized and the track settles in to this strange groove with an almost retro organ sound and a somewhat tricky, yet percussive guitar pattern. Strange squeaky sounds come in during a section when the music quiets, then the heavier organ and guitar return. It's a bit noisy and rough sounding, but not to the point of abrasiveness. This fades and leaves us with a droning synth and hand clap effects among other strange effects. 'Eros' then makes fun of the last guitar riff, then settles into electronic and organic tonal percussion. This is where the bands playfulness and ingenuity really takes off as they manipulate sounds and play with layering. The music never becomes boring here, but sounds nothing like the post-rock you have heard before. It's like they have taken all of the formulas of popular music and disassembled them only to build them back together into something fresh and exciting. Parital melodies seem to swirl around odd sounds and effects. This was the new style they were now exploring.

'Benway' sounds like a stripped down and manipulated electronic study. Again, only hazy semblance of melodies try to take hold, but to no avail. Finally, around the 3 minute mark, a jazz-tinged style comes in and things sound similar to 'TNT', however, the band sees to it that it gets interrupted by complex fills and break downs. But it all develops again only to get destroyed again at which point it suddenly ends. 'Firefly' uses manipulated guitar sounds and minimal droning to create an ambient track unlike anything else. The sounds are approaching an art-style experimentalism, and again, melodies try to take hold, but just don't quite succeed. It makes for an interesting sound. 'Six Pack' suddenly takes over as the music continues to flow, and goes for an upbeat, percussive sound with spaghetti-western style guitars, vibes and other percussive instruments turn this into a lighter and happier track. It's as if to say, don't take it all too seriously because it's all just for fun when it's all said and done. Once again, melodies are ignored to allow patterns and sounds take the spotlight, and the music is all built off of that.

'Eden 2' goes for a heavy drum and bass style track with funky synths and etc. Again, the use of typical melodies is ignored for the sake of experimenting with patterns and hints of jazz sensibilities. 'Monica' goes for an interesting r&b sound, adding more funk and slithering drum effects. The drums get a bit more disjointed and noisy as it goes on while the bass continues with the simple melodic pattern. Things get more complicated as it continues and beats and sounds morph into strange effects and manipulations. 'Black Jack' begins with it's odd-normal style with a simple feel, but later becomes more structured, having a loungy, European sound. The music is more melodic here with the use of keys, synths and percussion. Guitars build as things continue, and the contrast of bright and dark creates an interesting texture unlike anything else. 'Eden 1' has a standard drum pattern going on, but the keys are playing something else in a completely different universe.

'Speakeasy' starts off sounding like ambient and deconstructed jazz. Soft vibes and percussion is occasionally interrupted by harsh noises from manipulated guitars. It all settles into a medium rhythm before 2 minutes, and is finally satisfied to settle into a smoother sound. There is always a feeling of unease underlying it all. Soon, things soften again to ambient and sparse sounds produced by wavering keys and bass effects while strange noises and feedback continue to disrupt the ambience, becoming more and more relevant until the smoother sound attempts to come back. It's a nice closer to the album, and also sums up the bands more experimental sound that is explored extensively on this album.

I find this album to be very unique and innovative. I love the way they experiment with the things in music that would normally not be so front and center on most popular music albums, playing around with patterns, disrupting them, adding to them or making subtle manipulations to them. I also love the move to more extensive use of percussive instruments and effects. This music sound pretty much like nothing else you have heard, and is actually more experimental and avant prog than it is post rock or progressive jazz. It takes these styles to the next level to the point that you are convinced that you are not listening to those styles anymore, but hearing something completely different and unique, yet still quite musical, with surprises around every corner.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I am very surprised that Tortoise gets so little love from Progarchives. They are extremely unique and always willing to experiment- though post-rock often lacks diversity, Tortoise is one of the most varied and interesting bands I know- throughout the course of even one six-minute song, there ar ... (read more)

Report this review (#276504) | Posted by Neurotarkus | Monday, April 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This band is a very progressive neoprog band with heavy overtones of fusion included for good measure.No vocal tracks are included.The disc (record) itself has little or no info about the band,its members or even the tracks included.So you play one side and then the other,with little idea of w ... (read more)

Report this review (#68784) | Posted by bob x | Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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