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TORTOISE

Post Rock/Math rock • United States


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Tortoise biography
Chicago-based Tortoise have been around since the early 90s. The nucleus of the band is John Herndon, John McEntire, Dan Bitney and Doug McCombs, essentially a double rhythm section although all four are accomplished multi instrumentalists. The band play intricate, highly structured instrumental music that is based around mallet percussion, basses, drums, guitar and keyboards, with extensive use of synthesisers and studio effects.

Their recording career took off in 1994 with the release of their debut album, which was recorded as a 5 piece with Bundy K Brown. The album was well received, but shortly afterwards founder member Brown left and was replaced by former Slint musician Dave Pajo. This line up made the excellent Millions Now Living Will Never Die, the first half of which is a remarkable 21 minute piece called Djed. The band expanded to a 6 piece with guitarist Jeff Parker for their next album, TNT. This third album was recorded over 10 months in a computer equipped studio, and is a dazzling 65 minute collection that is full of hidden nuances and subtlelties. Following this album Pajo left to work on his solo career, and the remaining 5 piece has since made 2 albums, Standards and It's All Around You. All the musicians are also involved in other projects, notably Isotope 217, The Sea and Cake, Chicago Underground and Brokeback. John McEntire has acted as the band's in-house producer, and has also produced acts as diverse as Stereolab (whose Dots and Loops album was partly a collaborative effort with Tortoise) and Wilco, among many others.

Although generally classified as post rock, the music of Tortoise is hard to pin down. They don't play the kind of lengthy drones with enormous crescendoes favoured by bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky, but generally favour shorter, rhythmically complex pieces. Some critics have detected a jazz influence, perhaps because of their extensive use of vibes, but there is little room for improvisation in their music and their painstaking studio work is at odds with normal jazz practice. There is a strong influence of minimalist composers like Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Riley discernible throughout their work, and it is this coupled with the core member's background in the hardcore/alternative scene which probably comes closest to summing their music up.

- Chris Gleeson (Syzygy)

Tortoise official website

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  • TNT TNT, 1998

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Buy TORTOISE Music


Millions Now Living Will Never DieMillions Now Living Will Never Die
Thrill Jockey 1996
Audio CD$9.67
$6.19 (used)
A Lazarus Taxon [3-CDs + 1 DVD]A Lazarus Taxon [3-CDs + 1 DVD]
Box set
Thrill Jockey 2006
Audio CD$93.98
$22.00 (used)
StandardsStandards
Thrill Jockey 2001
Audio CD$7.94
$2.33 (used)
TNTTNT
Thrill Jockey 1998
Audio CD$8.13
$3.99 (used)
Beacons Of AncestorshipBeacons Of Ancestorship
Thrill Jockey 2009
Audio CD$8.98
$6.49 (used)
TortoiseTortoise
Thrill Jockey 2012
Vinyl$19.84
It's All Around YouIt's All Around You
Thrill Jockey 2004
Audio CD$9.07
$2.75 (used)
StandardsStandards
Thrill Jockey 2012
Vinyl$14.26
$18.82 (used)
Brave & The BoldBrave & The Bold
Overcoat Recordings 2006
Audio CD$38.76
$1.70 (used)
Why We FightWhy We Fight
Import
Soul Static Sound
Vinyl$23.98 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
TORTOISE / EX - IN THE FISHTANK - IN THE FISHTANK - SPLIT (EP) NEW CD US $16.98 Buy It Now 38m 59s
Tortoise Standards LP sealed vinyl + download US $19.98 Buy It Now 1h 4m
Late 70s Rock Soul Oddity FIRST FIRE Tortoise International Records A DIMINO LP US $7.00 Buy It Now 1h 9m
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TORTOISE The Ex (in the fishtank 5 ) 12" Holland 1999 US $23.99 Buy It Now 10h 29m
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10h 34m
Tortoise Beacons Of Ancestorship CD US $11.69 Buy It Now 11h 59m
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Tortoise-Chinese Feng Shui Mus - Shanghai Chinese Traditional O (1996, CD New) US $8.56 Buy It Now 12h 34m
FIRST FIRE first fire self titled BYL1-2677 promo usa tortoise 1978 LP PS EX/VG US $31.32 Buy It Now 14h 13m
Shanghai Chinese Traditional O - Tortoise-Chinese Feng Shui Mus [CD New] US $11.94 Buy It Now 15h 36m
TORTOISE**LONESOME SOUND (7 INCH/RSD 2012)**VINYL US $7.91 Buy It Now 15h 37m
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SHANGHAI CHINESE TRADITIONAL ORCHESTRA - TORTOISE: CHINESE FENG SHUI NEW CD US $19.28 Buy It Now 16h 49m
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17h 6m
Reach The Rock soundtrack LP John McEntire Tortoise Sea and Cake Polvo US $14.99 [0 bids]
17h 21m
DERRICK CARTER vs. TORTOISE 12" *SEALED* (City Slang-1998) US $8.99 Buy It Now 17h 40m
CD Lo Recordings Tortoise Thurston Moore Ui Luke Vibert Aphex Twin D Kristian US $0.35 [0 bids]
18h 26m
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First Fire Tortoise LP 2677 US $10.80 Buy It Now 21h 50m
Tortoise ?- Standards, Vinyl LP, Thrill Jockey Records, Original Pressing US $35.00 Buy It Now 22h 9m
Tortoise ?- It's All Around You, Vinyl LP, Thrill Jockey Records US $30.00 Buy It Now 22h 9m
TORTOISE Why We Fight/Whitewater 7" SOUL STATIC RARE US $9.99 Buy It Now 23h 54m
Tortoise & The Ex - In The Fishtank 5 [CD New] US $11.80 Buy It Now 1 day
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NORTHERN SOUL - SKYLINERS - WE'VE GOT LOVE.. - TORTOISE INT. 45 US $9.95 Buy It Now 1 day
Tortoise-Tortoise same S/T US reissue Thrill Jokey LP 1996 US $19.99 Buy It Now 1 day
Tortoise - TNT (CD, 1998) Rare, LN and Complete! US $6.50 [0 bids]
US $8.50 Buy It Now
1 day
Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die (CD, 1996) Rare, LN, and Complete! US $6.50 [0 bids]
US $8.50 Buy It Now
1 day
Tristeza BROMAS Ep 4 track CD Mint Tortoise Mogwai Post-rock Instrumental Guitar US $2.99 Buy It Now 1 day
Tortoise - The Taut And The Tame / Find The One 12" NEW US $18.99 Buy It Now 1 day
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Derailed,D/Railed,D Railed,CD,Tortoise US $7.99 Buy It Now 1 day
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TORTOISE Tour 98 7" Amber Wax ! R-A-R-E :) US $24.99 Buy It Now 1 day
Standards Tortoise CD US $15.00 Buy It Now 1 day
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TORTOISE Standards 2000 EUROPEAN collectors CD single US $11.05 Buy It Now 1 day
The Tortoise & the Hare Jack in the Box Audio Music CD Childrens US $5.87 Buy It Now 1 day
MIRABILIA How You Can Change CD Stereolab Tortoise NEW! US $9.99 Buy It Now 1 day
Standards by Tortoise (CD, Sep-2009, Thrill Jockey) US $7.00 Buy It Now 1 day
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UI MATCH MY FOOT 7" *NEW* RARE TORTOISE SOUL STATIC US $9.80 Buy It Now 1 day
JAZZYFATNASTEES *THE TORTOISE & THE HARE* NEW SEALED CD US $0.99 [0 bids]
1 day
The Tortoise and The Crow†by The Grouch & Eligh CD (2014) Brand New US $36.99 Buy It Now 1 day
0718750870520 T.N.T by Tortoise (1999) FREEPOST CD US $11.41 Buy It Now 1 day
TORTOISE Why We Fight / WHITEWATER 7" vinyl EX 1995 US $9.95 Buy It Now 1 day
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2 days
Bugs Bunny and The Tortoise 2 record set 78 RPM Record with Story pages US $3.99 [0 bids]
US $6.50 Buy It Now
2 days
Tortoise & The Ex In The Fishtank 5 12" Vinyl LP Record indie post rock/jazz NEW US $19.39 Buy It Now 2 days
New Sealed Standard of Misery by Tortoise Corpse CD album , 1998, Communique US $27.79 Buy It Now 2 days
GASTR DEL SOL CD Crackt Or fly Jim O'rourke Sonic Youth Wilco Slint Tortoise US $5.98 Buy It Now 2 days
EMPIRE ORCHESTRA "Tortoise Patrol" - RARE 9 1/2" centre-start 90 rpm Pathe Disc US $39.99 Buy It Now 2 days
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TORTOISE GALAPAGOS -SPRINGHEEL JACK REMIX 12" SINGLE CHEAP US $7.55 Buy It Now 2 days
RED KRAYOLA Introduction CD Tortoise NEW Sealed US $9.99 Buy It Now 2 days
GERMANY import REYNOLD My Favorite Film CD TORTOISE Brian ENO 2006 NEW sealed US $12.98 Buy It Now 2 days
Tortoise - The Brave And The Bold - WIGCD167 US $14.00 Buy It Now 2 days
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Tortoise & Bonnie Prince Billy - The Brave And T NEW CD US $11.51 Buy It Now 2 days
FIRST FIRE-SELF TITLED-TORTOISE BXL1-2677 NEW SEALED LP US $12.98 Buy It Now 2 days
TORTOISE Lonesome Sound / Mosquito 2012 RSD 2x7" Thrill Jockey SEALED Mint US $16.99 Buy It Now 2 days
Tortoise Why We Fight Brand New 7" Gastr Del Sol Sea And Cake US $7.99 Buy It Now 2 days
Tortoise & And Bonnie Prince Billy - The Brave (NEW CD) US $13.85 Buy It Now 2 days
BUGS BUNNY & THE TORTOISE/ BOZO & HIS ROCKET SHIP Mel Blanc Looney Tunes LP FUN! US $6.99 [0 bids]
2 days
TORTOISE "BEACONS OF ANCESTORSHIP" 180 Gram LP Thrill Jockey The Sea And Cake US $16.99 Buy It Now 2 days
Bugs Bunny and the Tortoise & Bozo and his rocket ship LP Record 33 WB L6962 US $7.99 Buy It Now 2 days
TORTOISE s/t LP Black Viny Alt Jacketl THRILL013 US $18.99 Buy It Now 3 days
Sam Prekop LP 1999 Thrill Jockey Sea and Cake Tortoise w/ Inner Sleeve US $32.50 Buy It Now 3 days
NEW Tortoise: Chinese Feng Shui Music Shanghai Chinese Traditional Orchestra US $22.91 Buy It Now 3 days
TORTOISE - TNT - LIKE NEW CD, Mar-1998, Thrill Jockey US $7.95 Buy It Now 3 days
Tortoise + The Ex ?- In The Fishtank CD NETHERLANDS 1999 US $8.99 Buy It Now 3 days
The Little Red Hen and The Tortoise and the Hare--RCA Victor Records US $21.97 Buy It Now 3 days
Tortoise: Chinese Feng Shui Music by Shanghai Chinese Traditional Orchestra... US $3.95 [0 bids]
3 days
TORTOISE "LONESOME SOUND/RESERVOIR SHEETS" THRILL 006 CLEAR VINYL 1993 7" SINGLE US $5.98 Buy It Now 3 days
BUGS BUNNY & THE TORTOISE 1947 CAPITOL RECORDS 78 RPM CHILDREN'S 3 RECORD SET US $25.00 Buy It Now 3 days
v/a - Plum 10 x 7" boxset Thrill Jockey limited edition Tortoise Sea and Cake US $46.99 Buy It Now 3 days
Tortoise "Why We Fight" 7" OOP vinyl Stereolab US $14.99 Buy It Now 3 days
Tortoise - rare "see-thru" DJ-ONLY advance CD 1996 US $17.49 [0 bids]
3 days
Tortoise - Lazarus Taxon DJ-ONLY selections CD (2006) US $9.99 [0 bids]
3 days
Tortoise - Lonesome Sound/Mosquito 7" Single NEW Record Store Day Thrill Jockey US $9.99 Buy It Now 3 days
Gang Of Four - Second Life - 7" Single (w/Tortoise Remix) US $2.99 Buy It Now 3 days
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Record Store Day 2009 - Thrill Jockey Sampler 12" LP - NM+ (Tortoise, Trans Am, US $10.00 [0 bids]
4 days
Tortoise - It's All Around You CD US $6.00 Buy It Now 4 days
Sweet Sweet Lies - The Hare, The Hound & The Tortoise - 12 Track US $8.05 Buy It Now 4 days
ELIGH/THE GROUCH & E - THE TORTOISE AND THE CROW [SLIPCASE] * - NEW CD BOXSET US $14.74 Buy It Now 4 days
(248C) James Yorkston, Tortoise Regrets Hare - DJ CD US $4.96 Buy It Now 4 days
Tortoise A Lazarus Taxon (2006, 3 CDs & 1 DVD Thrill Jockey) VERY Hard To Find US $49.99 [0 bids]
4 days
Gift Of The Tortoise: A Musical Journey Through Southern Africa, Ladysmith Black US $7.21 Buy It Now 4 days
In the Fishtank [EP] by The Ex/Tortoise (CD, May-1999, In the Fishtank) US $3.99 Buy It Now 4 days
TORTOISE Derrick Carter 12" vinyl GERMANY City Slang US $9.95 Buy It Now 4 days

More places to buy TORTOISE music online Buy TORTOISE & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
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TORTOISE shows & tickets


  • Tortoise on 7 May 2014
  • Tortoise at Billboard Live, ?? on 7 May 2014
  • Tortoise on 8 May 2014
  • Tortoise at Billboard Live, ?? on 8 May 2014
  • Tortoise at Billboard Live Osaka, Osaka on 10 May 2014
  • Tortoise Live in Kuala Lumpur on 14 May 2014
  • Tortoise at Mao LiveHouse Shanghai, Shanghai on 15 May 2014
  • Tortoise at Yugongyishan Live House, Beijing on 17 May 2014

TORTOISE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

TORTOISE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.39 | 25 ratings
Tortoise
1994
3.69 | 59 ratings
Millions Now Living Will Never Die
1996
3.65 | 62 ratings
TNT
1998
3.42 | 40 ratings
Standards
2001
3.24 | 28 ratings
It's All Around You
2004
2.62 | 9 ratings
The Brave and the Bold
2006
3.34 | 24 ratings
Beacons Of Ancestorship
2009

TORTOISE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

TORTOISE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

TORTOISE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
A Digest Compendium Of The Tortoise's World
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Remixed
1996
3.33 | 5 ratings
A Lazarus Taxon
2006

TORTOISE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Lonesome Sound
1993
0.00 | 0 ratings
Mosquito
1993
0.00 | 0 ratings
Gamera / Cliff Dweller Society
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Why We Fight
1995
3.00 | 1 ratings
Rhythms, Resolutions & Clusters
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Music For Workgroups
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Rivers
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Djed / Tjed
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Taut And The Tame / Find The One
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Yaus / Speedy Car
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Derrick Carter Vs. Tortoise
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
Tour 1998
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
Adverse Camber / To Day Retreival
1998
2.00 | 1 ratings
In The Fishtank
1999
3.00 | 1 ratings
Gently Cupping The Chin Of The Ape
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Why Waste Time?
2010

TORTOISE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Standards by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.42 | 40 ratings

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Standards
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by LinusW
Special Collaborator Italian Prog Specialist

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.

//LinusW

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 Beacons Of Ancestorship by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.34 | 24 ratings

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Beacons Of Ancestorship
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After a pair of albums laminated in glossy digital polish the Post Rockers of Tortoise returned to grittier territory in 2009, back-dating their sound with dirty analog synthesizers and unprocessed acoustic drums. The melodic lines are sometimes harsh, and the instrumental textures often abrasive; even the occasional electronic percussion (in "Penumbra", and elsewhere) has an appealing retro New Wave feel, recalling Daniel Miller in his "Warm Leatherette" days.

And yet this is still a highly refined act, whether flirting with groovy industrial techno (in "Monument Six One Thousand") or performing with Punk-like intensity (and here I'll simply direct your attention to track six, instead of trying to type out the full unpronounceable title). As you might have noticed, the band's affection for descriptive non-sequiturs remains intact, but with no lyrics or other context clues it's hard to imagine what sort of cognitive mambo led them to identify the album's opening electro-grunge stomp as "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In".

The music itself is typically oblique, and no easier to describe on the band's sixth album than on their previous five. Just about everyone in the quintet plays bass guitar or percussion (or both), making it one of the more purely rhythmic groups ever assembled, and playful too. Note the guitar throughout the album closer "Charteroak Foundation", played in 3/4 time over drumming in 4/4. None of the music is really developed: the end of any selection is never too far removed from its start, in total resembling a collection of energetic doodles.

Tortoise doesn't really fit inside the Post Rock pigeonhole, sharing none of that movement's usual stylistic conventions: long, loud epiphanies, jangling twin guitars, and so forth. Most of the album's eleven tracks time out at a modest three- to five-minutes, and a few of those ("Northern Something"; "Gigantes") are cut even closer to the bone. Maybe the label stuck because of their obstinate pursuit of an uncommon muse, with no concessions to popular taste or passing trends. The band continues to exist within its own self-contained exoskeletal shell, reason enough to celebrate their return after five years away from the recording studio.

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 Beacons Of Ancestorship by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.34 | 24 ratings

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Beacons Of Ancestorship
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Zargasheth

4 stars

I haven't heard much by Tortoise at this point in time, but what I have heard has really impressed me. Beacons of Ancestorship, their most recent album, is a highly diverse and interesting album that creates many textured atmospheres. coexisting with harsh guitars and synthesizers in a surprisingly pleasant mixture.

The first track, the 8-minute "High-Class Slim Came Floating In", is actually one of my least favorite tracks. It begins with a sort of irritating high-pitched drone, with the lead being played by a sort of choppy synthesizer part. The drumming on the track, however, is very effective. After a while it suddenly transitions into a heavy repeated pattern that almost sounds like a broken record. This gets monotonous very quickly, and finally a synth ostinato rises out of the repetition...veeeeery slowly. The whole thing feels kind of stretched and hardly develops, making the song a bit boring by the end, when the ostinato just jumbles into oblivion. The whole thing feels unfinished.

After that is "Prepare Your Coffin", which has some more frantic and excellent drumming--occasionally missing and then rescuing crucial beats, to give the whole thing an interesting off-kilter feel-- underneath layered ascending guitar and synth patterns. Yet another layer of complex chords underneath help fill out the sound. The guitar also gets an energetic but brief solo midway through.

After this, the short interlude, "Northern Something", starts out with a light variety of percussion, and then a wobbly synth theme enters, followed by heavier drumming. There isn't much to this track, but it's not very long, either, so that isn't a problem. It is effective as an interlude.

"Gigantes" has a similar layered, complex percussion part, but tops instead with some fascinatingly mathy, interweaving string instruments (which are difficult to identify) and a rather spare theme. But in the middle, this is suddenly replaced by a wailing electric guitar, and then a nice sequence of chord changes on bass and synth. Finally, the lead is replaced by mysterious breathy sounds and ringing synthesizers, playing a mysterious and beautifully atmospheric tune.

Another interlude follows, this one a weird piece of electronica called "Penumbra", containing a simple melody played on sampled-sounding synths with a shifting background. This one is very fun to listen to.

The next piece is a bit of a shocker--the harsh, noisy "Yinxianghechengqi", with a muddy, grumbling bass and synthesizer in the lead and furious drumming. Some times the whole thing is lost in a grinding storm, but one never competely loses track of the exciting melody (what there is of one).

The record calms down a bit after this with the sedate "The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One", with a slow, twangy guitar playing a minimal theme alongside similarly minimal percussion, including something sounding like a rattling chain. Again, the themes are very effective, and even though this piece is very slow, it still keeps up enough momentum to avoid collapsing.

"Minors" continues with sounds similar to "High-Class Slim", but playing a more cohesive and connected theme (one of the best on the disc), with interesting rhythmic shenanigans that the punchy drums effortlessly keep pace with. The synthesizers in this song also present more variety than the opener, producing a fuller background.

"Monument Six One Thousand" starts off with a bizarre, experimentally electronic beat pounding underneath meandering guitar, later accompanied by dissonant, repetitive chords.This is significantly weirder than anything else occurring on the album, but it still has a certain charm to it--the beat is interesting, and the guitar melodies are still pleasant in parts, even though they are also more dissonant.

The final "interlude" piece, "De Chelly", starts with a cool chord progression on a synthesizer and a brief melody on top of it. The entire thing is extremely spare, but that progression is amazing--it would be nice to see the band do more with it.

The album is lucky enough to close with its main highlight, "Charteroak Foundation"--the entire piece driven by another strange (but remarkably catchy) chord progression, this time arpeggiated on guitar, forming a 3/4 polyrhythm with the 4/4 drums (whose entrance is startling and impressive.) The piece starts out quiet with a simple theme and builds up to a sweeping set of variations on the undergirding arpeggios, becoming more angular until it suddenly drops back to the synthesizer that started the theme. It's a beautiful piece, and serves as a fitting capstone to the rest of the disc.

Tortoise's main success, well exemplified on this album, is combining bizarrely experimental studio trickery, electronica, and harmonic and rhythmic complexity with genuinely good melodies and nice atmosphere. Highlights include "Gigantes", "Yinxianghechengqi", "Minors", and definitely "Charteroak Foundation".

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 Standards by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.42 | 40 ratings

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Standards
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 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's 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.

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 TNT by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.65 | 62 ratings

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TNT
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Millions Now Living Will Never Die  by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.69 | 59 ratings

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Millions Now Living Will Never Die
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die presents a bass-heavy, tranquil and intriguing post-rock sound which would come to have a profound influence on the nascent sub-genre, radically expanding the territory of post-rock from that staked out by Talk Talk in years past. The opening epic Djed combines jazz, dance music, krautrock and electronic influences into an intriguing mixture which forms the bedrock of a fascinating 21 minute epic which proved that post-rock could achieve great things in such a format, whilst the following material provides a similar musical trip in more bite-sized chunks. Produced and mixed impeccably, with some inspired choices in the mix in particular (such as bring the bass sound to the fore), based on the other Tortoise albums I've heard I'd say they've never bested it.

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 Beacons Of Ancestorship by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.34 | 24 ratings

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Beacons Of Ancestorship
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post Rock Team

4 stars This is the follow up to The Brave And The Bold, a 2006 covers album with Will Oldham on vocals. I don't consider that album a 'Tortoise' album as much as it is an album featuring the members of Tortoise, if that makes any sense. So when I compare this release with the previous two, I'm talking about Standards(2001) and It's All Around You(2004). To some extent every every album has been a progression from the last. But here they seem to not be doing anything very new, instead trying to focus on the strengths of the previous two albums. The line-up hasn't changed which might have something to do with it.

One thing that has changed is the instrumentation. The trademark vibes are almost nowhere to be found. Rarely is there more than one bass playing at a time, while the guitar seems more important than before. Here most of the songs are drums / bass / guitar / keyboards, while on earlier albums your average song was more bass / drums / bass / vibraphone / keyboards / xylophone. As usual the sound and production is top notch and the playing great. Some of the songs here are a little too short and almost come off as filler.

"High Class Slim Came Floatin' In" opens the album with a cool synth riff. Then it goes into symphonic electronic dub territory. Some ambient funk for awhile. Before 5 minutes gets fuzzy and distorted while the tempo increases slightly. Some hypnotic sequencers to end it. "Prepare Your Coffin" is more rockin' with steady drumming. Nice electric harpsichord. Good mix of synths and guitar. Cool but short guitar solo later on. Some synthetic handclaps. "Northern Something" has an awesome synth riff. This is techno you want to headbang to. Such a great sound but the song is way, way too short.

"Gigantes" has compressed drums going back and forth with some exotic string instruments. Sounds like some Spanish style guitar playing here as well. In the middle is a synth-sounding guitar solo with a cool vibrato effect and great percussion. Synth bass comes in and the song gets more melodic with other synths joining. Some more synthetic handclap sounds here. Some kind of imitated bird sounds at the end.

"Yinxianghechengqi" is the most talked about song on the album. Sort of like grunge meets industrial. A very hard-edged and rockin' song. I don't think it's as shocking as some think; they have lots of harder rocking moments on some of their songs, but this is the first time they concentrated it all into one song. Nonetheless, Tortoise don't usually rock this hard. Gets more spacey and electronic near the end. "The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One" is loungy jazz that sounds like the music to a 1960s spy movie. The drum machine used here sounds like the Roland that Collins/Genesis was using in the early 1980s.

"De Chelly" is an ambient piece with great use of analog synths. The last song "Charteroak Foundation" is one of the best here. Nice arpeggioed guitar and symphonic synths in this song. Great steady drumbeat. Love the melodic synth that comes in around the 2 minute mark. Guitar harmonics in the middle with weird effects.

This would actually make a good introduction to this group, (seemingly) being the most "rock" oriented of their albums. Although I like this album a lot, I feel it's a step down from the previous two. Still, for 2009, experimental instrumental rock hardly got better. If you like their earlier albums, you will most likely enjoy this as well. If this is your first Tortoise album, then you may or may not like anything they did before this. I'll give Beacons Of Ancestorship a 3.5, but I'll bump it up to 4 stars.

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 Millions Now Living Will Never Die  by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.69 | 59 ratings

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Millions Now Living Will Never Die
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post Rock Team

4 stars The second album from this Chicago outfit, their debut from 1994 being one of the first albums to be described as "post-rock". That first album may have been the closest Tortoise came to sounding like most post-rock. Here they continue the experimentation and you can hear influences from Krautrock, IDM and light fusion. The bass is important and you can often hear more than one bass playing at the same time. The drumming and keyboards are also important. While there is guitar, it is never a leading instrument. Oh, yes, lots and lots and mallet percussion(xylophone, vibraphone) as well. No singing, but some vocal samples.

The music is very diverse and is hard to describe acurately. Generally laid-back, but there are some energenic moments. Lots of electronics but not necessarily electronica. Tortoise were influenced by just about anything that wasn't punk or metal from the 1960s-90s. When this came out I had no internet access and had never heard of these guys anywhere. That was a time when I was convinced that all new music sucked. Thanks to the internet, I finally discovered this great unique group. I was convinced that if you wanted to hear good new music, you had to go looking for it yourself.

The album, which has a great title obviously, starts with the best 21 minutes in post- rock... "Djed". Of course, this epic sounds almost nothing like most post-rock. And it's all the better for it. It opens with electronics and basses. Later organ, then drums and bass play a very 'motorik' groove. After some jazzy electric piano joins in. Electric piano and drums change to a bass heavy dub vibe. One bass is still playing the 'motorik' line. After a bunch of synth sounds. Then electronic percussion sounds get slowed down. An organ comes in and plays melodic repeated figures. Some melodic bass and then xylophones. Before 14 minutes you hear a tape speed altering effect where the music gets paused and unpaused. Trippy when you hear it for the first time.

Electronic effects then dominate for awhile before the music becomes ambient techno. Synths making odd noises and then xylophones join in. The last two minutes or so is a slow hip-hop beat with some melodic bass playing. Great stuff! The rest of the album unfortunately does not live up to that standard. But they are great songs nonetheless. "Glass Museum" stays in a mid-tempo pace where guitar and drums mostly dominate for awhile. Then drums stop and an atmospheric section. Goes back to the mid- tempo part then all of a sudden changes to a more aggressive and rocking part played in 11/8. Good xylophone work and drumming here. Goes back to the mid-tempo section to end it.

"A Survey" is mostly two basses duelling with crickets chirping in the background. Almost reminds me of Primus. "The Taut And Tame" starts with electronic percussion type sounds. Then guitars, bass and xylophone join in. The music stops and then the band comes back playing around a guitar riff. The song changes again to a mellow jazz-rock vibe. Cool guitar sound during this part. Goes back to the beginning section. "Dear Grandma And Grandpa" is an IDM("Intelligent Dance Music") piece. You hear a woman whose voice is altered talking. All kinds of synth sounds and noises can be heard. Later you hear a man talking from a TV set or radio. That song then segues into... "Along The Banks Of Rovers" which sounds like music from a 1960s spy movie. A mellow light jazzy post-rock song. Nice synth which starts in the middle and continues till near the end.

This would be a good introduction to this group. The sound of Tortoise is hard to describe and no two albums sound alike. Millions... is a classic post-rock album although it sounds very little like most post-rock. Instrumental experimental rock music rarely got better than this in the 1990s. Almost a classic but not quite. 4 stars.

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 TNT by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.65 | 62 ratings

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TNT
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

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 passť-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.

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 Tortoise by TORTOISE album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.39 | 25 ratings

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Tortoise
Tortoise Post Rock/Math rock

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.

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